The most popular procedure in all of cosmetic dentistry is teeth whitening or teeth bleaching. If your smile has lost its gleam and color (for whatever reason), our practice in Carmel, IN has the tools and talent to give you back a smile that is vibrant, bright, and youthful.
One of the questions we hear quite often in our office when it comes to teeth whitening is whether or not in-office teeth whitening treatments are any different from those that you can buy in a store, or have done in a beauty shop (or a shopping mall). These at-home kits are often referred to as over-the-counter (OTC) or do-it-yourself (DIY) whitening treatments.
It’s easy to see why they’ve become so popular. OTC whitening kits are heavily advertised and they’re available everywhere. They’re also perceived to be less expensive than a treatment from a dentist and more convenient because they don’t require you to make an appointment.
But perceptions aren’t the same as reality. Let’s examine some of the key differences between OTC and DIY kits and the treatments you’ll get from your dentist.
The whitening gel that your dentist uses is much more powerful than those that you can buy in a store.
Whitening gels use hydrogen peroxide to do the work of whitening and bleaching (though there are some that use other chemicals). This is how whitening gels work: the active ingredient (the ingredient that actually whitens your teeth; in most cases, it’s hydrogen peroxide) is released from the gel once it is applied. Your teeth may look solid, but in fact they’re covered with microscopic pits. The molecules that cause stains get trapped in these pits; over time, the stains will change the color of your teeth and dim your smile. During whitening, the hydrogen peroxide makes its way into these pits, removing and destroying the stain molecules. The result is a bright, white smile!
The whitening gel is the first big difference between what you can buy at the store and what you’ll get in the office. OTC whitening gels usually contain around 7% hydrogen peroxide. On the other hand, whitening gels that your dentist uses can have anywhere from 35% to 45% hydrogen peroxide in them. The more hydrogen peroxide, the more dramatic the transformation of your smile!
The strips and trays you get in OTC kits are “one-size-fits-all”.
OTC teeth whitening kits generally use strips (which you apply to your teeth like a bandaid) and trays (you fill the tray with whitening gel and place the tray over your teeth; they’re somewhat similar to athletic mouthguards).
The problem with these is that OTC strips and trays are “one-size-fits-all”. With a few exceptions, most things that are designed to fit everyone usually don’t fit anyone. We use trays in our office because trays are more effective than strips, and our trays are custom-made.
Custom-made trays are much better at their job than OTC trays. A tray that is custom-made for your teeth will fit your teeth exactly how they’re supposed to. This will allow the whitening gel to go exactly where it needs to go to whiten your teeth. Also, a custom-made tray’s superior fit means that once it’s in place, it stays in place. OTC trays won’t give you the same fit. The gel isn’t optimally placed and OTC trays tend to slide around. It just isn’t possible to get the maximum whitening value from OTC trays. If you have sensitive gums, whitening gels can cause you serious discomfort. When OTC trays slide around, they also spill the gel they contain. That can mean incredible pain for those with sensitive gums!
You can’t buy expertise in a store!
In the film The Matrix, one memorable scene shows Keanu Reeves receiving a download of information directly to his brain. After only a few seconds, he mutters famously to himself, “I know Kung-Fu.”
In the future, it might be possible to download the expertise needed to get a superior teeth whitening treatment, but today, there is no way to replace the experience and knowledge of a trained dentist.
Your dentist wants you to have your very best smile, but his first priority is your oral health and comfort. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth and consider your entire dental history before determining the best possible whitening treatment for you. Your comfort during a teeth whitening treatment is critical, because if you feel discomfort or pain during the process, it’s likely you won’t be able to complete the treatment, and your smile won’t be any better off than it was before you even started thinking about whitening!
In addition, your dentist is an expert in teeth whitening and bleaching. Some things are just better when left in the hands of an expert!
Get the most value from your whitening dollar!
In the end, it’s about value vs. the amount you spend. OTC treatments may appear to be less expensive, but the value of the treatment that they provide is much less than what you’ll receive from a dentist with the training, experience, and equipment needed to maximize your teeth whitening experience.
If you’re thinking about whitening or bleaching your teeth to brighten your smile and get the dazzling look you’ve been missing for a long time, make an appointment with us today!
Call our office at 317-451-4050 and a member of our friendly staff will help you! Alternatively, you can use our handy online appointment form to schedule your whitening treatment right now!