Why Go to a Dentist for Teeth Whitening?

An organization called the CCTW (Council for Cosmetic Teeth Whitening) argues that self-administered teeth whitening is safe.  
  1. Consumers face NO risk by doing self administered teeth whitening
  2. Self administered teeth whitening does not require the assistance of a dentist.
  3. The consumer has the right to chose how they want their teeth whitened.
  4. With the economy melt down, many cannot afford the high cost of a dentist, nor want to sit in a chair for 1 1/2 hours to have their teeth whitened. Cosmetic teeth whitening is safe, affordable and effective

Doctor Answers 5

Okay but Buyer Beware....

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I agree with that OTC whitening CAN be both effective and safe. Yet here are advantages to PROFESSIONAL whitening:

Stronger concentrations: We simply have stronger concentrations of whitening agent. Concentrations so strong that we must isolate the soft tissue (mucosa) and other surrounding tissue. Without having this the tissue would 'burn'.

Time advantage: Many people don't want to mess with trays and messy gels for two weeks at a time or more. In this society, the in-office professional whitening represents time-saving and convenience.

Consultation or Exam prior: We routinely exam the person prior to undergoing whitening procedures. We look for :

  • Undiagosed disease (like periodontal disease) or oral cancer screening
  • Old restorations that will not whiten. Many people sometimes forget that they had old bonding done or crowns placed (and they won't whiten)

Zoom Whitening vs OTC comes down to ROI

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If a person simply wants whitER teeth, then the cheapest method is a good idea. But if they want them the whitEST, there should be professional supervision. Without a pro, the consumer likely will ingest much of the gel, creating free radicals in their body. They are more likely to burn the gum tissues, or to avoid this they would use lower concentrations of gels (which won't get teeth AS white).

Is there NO risk? Doubtful, but buyer beware. #2 and #3 seem logical, but can be applied to haircuts as well.

Everything has a price. If a person doesn't want to do certain protocols and methods and wants to save money, by all means they should do what they want. Many get whiter teeth from mall kiosks or Internet products, and are even fairly proud. But the results are NOT as dramatic as professionally done methods and they do not last as long. If a person is OK with that, then they are great candidates for home methods.

High concentration of bleach in OTC teeth whitening

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1. In Los Angeles shopping malls, there are spaces rented by people selling leather goods, jewelry and also teeth whitening! These whitening kiosks have no professional supervision. They are marketing bleach for your teeth that is 18% in concentration! This is pretty powerful bleach, like your dentist uses! You do not have trays to hold the bleach that are made for your mouth. The chances of having your gums fried are good and there is no one to check you to see how things are going with the procedure. There is enough sensitivity with patients that have it done in a dental office without taking the risk of burned soft tissue and teeth that will zing for a year!

2. True but be very careful. That is like saying "I do not need a dermatologist to lighten the spots on my face. I can do it myself!"

3. True. I would want a dentist to choose the shade so if i had bondings or crowns, the shade of whitening would blend with my teeth. Crown and bonded or white fillings do not absorb the bleach.

4. Cosmetic teeth whitening OTC is safe. The concentration of bleach is safe. High concentration of bleach done by someone other than a dentist or his assistant is NOT safe. Save your money, you have one set of teeth and a mouth. Take good care of them!

Robert Fields, DDS
Van Nuys Dentist

Predictability and safety are the most important reasons to have a dentist surpervised procedure

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Going to the dentist is the best way to achieve safe, predictable results. The in office procedures are the best as it is time efficient ( 1 visit), the most effective products can be utilized, and sensitivity and safety are most controlled.

Dentist supervised at home procedures can result in very good results as well, however we have found that these procdures often resulted in higher levels of sensitivity and a decline in patient compliance as it may not have been done exactly as prescribed and optimal results may not be achieved as patient tolerance or enthusiasm declines with time.

Store bought strips are ok for starters, but in our experience most patients end up back in the office because of their personal dissatisfaction with the end result.

Non dentist whitening "spas" are a concern to the dental profession as unsupervised use of lasers and other chemicals can create injuries to the patient. In additon if there are undiagnosed previous dental conditions such as decay or periodontal disease, the bleaching procedure could also create unanticipated dental problems.

Michael J. Rechter, DDS
Long Island City Dentist

Faster, safer, more predictable, convenient

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In my experience:

1. There is an increased risk of soft tissue damage and post-op sensitivity with self administration but both are reversible problems.

2.True. That's why it's "self-administered".

3.True. Informed consent is an obvious requirement before any treatment is rendered.

4. True. 1 1/2 hours is double the time required though.

Whitening by dentist is certainly faster, safer, more predictable and more convenient. If you are willing to pay for these things and want them, then the choice is clear. Go to a dentist for whitening.

Daniel W. Schiavone, DDS
Rochester Dentist

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.