Professional vs OTC Whitening

As more people began to crave brighter and whiter smiles, teeth whitening has become increasingly popular over the years. Teeth whitening, as its name implies, is the process of removing discoloration from the teeth, leaving them sparkling white. Discoloration of the teeth could be for a variety of reasons ranging from poor dental practices to illnesses and diseases. Whitening your teeth is one of the easiest ways for you to improve your appearance. A person with sparkling white teeth is often regarded as being healthy and good-looking.

Before you undergo teeth whitening, you must understand the procedures involved with teeth whitening so you can choose the right methods for you. With a wide variety of teeth whitening products available for purchase over the counter, several people are curious to know if professional teeth whitening is indeed superior to over-the-counter methods.

Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening

Over-the-counter teeth whitening involves the use of products that can be found at a local drugstore. Your local drugstore will probably have several teeth whitening products that you can choose from. These products contain an amount of a whitening agent which is applied to your teeth to give you the desired result. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products usually have to be applied over several days for their effect to be noticed.

Professional Teeth Whitening

A professional teeth whitening procedure will involve you making an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist will also make use of certain products with whitening agents to carry out the procedure. The difference between the products the dentist will use and the products you can get from your drugstore is the concentration and power of the whitening agent found in them. While a dentist can make use of stronger agents due to their expertise, over-the-counter products have to contain far smaller quantities so that they can be safe for individuals to use. All of this means that a dentist only has to apply his products once for you to see instant results. The differences between an over-the-counter procedure and a professional one are discussed further along in this blog post.

Differences Between Over the Counter and Professional Teeth Whitening

1. Whitening agent

Teeth whitening products contain an active ingredient called a whitening agent which is responsible for the actual whitening of the teeth. In over-the-counter teeth whitening products, this whitening agent is carbamide peroxide. While carbamide can be effective as a whitening agent, it produces very weak results which do not last for a long time. This means that before you can get an acceptable result from an over-the-counter teeth whitening product, you will have to apply it multiple times over several days. A dentist, on the other hand, will use hydrogen peroxide, which is up to 30 times more powerful than carbamide peroxide to whiten your teeth. This results in teeth whitening that is more effective and will also last you a very long time.

2. Cost

Purchasing over-the-counter teeth whitening products is cheaper than getting professional teeth whitening done, at least in the short term. In the long run, you will realize that getting your teeth whitened by a dentist, although seemingly expensive at first, will cost you less. This is because professional teeth whitening only has to be done once in a while, while you will have to use your over-the-counter product regularly for the effects to remain visible.

3. Equipment

Whether you decide to purchase a whitening product over the counter or choose a dentist for a professional teeth whitening, a tray is used to hold the product to your teeth. This tray is designed to separate your teeth from the other parts of your mouth so that there is no interference with the action of the whitening agent. Over-the-counter trays are however one size fits all, which means that you most likely would not get one that fits your teeth perfectly leading to an interference of the action of the already weaker whitening agent. It is however a different case if you choose to whiten your teeth with a dentist. At Dr. Steven Larsen’s office, for example, our dentists create a custom tray for your teeth so that the whitening product is held securely to your teeth without any chance of interference which can lead to poor results. This results in a better outcome from a professional teeth whitening procedure than from an over-the-counter product.

4. Time

While you might think that whitening your teeth at home with over-the-counter products will save you time, the reverse is the case. A single application of an over-the-counter product will take you around the same amount of time that a dentist will take to whiten your teeth. The difference is that while a single session with a dentist is enough to make your teeth 8 shades whiter, you will have to apply the over-the-counter product every day over several days to achieve whitening that is 5 shades brighter. More work for less results. The time you spend commuting to the dentist's office is offset by the time it will take you to carry out several applications of the over-the-counter product.

5. Longevity

Due to the use of far superior whitening agents in professional teeth whitening, you can achieve results that last much longer than those you get with over-the-counter products. This could be attributed to two different things. The first is the quality of whitening that is achievable with professional teeth whitening. Since your teeth are made up to 8 shades whiter, they can remain white and bright for a very long time as opposed to over-the-counter methods which make your teeth only 3 to 5 shades brighter. The other factor is the penetration power of the whitening agents. Hydrogen peroxide which is used in professional teeth whitening has a much stronger penetrating power than carbamide peroxide. This allows the surface of teeth to be penetrated and whiten which leads to longer-lasting results.


The decision to choose between over-the-counter and professional teeth whitening is yours to make. If you however decide to go with professional teeth whitening, our dentist, Dr. Steven Larsen, is thoroughly experienced and will provide you with the best teeth whitening service you can get. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and achieve the white and bright smile you’ve been hoping for.