Why Should I Pay For Professional Whitening? Won't Those Drug Store Products Do The Same Thing?

The answer is, it depends. What it depends on is what you start with and where you want to go. As you will see later, even if you do choose this route, it’s best to ask your dentist what problems you might encounter and for a product recommendation.


Many of the products on drug store shelves that say they will whiten teeth, do little more than remove surface stains. They’re a good choice for those who are happy with the overall color of their teeth and just feel their teeth look dull. These products do brighten your smile but will not change the color of your teeth and include many of the toothpastes and mouthwashes.


Over the counter whitening products come in many types: pre-filled trays that you insert, strips that you stick to your teeth, or liquids/gels that you paint on your teeth. All tend to be lower strength than ones purchased at the dental office.  Your tooth color will change but results may be slower than take home whitening from your dental office. Tooth whitening does have some potential side effects, so it’s very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. This is not a case of once a day is good; three times a day is better.


In addition, their “one size fits all” approach may make it harder to keep the material on your teeth or harder for you to get uniform color changes if your teeth are not perfect. If you desire a subtle color change and don’t mind waiting for results, these products will probably work well for you.


Kiosks such as those at malls or tanning salons often offer a similar type product to what you’d buy elsewhere. The employees at these booths often have little professional training in tooth whitening. They’re there mainly to sell you the material, and then you’re left to apply it yourself with no supervision. If you have questions or an adverse reaction, you’re on your own. Most of these programs recommend that you return weekly for the best result—and even then approximately 22% of people won’t see a change. You may want to evaluate the cost and convenience to see if it is truly the best deal for you.


By now, you’re probably thinking “well, surely the internet will let me buy something stronger than what’s on store shelves.” Well, maybe . . . but be sure what you’re getting into and what you’re buying. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that many consumers are not happy with online teeth whitening offers:

(See http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/04/05/teeth-whitening-offers-wont-leave-customers-smiling/ for example.) Some sites promise results but don’t tell you what the active ingredient in their product is. Some of these materials reportedly contain acids that may damage your teeth. Other sites sign you up for repeated shipments or promise money back if you’re not satisfied—but as the article above shows, getting that money back isn’t always easy.


Even if you do not plan to use a dental office’s whitening product, it is still a good idea to have a dentist check over your teeth prior to starting the process. Whitening materials do penetrate your teeth and may cause additional tooth problems if you have decay, cavities, or a cracked tooth. Fillings and other dental work will not whiten—something you might want to know in advance if you have many that will need to be replaced so that the color matches. Some types of tooth discoloration, particularly that resulting from tetracycline, are resistant to change and may take much longer to see results.


Dentists also can evaluate the different types of whitening they have available and make a recommendation for your specific needs.

  • In-office whitening shows results more quickly than other types but is done with your teeth very dry. As your teeth rewet with saliva, they will appear darker, just like cloth does when it is wet.
  • Waiting room whitening is similar to kiosk whitening except the dentist will make you a custom fit tray, place the material, and be available if there are questions or concerns while you are whitening.
  • Take home whitening kits are available from your dentist in a variety of strengths plus you get a custom fit tray for your mouth. This type of tray means you’ll use less material. You’ll receive instructions from your dentist but do the whitening at home. Your dentist may request periodic visits to check your progress and make sure that you are using the product correctly.


If you’d like a whitening plan tailored to your specific needs, we’d love to talk with you. Please call my office at 440-960-1940 or email us at [email protected] or contact us through my website at www.drjrobb.com. We’re saving a seat for you!