Is Professional Teeth Whitening Better than At-Home Teeth Whitening?

Medically Reviewed By
Jonathan G. Campbell, DDS, FAGD
One of the top rated Dentist in Salt Lake City, UT
A Smiling girl with a yellow Jacket

In recent years, there seem to be more and more people turning to teeth whitening products and services. Your teeth are naturally whitish- but may become discolored and stained over time due to a variety of reasons- some are out of your control, but some are due to choices you make.

Many are turning to at-home teeth whitening products because of the cost, but there are untold benefits to professional whitening services through their dentist understand the how’s and when of teeth whitening much better.

‘According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the thing that most people want to improve about their smile is the whiteness of their teeth. Also, according to the American Association of Orthodontics, almost 90% of patients wanted their teeth whitened. Therefore, if you’re wanting whiter teeth, you’re not alone.

If you’re thinking of speaking with your dentist about tooth whitening services, it’s important to have an understanding of how it works, as well as your options. Also, it’s important to speak with your dentist to make sure you qualify for teeth whitening.

In this article, we’ll discuss what causes teeth to become discolored, how teeth whitening works and if it works on all teeth, options for teeth whitening, and the differences between at-home and professional treatments.

What Causes Discolored Teeth?

As a baby, when your teeth first start coming in, they’re a beautiful, whitish color. Over time, they begin to become discolored. Below, we’ll go over a few of the reasons for your discolored teeth:


The primary culprits for teeth staining are red wine, coffee, and tea. Their color pigments are called chromogens. They attach to the enamel of your teeth, causing them to become stained or discolored.


Tobacco contains 2 chemicals that cause teeth to become stained/discolored: tar and nicotine. Tar is dark, which results in stains on teeth. Nicotine is colorless until combined with oxygen- at that point, it becomes yellowish and stains teeth.


Below your tooth’s enamel is a softer layer known as dentin. It is naturally yellowish. As we age, due to wear and tear, the enamel becomes thin. This means the dentin shows through more, making teeth appear stained and discolored.


When you experience trauma to your mouth, the affected teeth may change color due to lack of blood flow. There are two possible ways that this can go:

  • Tooth may heal itself
  • Tooth may die

Therefore, when you experience a mouth injury, it’s important to see your dentist right away so that they can determine the extent of the damage and create a treatment plan.


Tooth darkening is a common side effect of several types of medications: antihistamines, high blood pressure medications, and antipsychotics. Also, young children who are given antibiotics such as doxycycline or tetracycline while their teeth or forming may have discolored teeth as they get older. Also, children whose mothers took these medications while pregnant are at a higher risk of discolored teeth. finally, chemo and neck radiation may cause teeth to become discolored.

Teeth Whitening: How Does it Work?

The teeth whitening process is fairly simple, and the steps vary based on the product you choose and whether your dentist does it or you do it at home.

There are two tooth bleaches that are used in whitening products: carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. They break the stains into smaller pieces and reduce the color concentration, which makes your teeth appear brighter and whiter.

Does it work on all teeth?

Unfortunately, no- it does not work on all teeth. Therefore, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with your dentist to determine the best course of action. Certain whitening products may not be effective on all types of stains/discoloration.

For example, bleach typically works well on yellowed teeth, but brown teeth may not respond well, and gray teeth typically don’t bleach at all.

Also, it’s important to know if you have dental appliances, such as fillings, caps, crowns, or veneers, whitening will not work. Also, if your tooth discoloration is due to trauma or medication, bleaching is not likely to be effective.

Options for Teeth Whitening

When it comes to both at-home and professional teeth whitening, you have several options to choose from. This is why it’s important to speak with your dentist before you start on any whitening procedure. Most of the options fall into one of three categories, ranging from surface whiteners to stronger ones that target deeper stains.

Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste removes surface stains from your teeth. These are the gentlest, which makes them ideal for patients with sensitive teeth. Since they polish instead of bleach, they usually don’t have any adverse side effects.

That being said, since they polish instead of bleach, they don’t work as well. Additionally, it takes longer to notice any changes- sometimes weeks or even months.

At-Home Whitening

You can purchase at-home whitening kits from your dentist or over-the-counter. You will find a variety of kits, including:

  • Trays
  • Strips
  • Lights
  • Rinses
  • Brushes

These at-home whitening kits typically contain peroxide, which gets below the surface to lighten tooth enamel. They must be used regularly over several days or weeks.

You may find that it’s better to get a kit from your dentist because they can make customized whitening trays that will fit your teeth better than the one-size-fits-all trays that you’d find in the OTC kits.

It’s important to follow the directions because if you leave the gel on your teeth for too long, the peroxide could cause irritation in your teeth and your gums.

Professional Whitening

Professional whitening is done in your dentist’s office. The chemicals used in these processes are much stronger because they have a higher concentration of peroxide. They typically work faster than at-home options.

In-office whitening treatments usually take about an hour. To protect your mouth from the peroxide, the dentist will cover your gums with a protective gel or a thin sheet of rubber. In some treatments, a laser/light will be used along with the peroxide.

What is the Difference between At-Home vs. Professional Teeth Whitening?

When it comes to tooth whitening methods, there are several differences between at-home versus professional options. The best one depends on your goals and the overall condition of your oral health. Below, we’ll look over some of the main differences:


First of all, there is a significant difference in the time it takes for a professional tooth whitening session versus an at-home one. You may spend 1 to 2 hours in the dentist chair and leave the office with teeth that are 8 shades whiter. On the other hand, for at-home treatments, you’ll spend 1 to 2 hours at a time over several days or weeks for teeth to be 3 to 6 shades whiter.


There is also a significant cost difference between the two: most at-home kits average around $50. Professional teeth whitening typically costs $300+. The primary benefit is that professional whitening is faster than the multiple kits you’d have to buy for at-home treatments. Plus, depending on your teeth and your oral health, your results with at-home kits may be inconsistent.


Due to the fact that professional whitening treatments penetrate deeper due to the solution’s concentration, it will last longer than at-home treatments.


One of the most common things that people want to change about their smiles is the color of their teeth. If you feel this way, you should know that you have options. You can visit your dentist for professional whitening, or you can do it yourself with at-home kits. Professional whitening may seem more expensive, but it last longer and is more effective, so in the long run, it may actually save you money.

For most people who experience a broken or dislocated jaw, the outlook is good. Most minor fractures and dislocations heal in about 4 to 8 weeks, but a fracture or break requiring surgery may take several months. Most of the time, the jaw will heal successfully with few long-term effects.

However, you are likely to have recurring jaw pain following an injury. This is known as a temporomandibular joint disorder, also called TMJ. You may also be at an increased risk of future dislocation.

Legacy Dental blog is proudly run by our Salt Lake City dentists team; We share knowledge about general dental care and practices. Apart from running this blog, we offer various dental services such as general dentistry, emergency dentistry, and dental implants for the community in Salt Lake City, Utah

How to reach us in and around Salt Lake City, Utah

Monday: 8.00am – 8:00pm
Tuesday: 8.00am – 8:00pm
Wednesday: 8.00am – 8:00pm
Thursday: 8.00am – 8:00pm
Friday: 8.00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 8.00am – 2:00pm
Skip to content