Dreaming of a gleaming, pearly-white smile?

We have good news: Professional teeth whitening is an easy way to give your smile a red carpet-worthy boost.

The benefits of whiter teeth are compelling. Many people notice a more youthful appearance and improved self-confidence, creating positive ripple effects throughout all areas of their lives.

Teeth whitening is so popular because it’s one of the most affordable and convenient ways to get a beautiful smile.

Young blond girl smiling wearing white hat and shirt against flower background, showing off beautiful professional teeth whitening results

There are three primary ways to whiten your teeth:

  • Over-the-counter drugstore whiteners
  • At-home bleaching trays custom made by your dentist
  • In-office laser treatments performed by your dentist

So which method is right for you? It depends.

Read on to learn:

  • If you’re a good candidate for teeth whitening
  • The difference between drugstore whitening products and professional treatments at your dentist (and what’s best for your needs)
  • What should you do BEFORE you whiten your teeth
  • What to expect with professional teeth whitening

Am I a candidate for teeth whitening?

Most people can safely and effectively use teeth whitening products and treatments to improve the look of their smiles.

However, some people may have underlying oral health issues that should be addressed before considering teeth whitening. For example, those with severe periodontal disease should not use whitening products.

You’re likely a great candidate for teeth whitening if you:

  • Already have great oral health habits
  • Are old enough to understand the procedure and use products appropriately
  • Have yellowed, brown, discolored, or stained teeth
  • Have a desire to improve your appearance
  • Have realistic expectations about the whitening process

Drugstore vs. professional teeth whitening – What’s the difference?

Over-the-counter options are where many people start when they’re looking to whiten their teeth. They’re typically the least expensive and easiest method to get access to – simply pick them up at your local drugstore.

They work great for some people, but many are disappointed by the results. Others find that over-the-counter solutions cause painful sensitivity.

If you’re unimpressed by drugstore products or struggle with sensitivity, professional teeth whitening can be a great option for you.

Over-the-counter whitening products are generic by nature. They’re intended to work for the masses and don’t take into consideration any individual requirements or challenges.

For example, they don’t work well on the surfaces between the teeth and at the gum lines, which may give a shadow appearance in those areas.

They’re also weaker and less targeted to your specific problem areas than professional treatments, making them significantly less effective. You often have to use them for prolonged periods of time to see any results at all.

Extensive and untargeted use can damage and wear down the enamel, exposing the sensitive inner parts of your teeth. That’s why tooth sensitivity and pain are common problems.

In contrast, professional treatments are much more customized.

Under the expert care of a dental professional, we precisely craft the treatment to your individual needs. We are also qualified to deliver much stronger concentrations of whitening formulas safely.

What does that mean for you?

Faster, whiter results with less sensitivity.

What should do before you whiten your teeth

Regardless of what whitening method you choose, your teeth must be in good condition before you start whitening.

To ensure the best and safest results, start with a professional prophylactic tooth cleaning by your dentist. They’ll likely remove some discoloring through the cleaning process, giving you a solid foundation to start your teeth whitening journey.

Your dentist can also evaluate the strength of your enamel, giving you an insight into how sensitive your teeth may be to bleaching agents. This could be a determining factor in deciding what method is best for you.

Your professional teeth whitening options

Professional teeth whitening takes two main forms:

  • In-office laser treatments
  • Custom take-home bleaching trays

In-office laser treatments are the fastest way to get dramatic, instantaneous results. In just one quick visit, you’ll walk out the door with a noticeably brighter smile.

The major drawback to in-office bleaching is the higher cost of the procedure. However, for busy professionals, the speed and superior results of the in-office whitening are unbeatable.

Custom take-home trays work great as well but typically take at least a few days before you start noticing whiter teeth. Depending on the type of stains, it may take several weeks or months before the desired level of whitening is achieved.

Ultimately, the time required depends on:

  • The type of tooth whitening procedure used
  • How long the whitening gel in is contact with your teeth
  • The strength of the whitening gel used
  • The amount of stain and discoloration on the teeth
  • The type of stain and discoloration on the teeth
  • The degree of whiteness desired

The other great news is that once you reach your desired level of whiteness, it typically requires much less treatment to maintain your results.

Many people opt for a combination of in-office laser treatments and take-home trays. This gives the best of both worlds, delivering immediate results and a way to easily maintain their smiles for the long term.

When you come in for a teeth whitening consultation, our dental experts will thoroughly evaluate your whitening needs and discuss your smile goals, taking your lifestyle and budget into consideration.

We’ll also examine your teeth to make sure that you’re in good shape to receive whitening treatment safely.

From there, we’ll craft a custom treatment plan that incorporates in-office laser whitening, take-home trays, or a combination of both to help you reach your goals.

In-office laser whitening procedure

If you opt for an in-office treatment, we’ll start by applying a protective material to your gums to shield them from the bleaching process. This helps reduce the likelihood of pain and sensitivity.

Next, a special bleaching gel is applied to your teeth. We’ll carefully position a laser over your mouth, which activates the gel and begins the whitening process.

You’ll sit back and relax while the laser safely works its magic. The time depends on the extent of your whitening needs, typically 15-45 minutes.

In about an hour, you’ll be ready to walk out the door with a beautiful, noticeably whiter smile!

Take-home trays procedure

For professional at-home treatments, we’ll start by taking impressions of your teeth. Next, we’ll use these impressions to custom fabricate trays that comfortably fit your unique smile.

Custom trays help keep the bleaching gel precisely where we want it while avoiding its spread to the soft tissues. Your gums, cheeks, tongue, and inner lips are sensitive to the bleaching solution, so it’s important to use a tray that fits perfectly. It’s also why poor-fitting, generic drugstore trays are known to cause sensitivity issues.

Will I experience any pain or sensitivity?

While you’re less likely to experience sensitivity with professional teeth whitening, some discomfort may occur with any whitening process.

The majority of patients experience minimal to no discomfort. Any minor pain typically goes away within 24 hours. In the rare case that you do experience more severe pain that lasts more than 24 hours, you should let your dentist know.

Ready to experience the incredible results of professional teeth whitening?

Our top-notch team of cosmetic dentists at Brookside Dental can deliver amazing whitening results personalized to your smile goals. Just check out our smile gallery to see for yourself!

We’re located in Bellevue, WA, and proudly serve surrounding communities in Seattle, Kirkland, Renton, Woodinville, Issaquah, Redmond, and Sammamish.

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This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been completely revamped for comprehensiveness and timeliness.