Many individuals who want to alter the appearance of their smiles in some way start by making their teeth a whiter, brighter color.
Nonprescription, over-the-counter teeth whitening kits can be found on the shelves of most drugstores and beauty suppliers. However, while these kits can enhance some smiles, dentists still recommend seeking professional whitening solutions instead.
In this blog, we discuss four of the fundamental differences between expert whitening and over-the-counter whitening to help you better understand why dentists recommend professional teeth whitening over nonprescription kits.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between professional and over-the-counter teeth whitening is the efficacy of the treatments. Because patients who seek whitening solutions from their dentists undergo evaluation and have the opportunity for consultation, they receive treatment plans based on their diet, lifestyle, and specific concerns.
Whether you have your professional whitening done only in your dentist's office or you use prescription at-home solutions, you receive these treatments based on your dentist's intimate understanding of your needs and goals. For example, all trays used to apply whitening agents to your teeth are created based on molds of your smile.
When you purchase a kit at a drugstore, the treatment inside has little to no personalization.
2. Ingredient Concentration
Over-the-counter teeth whitening must account for the differences in enamel and gum sensitivity in a wide range of patients, so the bleaching agent must be kept at a weak enough level to be considered safe for general use.
While many of these kits use the same bleaching agent that your dentist will — hydrogen peroxide — your dentist can apply a much stronger solution to your teeth. Additionally, some dentists adjust the concentration of their solution based on individual patients' reactions to the whitening agent.
3. Potential Side Effects
Nonprescription whitening kits stay at a low hydrogen peroxide concentration for good reason: some patients can have adverse side effects to the treatment. And because patients who handle this process on their own have no recommendations or oversight from a qualified dentist, they may make errors that could cause even more side effects.
For example, many patients experience gum irritation or redness when the bleaching agent comes into contact with their gum tissue. In a professional setting, the application is more precise so this risk is lower.
While you can experience some adverse effects after a professional whitening treatment, these effects are generally mild and short-lived. Additionally, your dentist can account for that specific reaction in future treatments to ensure that if you need more whitening in the future, you stay more comfortable.
Many patients who begin the teeth whitening process imagine waking up the next day to a smile worthy of a toothpaste advertisement. Even professional teeth whitening doesn't provide results that dramatic, but expert treatments do work after a single session and can reach the goal shade within a few visits.
Additionally, while no whitening treatment is completely permanent, most treatment plans account for necessary maintenance from the beginning so you can keep your teeth at the desired shade without added difficulty.
When you use an over-the-counter kit, you must consistently use the bleaching agent for weeks or months before you even know if it has made any difference. Unfortunately, in many cases, any whitening accomplished by these kits is often also immediately undone by normal eating and drinking habits.
As you decide on the steps to take in order to achieve your best smile, discuss your whitening needs and options with your dentist to ensure that you receive the results you want and avoid the pitfalls commonly found with self-applied treatments.
For comprehensive general and cosmetic dental services, trust the experienced team at Pierpan Dentistry.