Teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dental procedure in dentistry and has exploded in popularity as everyone from teens to seniors seek the healthy look of a whiter, brighter smile. 

What is the difference between professional whitening and over the counter whitening kits?  This is a common question from our patients.  Hopefully this article will help you answer it.

How does whitening work?

Over the counter whitening kits work in a very similar way to professional whitening in a dental clinic, but there are some significant differences in the approach, the concentration of the whitening product and how the whitening is applied.


Whitening bleach may not work for every type of tooth staining.  Furthermore, the appearance of your smile may be impacted by a number of other factors including the shape of the teeth, the appearance of the gum-line or the straightness of your teeth. 

Dental professionals are trained to provide results through the optimal treatment option – or a combination of them.  Your dentist can offer personalized suggestions for other cosmetic dentistry procedures, such as porcelain veneers, Invisalign braces or dental crowns, if needed. 

In fact, cosmetic dentistry solutions should form a part of a comprehensive treatment plan that considers your overall dental health as well as your smile.

Whitening concentration

Professional whitening is done in-clinic and offers almost immediate results. Unlike over the counter teeth whitening products, a dentist will use a high concentration of bleaching gel to get amazing whitening results that are immediately visible. Over the counter whitening products cannot compete with the immediate and dramatic results that professional whitening provides.

Application and safety

Professional teeth whitening is done with customized materials that ensure fit and safety.  Every precaution will be taken to ensure that the whitening product does not come in contact with the gums or surrounding soft tissues.

Your dentist can also minimize tooth sensitivity and pain during whitening.  Thicker gels and sensitivity reducing options, such as fluoride, make patients more comfortable during a professional teeth whitening session.

The downside of whitening kits

Over the counter whitening kits may produce fair results for many users, but there are variables that cause less than satisfactory results for many others.  Variables such as the following are only a few of the issues that you may impact the results of over the counter teeth whitening kits:

Size – Pre-packaged trays or strips are not customized.  They can be uncomfortable and miss areas of the teeth.

Time – Due to lower concentrations of the whitening product, more time is required to whiten to match the level of a professional whitening session.

Safety – Whitening product on your gums can cause chemical burns.  This will heal in time, but in the short-term can leave white patches on your gums. 

Tooth sensitivity – Over the counter products are not tailored to your level of tooth sensitivity.  If you have sensitivity during home whitening, you have no option but to quit whitening.


Professional teeth whitening services are more expensive than over the counter whitening kits.However, the results of a professional teeth whitening process are much more noticeable, take less time and take into consideration many other options and factors based on your specific needs. Most professional whitening treatments even include home maintenance products,so you can keep that fantastic white smile even longer.