There are a wide range of options for patients looking to get a brighter smile. Between the in-office and at-home whitening solutions, you can find a solution that fits your budget and time concerns. Do you need an immediate change for some an upcoming event where pictures will be taken? Then an in-house treatment is the answer. Are you just looking for a simple way to remove some surface stains? Perhaps a home whitening kit will be enough.

So with all of these options, the question has to be asked: how do they work?

If there is such a big difference in time and cost, do they work differently? Do the active ingredients actually attack the stains in different ways?

When it comes right down to it, teeth whitening works in one of two basic ways:

Teeth Bleaching

A bleaching procedure physically changes the color of your teeth. Most in-office treatments use this type of whitening because it can deliver results up to 10 shades brighter after a single visit.

The active ingredient used in most bleaching solutions is either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, and the concentration of it can range between 10% and 22%. This solution can get deeper down into the tooth, so it can remove both surface and deep-down stains.

Of course, just because a lot of procedures count as “bleaching,” that doesn’t mean they all work the same.

The in-office solution often uses a light-activated procedure, which results in instant results. We simply apply the whitening agent and activate it with the light technology. However, if you are looking for a different solution, some patients will use a custom-created mouthpiece and gel solution. This is often a more affordable option, but it can take a couple weeks to produce results, and you may need to wear the mouthpiece for several hours a day.

The over-the-counter bleaching products work on the same principles, and range from toothpastes to whitening gels. Results will, of course, vary depending on a number of things – such as the concentration of bleaching agent and how much you use the product.

Abrasion Whitening

The other way to whiten your teeth is through different physical or chemical actions that can remove surface stains. This could include the mild abrasive ingredients in toothpastes or polishing agents that you can use at home.

Abrasion is useful in professional and at-home treatments, but, obviously, it must be used very carefully so that the enamel is not damaged in the process. When it’s used correctly, though, it’s a safe and effective way to remove most surface stains.

Maintaining Your New Smile

Even after you receive a professional treatment, it will be up to you to maintain the new, brighter smile for as long as you can. Eventually, due to the foods and drinks we consume every day, newly whitened teeth will eventually start to lose their luster again.

In order to keep everything looking great, you should avoid those foods that will stain your teeth and maintain a strict regimen of daily dental hygiene. You can also set an appointment to get your teeth touched up at your regular appointment, too.

Teeth whitening works on some well-established procedures, but if you do start to feel increased sensitivity after a treatment, make sure you let us know so we can make sure you’re getting a beautiful smile while preserving the health of your teeth.