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What is the difference between drugstore whitening and whitening from the dental office?2017-09-22T10:15:49+00:00

Commonly Asked Questions

What is the difference between drugstore whitening and whitening from the dental office?

One question we get quite often is, “Do the tooth whitening kits from the drug store work as well as the more expensive professional ones you get at a dental office?” The answer to the question is that the drug-store kits, such as Crest White Strips, do work… for some people, but can be cumbersome as they are not custom fitted.

Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening systems, such as Crest White Strips, use Hydrogen Peroxide as their active ingredient.  This is the same active ingredient used in many of the professional tooth whitening systems but in a much lower concentration.  With Crest White Strips, this relatively low concentration of hydrogen peroxide is mixed into a glycerine gel, which forms the gel on the backside of the application strips.  This glycerine “goo” gets applied to the teeth just like a Band-Aid gets applied to a cut finger; the gel not only covers the teeth but covers a portion of the gum tissue as well.  It is for this reason that the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the gel must be kept relatively low.  If it were higher, it would chemically burn the gum tissue.  This gel does whiten the teeth but because it is a relatively low strength it takes significantly more applications and thus takes longer than the higher strength professional systems.  You may be wondering how the professional systems are any different.

The main difference between the OTC systems and the professional systems is the way in which the chemically active gel is applied to the teeth.   The professional systems use a custom-made “tray” that holds the hydrogen peroxide gel in contact with the teeth and minimizes the gel contacting the gum tissue.  The tray is a thin flexible shell of clear plastic that gently rests over the teeth and forms a seal along the gum line.

The custom tray is fabricated to hold the hydrogen peroxide gel on the fronts of each tooth to be whitened. The custom trays are made with a mould for each individual person; impressions and stone models of the teeth must be made. The plastic whitening trays are made using a special machine in the office.

On the second visit, the plastic trays are tried in the mouth to assure good fit and comfort.  Instructions are given on how to load the proper amount of whitening gel into the trays, how to properly insert them, as well as how frequently they should be worn.  In addition, you are given a small kit that includes:

  • A protective case to store the whitening trays in
  • An ample supply of whitening gel (3 – 3g tubes)
  • 1 tube of whitening toothpaste
  • A travel carrying case to hold all supplies

How long does it take to whiten teeth? 

The time required to whiten teeth depends on how dark the teeth are initially, the degree of whitening desired, and the frequency of applying the whitening gel. The best way to determine if you are a good candidate for whitening treatments is to have a consultation with us.