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In-Office Teeth Whitening vs. At-Home: Which Is Right for You?

If you’ve been considering whitening your teeth, good for you! With so many premium in-office and at-home options to consider, achieving a gorgeous, bright smile has never been as easy as it is today. But which approach is the best approach? It depends on a few factors, including cost, time, results, convenience and safety. Here’s the breakdown for anyone weighing their teeth whitening options.

In-Office: $650 to $1,000 (source)
At-Home: Under $150
Winner: At-home

The cost of a complete at-home teeth whitening kit depends on the brand and contents, but you can typically get everything you need for less than $150, even with the top-rated whitening brands. On the other hand, getting teeth whitening done in an office can cost you as much as $1,000 and generally isn’t covered by insurance. If budget is a deal-breaker, home whitening undoubtedly brings the best value for your money.

In-Office: Two to three appointments lasting up to 90 minutes each (source)
At-Home: Results are usually seen within a few days to a week
Winner: At-home

Time is a big consideration when it comes to whitening. No one wants to wait months for a gorgeous smile! With at-home treatments, you can accelerate the process since you have the ability to whiten every day and don’t have to worry about scheduling your sessions with a busy office. When you whiten at home, you can go at your pace and you can even whiten while you work, do chores, walk the dog or run errands.

Teeth Whitening Snap Packs

In-Office: Can lighten teeth several shades; lasts for six months to two years (source)
At-Home: Can lighten teeth several shades; lasts for six months to several years
Winner: Tie

These days, at-home whitening results tend to rival professional results, and here’s why: both use the same ingredients for whitening teeth. Generally, whitening products — whether from a home whitening company or your dentist’s office — use some form of peroxide as the whitening agent, delivering measurable and long-lasting results.

However, office whiteners tend to contain carbamide peroxide, whereas home whiteners use hydrogen peroxide or a lower concentration of carbamide peroxide. Office treatments may work better for intrinsic (below the surface) stains, but home treatments can’t be rivaled when it comes to surface whitening. The higher concentration of peroxide used in office treatments may also lead to more tooth sensitivity.

Today’s home whitening systems may include extra whitening boosts, such as blue light technology, to make results even more substantial.

In-Office: Requires driving and scheduling
At-Home: Can be done at home or while traveling; no scheduling
Winner: At-home

When weighing convenience, office sessions are simply no match for home whitening systems. When you use a home kit, you don’t have to worry about scheduling appointments, taking time off work or driving to and from your dentist’s office multiple times. Plus, with products such as a compact teeth whitening pen, you can toss whiteners in your purse or luggage so you have the ability to brighten up your smile no matter where you are. We say “home whitening,” but we really mean “home or work or hotel whitening.”

woman smiling

Safety and Sensitivity
In-Office: Considered safe by the ADA (source)
At-Home: Considered safe by the ADA (source); less likely to cause sensitivity
Winner: At-home

Both at-home and office teeth whitening are considered safe by the American Dental Association (ADA) and other dental organizations. In-office treatments often contain higher concentrations of potentially irritating carbamide peroxide, which means a higher likelihood of developing tooth sensitivity or irritation around the gums. If you’re worried about discomfort, start with an at-home teeth whitening kit before you consider office treatments. 

Overall Winner: At-Home

As you can see, at-home whitening beats out in-office whitening almost unanimously. When it comes to cost, time, convenience and safety, home whitening brings a few more benefits to the table than office whitening does. At the same time, home options are proven effective to whiten your teeth dramatically by multiple shades, so it’s definitely the gold medal winner in this matchup!

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