Does Professional Teeth Whitening Really Work?

I have considered getting my teeth whitened by my local dentist. But my concern is that it doesn’t really work for long term and I will be out my money. I have tried the over the counter whitening strips, but they didn’t work for long and I’ve read they can damage the tooth enamel.

I am wondering if professional whitening really works and if so, what is the cost?

Thanks very much.

Pete in Des Moines


Dear Pete,

The truth is that dental whitening done by a professional is highly effective and can help your teeth regain their original luster. You are also right about strips damaging enamel. They will if used a lot.

The over-the-counter strips can be useful and help with a few degrees of whiteness. However, the change is only temporary and they would need to be used continuously to maintain that whiteness; thus leading to the tooth enamel damage you mentioned.

The real difference between the whitening strips bought at the local drug store and the bleaching found at your local dentist is simply the level of bleach intensity and concentration. The professional products are much stronger than the stuff found at your local store. It’s like comparing aspirin and morphine.

If the bleaching is done professionally the teeth will usually remain white for many years to come. In fact they typically never go back to the color when first treated. Yet with our western diets of processed foods, sodas and other culprits, we suggest every few years to get a touch up to maintain that healthy white luster, but we suggest that only if you notice any darkening. The maintenance is not expensive.

Professionally there are usually two types of whitening approaches. The firstkind of teeth whiteningis immediate and takes place in the dental office. The visit to the office will last about two hours and the process involves applying the bleaching material to your teeth, placing a light to activate the bleach then simply waiting the approximate two hours for results. Afterwards, your teeth will jump several degrees within the white spectrum. So whatever tooth color or stains you walked into the dental office with will be transformed to a white sheen after those couple of hours. Please note that this process usually runs a couple hundreddollars.

The second option for teeth whiteningis for the dental office to design bleach trays specifically for your teethand then for you to bleach your teeth at home. This procedure works just as well yet it is much more involved and takes longer, yet costs far less.

We always encourage patients to consult with their dentists to see which option will work for them. Your dentist will assess your teeth to make certain, before you move forward, that either option is the right choice for you.

This post was provided by Elgin dentist Dr. Steve Sirin. Learn more about Teeth Whitening.

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