(If you just want to know the best possible option available, and what I recommend, just skip down to the section on KoR Whitening below!)
If you’re on this page, my guess is that you want better whitening results than you’ll get from some kiosk at the mall or out of a box of Crest White Strips. You can get them too, even if you have heavily stained teeth. I’ll break down the differences between all the different professional and other over the counter options so that you know what is best for you.
So who needs professional whitening? It depends on what your goals are. If any of the following apply, then you should seek the advice of a dentist for whitening options.
- You want the whitest smile possible
- You want to accomplish it as quickly as possible
- You have heavily stained teeth, especially if it is medication induced
- You have had dental work done on front teeth. Fillings and crowns will not whiten!
There are three main types of whitening that dentists perform, oftentimes in combination with each other.
Take home custom trays
The dentist takes impressions of your teeth and makes trays that fit specifically to your teeth. This allows the bleach to remain in contact with your teeth for longer and you get better results. The dentist can give you different concentrations of peroxide depending on whether you are going to wear it overnight or during the day. Generally, overnight wear gives you the best results as long as the trays seal well.
In office whitening
In office whitening allows the dentist to use a much higher concentration of peroxide than you can use at home and whiten the teeth more quickly. They paint the material on your teeth and let it work over the course of several hours. This is often times used in conjunction with a special light, as with Zoom whitening. Many studies have been done and it appears that light has very little effect on the actual whitening process. It is mostly a marketing tool.
KoR Deep Bleaching
If you want the whitest teeth possible…Find a dentist who does KoR Whitening and get it done right. It might be more expensive than their other whitening services. It’ll probably take more time than other methods, BUT, it is the absolute best whitening system out there, bar none.
It is the gold standard in professional teeth bleaching. This service is only available through a dentist. The method provides impressive results, even on heavily stained teeth. This includes people who have staining from antibiotic use as a child which was previously thought to be out of reach of whitening.
This was a patient of mine who did KoR Deep Bleaching. He had deep staining on one of his front teeth (it came in like that) and he wanted the best possible results to help blend the stained area in. As you can see, his teeth were brilliant white after treatment with significant lightening of the stained area. A little bonding over the stained area and you won’t even know it was there!
For more information visit the KoR website. They have a ton of before and after photos as well as a search function for dentists who perform this.
KoR works the best because it has meticulous instructions on how impressions are taken, how the whitening trays are fabricated, what materials they use (they come to my office packaged in dry office unlike every other product out there), and how the treatments are carried out. They’ve revolutionized whitening and I’m one of their biggest fans.
Over the Counter Whitening Options
There are a lot of over the counter whitening products out there now! The thing to realize is that most products will work moderately well, as long as you use them consistently over the course of several weeks to months. This excludes whitening toothpastes/pens/other novelty items. Don’t bother with those products because they are a waste of money.
The first option and one many people try is using a white strips product. You place the adhesive strips on your teeth for 30 minutes to an hour a day. One of the big downsides of the white strips is that most products don’t seal well. As described in our Science of Whitening page, the efficacy of whitening is mainly dependent on the concentration of the bleaching product and how long the tooth is exposed to it. As soon as saliva starts to water down the bleaching material, you get less effect.
The second is a disposable tray that you bite into. The material has bleaching material in it. You wear it for the specified amount of time and then throw away the tray. It has a set number of trays.
The third is whitening kits where you heat the whitening trays and mold them to your teeth. You place gel in these trays and whiten similarly to how you would use custom made trays from a dentist. These trays generally don’t seal as well as professionally made products and as such, don’t work as quickly.
If you’d like to know what the best products are for all of these over the counter options, see our whitening / bleaching product review page.