Over-the-Counter VS In-Office Whitening: Which is Right for You?

Over-the-Counter VS In-Office Whitening: Which is Right for You? from North County Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry in Vista, CAWho doesn’t want a brighter, more radiant smile? If you’ve been feeling like your teeth are dull, yellow, or just plain underwhelming, teeth whitening is a popular cosmetic dental procedure that can help you achieve a whiter, brighter smile.

Whether you opt for over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products or in-office professional treatments, there are many benefits to teeth whitening. Let's take a closer look.

OTC vs In-Office Professional Whitening

If you're considering teeth whitening, you have two main options: OTC whitening products and in-office professional whitening treatments.

OTC Whitening Products: OTC whitening products are readily available at most drugstores and supermarkets. While they are generally less expensive than in-office treatments, OTC products can be less effective and take longer to achieve desired results. Additionally, some OTC products can cause sensitivity or damage to your teeth and gums if not used properly.

Here’s a few of your options:

  • Whitening toothpaste: It seems like most toothpaste tubes these days claim to whiten teeth. And while that may technically be true, it’s likely not what you’re expecting. Whitening toothpaste uses special abrasives to polish teeth and remove surface stains. But, according to the Mayo Clinic, whitening toothpaste can do nothing about the natural color of your teeth or address any stains that go deeper than the surface level.
  • Whitening strips: The at-home strips you can find at the drug store are a great option for small touch-ups or whitening your teeth by a shade or two. Using chemicals like hydrogen peroxide or chlorine dioxide, the strips, like whitening toothpaste, can work to eliminate surface stains from food, smoking, or genetics. Be sure to follow all directions carefully to avoid side effects like sensitivity and re-staining.
  • Whitening gels: Like strips and toothpaste, gels use hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to remove surface stains. Gels can be easy to use and provide results after about a week of using. Again, it’s very important to follow the package instructions, as misuse of the gel can result in damage to your teeth and gums.

In-Office Professional Whitening: In-office professional whitening treatments are performed by a dentist or dental hygienist. These treatments use a higher concentration of whitening agent like hydrogen peroxide than OTC products do, which means results can usually be achieved in just one or two sessions. Professional whitening treatments are generally more expensive than OTC products, but the results are usually more dramatic and longer-lasting. Additionally, because the treatment is performed under the supervision of a dental professional, there is less risk of damage to your teeth and gums.

At North County Cosmetic and Implant dentistry, we offer a variety of tooth whitening options to both fit your time and budget.

  • At-home trays–we’ll fit you with custom trays created especially for you and teach you how to use a highly-effective gel at home, patients often use them while they sleep.
  • In-office gel–we’ll paint a concentrated gel onto your teeth, and sometimes use a special UV light to speed the whitening process. This often produces visible results in just one visit (as opposed to several weeks of OTC use).
  • Dental Bonding–if your stains go deeper than the surface (such as stains from trauma, fluoride, or antibiotics), we can use a special resin to completely hide the stain. We’ll shape the resin to look like your natural teeth. The results are immediate!
  • Porcelain Veneers–like dental bonding, if your stains are deep, veneers completely cover the stained surface. They are more expensive, but look completely natural and last a very long time. A thin, custom-made layer of porcelain is adhered to the front surface of your teeth. In addition to whitening, they can cover cracks, chips, and other imperfections.

Which Option is Right for You?

The decision between OTC and in-office whitening depends on your personal preferences and budget. If you're looking for a quick and affordable way to brighten your smile, OTC products may be a good option. However, if you want faster and more dramatic results and don't mind spending more money, in-office professional whitening may be the way to go.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp:
General Dentist in Vista, CA


Ultimately, teeth whitening is a safe and effective way to improve your smile and boost your confidence. We would love to talk to you more about your whitening options and if OTC or in-office treatments would best fit your timeframe, budget, and whitening goals.

Request an appointment or call North County Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry at 760-940-2273 for an appointment in our Vista office.

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