$49 for a 15-minute cosmetic teeth-whitening session ($99 value)
At-Home or In-Office Whitening? Choosing How to Restyle Your Smile
As this deal’s options show, there are many roads to a whiter smile. Groupon explains the difference between two popular procedures.
When deciding between whitening your teeth from the comfort of a dentist’s chair or from the comfort of the dentist’s chair you keep in your living room, there are a few elements to weigh first.
Sensitivity: If a bleaching gel is strong enough to whiten your teeth, it’s strong enough to weaken them. Beneath the enamel lies the dentin, a slightly softer material that, like a waterpark for plankton, contains hundreds of tiny fluid-filled tubes. These tubes connect to nerves, and if an area of weakened enamel leaves them exposed, you’re liable to experience a little pain. Because the formulas a dentist uses are more powerful, in-office whitening procedures could be more likely to cause both types of sensitivity, although home treatments can cause the same effects if repeated often enough. Luckily, with both approaches, the sensitivity is usually temporary.
Teeth aren’t the only victims of bleaching side effects, however. Your gums are at risk, too, and that’s where in-office procedures have a clear leg up. The professional treatments are performed by a dentist or dental hygienist, who can shield the gums from harm by applying a protective gel or molding whitening trays to fit your teeth like a glove. At-home treatments, especially heavy-duty ones that use strips or trays, are one-size-fits-all. These may allow the whitening solution to drift toward sensitive gum tissue and cause pain.
Speed: In-office whitening technology is so advanced that a patient can walk into a dentist’s office and leave an hour later with a smile that’s much whiter. Because they’re not professionally supervised, home treatments can’t use the same bleach concentration, so they could take a week or more to whiten teeth to your liking.
Results: Good news. There probably won’t be any difference between the shade you get with an in-office treatment and the shade you get at home. In 2010, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University published a study in Operative Dentistry comparing the effectiveness and side effects of at-home and in-office teeth-whitening procedures. After the full treatment was complete, they found that not only were side effects such as gum pain, tooth sensitivity, and ding! noises mild and short-lived, but the whitening results were the same in both cases.