There are many different options available today when it comes to tooth whitening. Which works the best? Which is the best choice for your situation and desired outcome?
The three categories of bleaching techniques are in-office bleaching, custom take-home bleaching trays, and over-the-counter bleaching products available at your local grocery or drugstore. These techniques vary in cost, time of treatment, and results. Let's discuss the pros and cons of each method.
In-office bleaching is the most expensive but quickest technique and involves an hour or so in the dental chair with a very strong bleaching material applied to your teeth. This method is the most expensive due to the cost of the materials and requirement for direct supervision to carefully apply the bleach. This works well if you need fast results (i.e. - you have a wedding or another big event coming very soon and don't have time for a longer treatment). In my experience, many patients do experience some sensitivity for a few days and I feel like the results do not last as many years as the take-home bleaching tray technique. Because of this, I usually give the patients complimentary take-home trays with bleach to touch up with in the future.
In my opinion, the best long term results come from custom take-home bleaching trays. This is the technique I recommend for most patients. It is much less expensive than the in-office bleaching but it takes a little longer. Most patients find it takes 4-8 weeks of wearing the custom tray for 1 hour a day. You have a lot of control with this technique too because you just stop using the trays once your teeth lighten to your desired color. The results tend to last at least 2-3 years before you notice any diminishing of the whitening and then you just wear the tray for a day or two to touch them up. These products have improved greatly over the years and we now find that fewer and fewer patients experience any temporary sensitivity.
Over-the-counter bleaching techniques have also improved significantly and work well for some people. Of all the techniques, this one has the lowest cost and the results seem to vary widely between patients. The Crest Whitestrips still seem to get the best results in this category. I have had many patients that just wanted their teeth to lighten up a little and found these to be effective. Whitening pens can also be effective and easy to use. Another product that we have heard results from in our patients is the Aquafresh Extreme Clean toothpaste with Whitening Action. Most of the other whitening toothpastes and mouth rinses seem to produce very limited results. These over-the-counter products are limited by the FDA in the strength of bleach that they can use which can limit the extent of their bleaching effectiveness. They can be a good place to start though and offer a good lower priced alternative.
Hopefully I have been able to clarify the benefits of the different techniques available for tooth whitening. Please leave me a reply with any questions you might have. I would love to help.