What Is the Difference Between In-Office and At-Home Teeth Whitening?

If you want to whiten your teeth, it can be hard to choose among all the different options out there. Before, your choices were limited to going to the dentist or picking up a kit from your local drug store, but now there are charcoal scrubs, influencers selling strange LED light devices that claim to whiten teeth—which is the best option for you? Below, we break down the differences between the different types of teeth whitening in NYC and beyond.


In-Office Teeth Whitening Treatments


We might be a little biased, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true—the best teeth whitening is available at your dentist’s office. Not only are the bleaching agents used for in-office teeth whitening stronger than the ones you can purchase over-the-counter, the process we use is safer too. If you have sensitive teeth or gums, we can minimize irritation by modifying the process.

Regardless of the teeth whitening treatment you end up choosing, the best time to whiten your teeth is just after a comprehensive oral exam and routine dental cleaning. The reason is twofold: first, we’ll make sure your teeth are in good shape for whitening. If you have gum disease, the last thing you want to do is teeth whitening—it’s important to take care of serious dental issues before tackling the cosmetic ones. Second, the cleanest your teeth will ever be is immediately after a dental cleaning. That means there’s not a barrier of plaque and tartar to get in the way of your whitening treatment. You’ll get the best possible results when you start with clean teeth.

With in-office whitening treatments, you’ll be able to achieve stunning results in a single office visit. If your teeth have significant yellowing and stains, in-office teeth whitening is the best option for you. The bleaching agent we use in our practice allows us to achieve better results faster than any other option on the market. The teeth whitening process itself is short, but you can expect the results to last for years with proper care and maintenance.

The first step is protecting your gums and sensitive soft tissue by applying a protective gel or rubber shield to keep the bleaching agent from irritating your mouth. A bleaching agent containing carbamide peroxide is brushed onto the teeth and then a specialized light is used to enhance the action of the whitening treatment.

There is no downtime after in-office teeth whitening—you can go back to work or school immediately afterwards. The procedure is usually complete in under an hour and patients experience no pain or discomfort. To keep your teeth sparkling white for as long as possible, brush for two minutes, twice a day, floss at least once a day, and visit the dentist every six months for dental cleanings. If you smoke, stop. If you like to start your day with a cup of tea or coffee and end it with a glass of red wine at dinner, consider an alternative beverage, cut back, or, at the very least, rinse with water after drinking something with the potential to cause stains.


Professional At-Home Teeth Whitening Treatments


Another option for professional whitening is at-home teeth whitening kits available at our office. Their results aren’t quite as dramatic as those of in-office teeth whitening treatments, but at-home whitening is more affordable and can be done on your own time. You can choose how much to whiten your teeth and when—you can go for a subtle difference or a shade of white that’s more noticeable. Professional at-home whitening comes with a bleaching agent that is stronger than what you can purchase in stores or online. They’re a good fit for anyone with a moderate amount of yellowing and stains.

The at-home teeth whitening process begins in our office, where we’ll take impressions in order to fabricate custom-fitting whitening trays for you. Because they’re tailored to the shape of your teeth and jaw, they’ll fit better than the one-size-fits-all options you can purchase elsewhere, making them both more comfortable and more effective.

Once the whitening trays have been fabricated, you’ll come back to our office where you’ll receive them along with your whitening gel. Depending on the results you want and the extent of your stains, you may only need to wear your whitening trays for a few hours a day or while you sleep at night for up to four weeks. A member of our team will provide you with detailed instructions and show you how to fill your whitening trays before you leave our office.


Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening Kits and Products


There’s whitening strips, whitening toothpastes, whitening mouthwash, whitening toothbrushes, whitening pens, whitening floss—with so many teeth whitening products available over-the-counter, why would you even need to go to the dentist?

As you’ve probably guessed, the teeth whitening products you can purchase in stores and online just aren’t as effective as in-office and at-home teeth whitening available from your dentist. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t work—many of them do—but the results are less dramatic and they take a longer amount of time to achieve. This is actually a good thing. If these teeth whitening treatments were too strong, a lot of people would end up with sensitive teeth and irritated gums from over-use!

Still, it’s important to use these products judiciously even if they aren’t as strong as professional bleaching gels. Follow the directions on the package. If you use a whitening toothpaste, don’t use it on a daily basis—they use abrasion to whiten your teeth, which will wear away your enamel over time and lead to more yellow teeth eventually.

If you’re looking for a store-bought option to try, ask us for recommendations at your next visit—and never buy any product that doesn’t come with an ADA Seal. That’s your assurance that the product you’re purchasing is safe and effective.

Many natural teeth whitening treatments don’t carry this seal and may even damage your teeth. The black charcoal whitening products, for example, that promise to whiten teeth and absorb toxins from the mouth can actually wear away your enamel. Be cautious when purchasing whitening products online—many come from overseas and there is no way to know exactly what they contain. When it comes to teeth whitening, sticking with the big name brands you know and are familiar with is your best bet—and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Other Ways to Whiten Your Teeth


There are other ways to achieve a whiter smile besides teeth whitening treatments. If you’re undecided about which method of teeth whitening is right for you, ask your dentist about the following options:

  • Microabrasion — This procedure removes a thin layer of enamel from the teeth in order to eliminate stains and discoloration.
  • Dental Veneers — Veneers are thin porcelain shells used to cover the fronts of teeth. Some types of stains cannot be removed with teeth whitening; in these cases, dental veneers may be a good alternative.
  • Cosmetic Bonding — Cosmetic bonding uses a small amount of tooth-colored composite resin material to cover over minor imperfections on a tooth. It doesn’t last as long as dental veneers, but it is a much more affordable option.

Some teeth stains and discoloration are classified as “intrinsic”—this means that they originate from the inside of the tooth rather than the tooth surface. If you have or know someone who has a “dead tooth,” then you know what intrinsic discoloration looks like. Dental veneers and cosmetic bonding are the best solutions for this type of stain. When you come to our office for a consultation, we’ll be able to tell whether the stains, yellowing, and other discoloration on your teeth are on the surface level or intrinsic and recommend the best course of action to correct the problem.


The Bottom Line on Teeth Whitening in NYC


Teeth whitening is one of the most common cosmetic dental treatments we offer. Even though you probably feel self-conscious about your smile, the truth is that nearly everyone deals with teeth stains and yellowing at some point in their lives. As we get older, the enamel on our teeth starts to thin, making them appear more yellow than white. Smoking and certain medications can change the color of our teeth, as can drinking red wine, coffee, or tea. Even the fluoride you were exposed to as a child can form white spots on your adult teeth.

Whatever the reason for your stains, there’s a solution to fix them. Make an appointment with one of our cosmetic dentists to find out which is the best fit for you.


Schedule an Appointment


DDS Group provides in-office and at-home teeth whitening in NYC. Both of our cosmetic dentistry specialists, Dr. Lisa Handler and Dr. Stuart Schreiber, have years of experience helping patients smile brighter. To find out how we can help you transform your smile, contact us at 212-269-6655 to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.