Over The Counter vs. Professional Teeth Whitening

Woman at the dentist choosing color for teeth whitening

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed your teeth aren’t as white as they used to be or as white as you’d like them to be? Are you in the market for the best teeth whitening method that fits your needs and budget? There are a variety of different teeth whitening options available, from at-home whitening kits to over-the-counter options, to professional teeth whitening; we can help you find the ideal solution for your teeth-whitening needs.


Causes of Tooth Discoloration

It is rare to find someone with naturally bright white teeth. Teeth stains are caused by a variety of factors, both internal and external. Some of these factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Tobacco use
  • Frequent intake of acidic or heavily pigmented foods or beverages
  • Certain Medications
  • Aging and general wear and tear
  • Lack of dental care

Over-the-Counter Options

So you are ready for a whiter smile, now what? Drug stores and other retailers offer a wide variety of options for over-the-counter teeth whitening. While these products are cheap and convenient, It can be hard to tell which of them are both safe and effective. Let us help break it down for you.

  • Whitening Strips are thin strips of plastic coated in peroxide, which are directly applied to the tooth to bleach its outer layer of enamel. Keep in mind that these strips only whiten the front of your teeth, and if you have dental implants or veneers you may be disappointed because the whitening will be uneven as the active ingredient only acts on organic matter. 
  • Whitening Toothpaste is another common at-home teeth-whitening method. These kinds of toothpaste contain hydrogen peroxide and silica which are meant to whiten and smooth the surface of your teeth. These products can take months to produce results, and even then you may only notice a slight difference in your teeth’s appearance. Not a bad option if you feel like you have time to “get there”. 
  • Activated Charcoal is the new trend when it comes to at-home teeth whitening. While it may be popular, research shows that charcoal is not effective when it comes to whitening teeth. Due to its abrasive nature, it can also be dangerous for children or those with overly sensitive teeth or gums.


woman using charcoal toothpaste to whiten her teeth
Are at-Home Teeth Whitening Products Safe To Use?

Every product you see on the market these days boasts incredible results and safety certifications, but when shopping for at-home teeth whitening options, there can be insidious ingredients. You should always take simple precautions before purchasing any commercially available teeth-whitening solution.

  • Make sure to always check with your dentist first. As a professional, your dentist can advise you on the safety of products and recommend treatments as needed.
  • Look for the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval. Products with this seal have been independently tested and reviewed by medical experts.
  • Always read and follow instructions.
  • Remember that commercial products have many different types of ingredients as well as varying concentration levels–some of which may be harmful if used improperly. Self-administered teeth-whitening methods are not without the possibility of user error. 
  • Recognize that commercially available teeth-whitening strips and toothpaste may result in uneven whitening, softening of the tooth’s surface, and possible damage to dentin. Dentin is the layer of the tooth found directly underneath the enamel. It gives your teeth their color and makes up a large percentage of its structure. Damaged dentin can cause tooth sensitivity and tooth decay.

Professional Teeth-Whitening Options

Keep in mind there are different types of tooth discoloration. The two main types of stains include extrinsic and intrinsic stains. Intrinsic stains are tooth stains that stem from the internal dentin, while extrinsic stains are surface-level stains found on the enamel. Dentists are trained to recognize the differences and treat these stains safely and effectively. These procedures provide optimum, long-lasting results in a short timeframe. Some common professionally-administered whitening procedures include the following:

  • Laser Teeth Whitening is a procedure in which a peroxide whitening gel is applied to the tooth’s surface and then activated by lasers which cause the gel to foam and, in turn, drastically whiten your teeth.
  • Zoom! Teeth Whitening is a painless, one-hour procedure that provides immediate results. A whitening gel is applied to the tooth and is then activated by an LED light to provide your ideal shade.
  • Bleaching is another common method used by dentists to whiten teeth in-office. Dentists create custom bleaching trays for their patients. Dentists often complete this process in one session, which typically takes about two hours.

orthodontics dentist explaining Zoom! teeth whitening

Is Professional Teeth Whitening Right for Me?

You may be asking yourself; is a professional teeth-whitening service really worth it? Well, depending on your unique expectations and timeline, it can be. The cost of professional teeth whitening services can vary drastically. Typically, a service costs between $200 -$1,000, depending on the dentist’s office and your preferred treatment. This may seem like a high price, but considering the amazing results, it just might be worth it. Don’t forget to check out our guide for teeth whitening aftercare.

If you are ready to finally achieve the pearly-white smile of your dreams, you can contact us at Greenspoint Dental in Houston, Texas. We have a friendly team of dental professionals dedicated to providing you with compassionate and quality service. We can’t wait to hear from you!