Home/Blog / Difference between OTC and Professional Teeth Whitening


Difference between OTC and Professional Teeth Whitening

With so many teeth whitening products available on the market today, it can get a little confusing.  How do you know which one to choose?  Will over-the-counter whiteners work as well as the stuff from the dentist?  There are a few important differences between OTC products and professional teeth whiteners.

Active Ingredients

There is only one family of chemicals proven to actually change the color of teeth: peroxides.  When assessing a teeth whitening product, read the list of ingredients and make sure you see either carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide listed.  If they are not, then it is unlikely you will experience any notable whitening results.

These ingredients come in different concentrations, or strengths.  The higher the concentration, the stronger the whitening chemical.  The stronger the whitener, the faster you will see results.  You must be careful, though.  The stronger they are, the more likely they are to cause sensitivity.

Typically, the products sold over-the-counter will have a lower strength than products available from your dentist.  They will still produce a whitening result.  It may just take a little longer than a professional whitening product.

Other Ingredients

Over-the-counter whiteners may contain the correct active ingredient, but they are unlikely to have other important ingredients that keep enamel strong and fight sensitivity.  The most common side effect of teeth whitening is tooth sensitivity.  It can affect one or all of the teeth.  Professional whitening products contain potassium nitrate, which calms the nerve inside the teeth and reduces sensitivity.  They also contain fluoride, which counteracts the minor weakening effect that teeth whitening products have on enamel.

Delivery Method

One of the most important differences between over-the-counter teeth whiteners and professional ones is the way the whitening gel is applied to your teeth.  Everything besides professional products must use a generic type of tray that could fit anyone’s mouth.  They must take a one-size-fits-all approach.  This leads to the gel pooling in the lower area of the tray or leaking out onto the gums.

The best way to apply any whitening gel, whether over-the-counter or professional strength, to your teeth is with a custom-fitted tray.  Your dentist will make a custom whitening tray from an exact replica of your teeth.  This tray allows you to place the whitening gel in a uniform layer of thickness onto the teeth (and only on the teeth).  Nothing beats a custom whitening tray!

More Questions about Teeth Whitening?

Call Designer Smiles today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They can answer any question you have about over-the-counter or professional teeth whitening and help you choose which one is right for you.