Your Teeth Whitening Handbook

A breakdown of at-home vs professional methods

Intan Nobury


May 18, 23

7 min read

Photo by juriel majeed from Unsplash

A gleaming bright smile is often associated with health and beauty, and it's no wonder that teeth whitening has become increasingly popular over the years. It is no longer something for models and Hollywood actors to beam with almost everyone in Western culture having access to whitening products and procedures. With so much out there,  it's important to understand how teeth whitening works and the options available to you. In this blog post, we'll explore the differences between at-home and professional teeth whitening methods and address the question of whether you can whiten your porcelain veneers.

Understanding Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure aimed to lighten the color of the teeth and remove surface stains or discoloration. It is a popular treatment for achieving a brighter, more vibrant smile. The process of teeth whitening typically involves the use of bleaching agents that penetrate the tooth enamel and break down stains, resulting in a whiter appearance.

There are two primary types of teeth whitening methods: at-home treatments and professional treatments performed at the dental office.

At-Home Teeth Whitening

Though dental practices offer at-home bleaching kits, you can also purchase these online. At-home teeth whitening kits are readily available over-the-counter and offer a convenient option for achieving a brighter smile in the comfort of your own home. These kits usually contain whitening strips or trays that are filled with a gel containing a lower concentration of bleaching agents compared to professional treatments. The over the counter or online kits typically have a generic shape with a lower concentration of bleach compared to take home whitening kit made from the dentist. The dental take home kit involves taking a mould of your teeth and making a tray specifically designed for you. Dental practices are also able to provide you with a higher concentration of bleach which is professionally demonstrated and explained to ensure better results from over the counter or online kits. 

The bleaching agents in at-home whitening kits operate by piercing the enamel and gaining access to the dentin, the tooth's inner layer. The molecular connections holding the stains together are subsequently broken down by the bleaching agents, thereby lightening the colour of the teeth. To prevent any adverse effects or uneven whitening, it's crucial to carefully read the directions and use the product as recommended. Incorrect use can lead to burning your gums or poor results. 

Professional In-Chair Whitening

In a dental clinic, dentists or hygienists administer professional in-chair whitening treatments. These treatments typically involve higher concentration dental grade bleaching agents, allowing for more effective and efficient results compared to at-home methods. In chair whitening have instantaneous results where take home whitening kits produce results over time with periodic use. 

In-chair teeth whitening procedures often utilize a stronger bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which is applied directly to the teeth. The dentist often also uses a specialized light or laser to enhance the whitening process. The higher concentration of bleaching agents, along with the professional application and monitoring, allows for more controlled and dramatic results in a shorter period without damaging the gums. 

During professional teeth whitening treatments, the bleaching agents penetrate the enamel, similar to at-home methods, and break down the stains and discoloration. The dentist carefully monitors the process to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.

It's important to note that teeth whitening treatments are most effective for removing surface stains caused by factors like food, beverages, smoking, or age-related discoloration. They may not be as effective for intrinsic stains that originate from within the tooth or for certain types of dental restorations like porcelain veneers or crowns.

Can porcelain veneers be whitened?

Many patients often ask this question. Porcelain veneers, due to their material and properties, cannot be whitened through traditional teeth whitening methods. Unlike natural teeth, porcelain veneers are non-porous and resistant to staining. The color of porcelain veneers is determined during the fabrication process, and once they are cemented onto the teeth, their color is permanent and cannot be altered through whitening treatments.

If you have porcelain veneers and wish to change their color, teeth whitening procedures will not be effective. If your porcelain veneers are extremely thin, you can look into whitening the back surface of your tooth behind the veneer to brighten the base colour. It is advisable to consult with your dentist to explore alternative options if you’re wanting whiter veneers. 

In saying that, if the concern is merely minor discoloration or staining on the surface of the veneers, your dentist may be able to address it through a deep clean or polish. These methods can help restore the veneers to their original luster and remove superficial stains without altering their color. This is why it’s important to maintain your oral hygiene following any cosmetic treatment and visit your dentist for your regular check up and clean appointments. 

What to consider when choosing teeth whitening methods

There are a number of things to take into account when choosing which treatment to proceed with. This includes:

Assess the severity of your teeth's discoloration

At-home kits or over-the-counter whitening products may work well if you have minor surface stains. But, for more stubborn or deeply ingrained stains, expert treatments performed by a dentist may result with outcomes.

Your desired outcome

At-home whitening methods typically provide gradual results over several weeks of consistent use. Professional procedures carried out at a dental office can be a better choice if you're searching for a more instantaneous result. Dental take home whitening kits are also much more effective then over the counter kits.

Your overall dental health and sensitivity

If you have gum disease, tooth decay, or other oral health issues, it's important to address those concerns first with your dentist before undergoing any whitening treatment. In addition, choosing a gentler whitening technique or thinking about professional treatments that can be adjusted to your sensitivity may be necessary if you have sensitive teeth or gums.

Time and Convenience

Evaluate your schedule and lifestyle. While professional treatments may typically be finished in a single visit or with take-home kits, at-home whitening solutions frequently involve daily or nightly application for a specific period of time. Choose a method that aligns with your availability and convenience or if you have a special occasion coming up. 

Consider your available funds

Over-the-counter whitening products tend to be more economical, whereas professional procedures are generally more costly. Keep in mind that professional treatments often provide more consistent and predictable results due to the use of higher-quality materials and the expertise of a dental professional.

Dental Crowns, Bridges, and Veneers

Consider any current dental restorations, such as dental crowns, bridges, or veneers. Teeth whitening treatments typically only affect natural tooth structure and may not change the colour of dental restorations. If you have visible restorations, talk to your dentist about the potential effects of whitening on their appearance and whether other options are required.

Professional Guidance

Consult with your dentist before deciding on a teeth whitening method. They can assess your oral health, talk with you about your objectives, and suggest the best course of action. Professional advice guarantees that the method you choose is secure, efficient, safer and catered to your particular requirements.

Remember, while teeth whitening can enhance your smile, it's important to maintain realistic expectations and prioritise the health of your teeth and gums. By considering these factors and seeking professional advice, you can make an informed decision and achieve a brighter, more confident smile.

Written By

Intan Nobury

An appreciator of art, novels and high intensity sports. With a passion for work and a dangerous addiction to tea.

Professional Whitening

See your smile before and after in-chair whitening with our studio photographer. The difference is surprising!