Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening
Over-the-counter whitening products have now flooded Instagram and other social media platforms. Typically, they're sported by a model or athlete, displaying immaculate pearly whites.
But do these products really work? And how do they stack-up to traditional products offered by a dentist? Here, we push past the hype and insta-famous smiles to look at the evidence of these whitening products.
In-Office vs Over-the-Counter whitening
In-office whitening is performed by a dentist and involves a high dose of a bleaching product delivered over a short duration (e.g. a single or handful of office visits). Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products use a lower dose of bleach and require at least 2 weeks of treatment. OTC products are usually cheaper and delivered via a tray/mouthguard, gel or strips applied at home for long periods, such as overnight. They can be purchased online or from local pharmacies.
In-Office delivers longer whitening
Similar levels of whitening can be achieved with both in-office and over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products. Because of the higher dose of bleach, the duration of whitening effect is longer with in-office treatments (1,2). As an example, half of people on the best performing OTC products experience discolouration at 4 weeks (1), compared to 1 in 10 for an in-office treatment.
OTC products have a higher risk of gum sensitivity (1 in 3), since the dentist will usually protect your gums from the bleaching products. Fortunately, gum irritation usually resolves after stopping treatment.
OTC whitening ARE highly affordable
If you're after an affordable product and you don't mind repeating the treatment every few months, then OTC whitening products can be a very good option. From scientific studies, the best results are with (1):
- Tray based application (not stripes or paint)
- Longer application (e.g. overnight)
- More frequently applied (e.g. three times per day)
- Higher dose of the bleach compound
Hasson H et al (2006). Home-based chemically-induced whitening of teeth in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.
Basson RA et al (2013). Guidelines for the selection of tooth whitening products amongst those available on the market. SADJ.