What are the differences between pharmacy whitening kits and dentist-prescribed whitening?

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General Dental Care
BSc, DDS (Melb)

teeth whitening kitsThere is a considerable range of teeth whitening options available on the market – both in pharmacies and from dentists.

The key differences to consider when selecting a tooth whitening product are:

1. The safety of the process
2. How well the product works.

Pharmacy whitening kits generally have a low percentage of active ingredient, so they often fail to achieve a significant change in colour. Furthermore, they carry the following risks:

  • Whitening is done without a dental check-up to determine whether the teeth are healthy and can be safely whitened. Also, not all teeth have suitable enamel structure for whitening and this needs to be assessed by a dental practitioner in order to confirm that whitening can be done safely and effectively.
  • Pharmacy whitening kits that include trays are not custom-fitted to your teeth, meaning that they rarely cover the teeth adequately. They risk burning your gums and also increasing the likelihood of patchy colouring across the teeth.
  • Whitening gels and toothpastes from pharmacies can be abrasive, wearing the teeth away as they remove staining. Over time this wear can become severe, causing the underlying layer of the tooth, the dentine, to be exposed. This dentine is both yellow and very sensitive. Once it is exposed, no type of whitening technique will be effective.

Dentist-prescribed whitening will ensure the greatest possible change in colour, as dental practitioners have access to whitening products of a much higher strength than those available in pharmacies. In addition, dentist-prescribed whitening offers greater safety because:

  • A consultation and check-up by a dental practitioner provide assurance that your teeth are both healthy and suitable for whitening.
  • Dentists can provide expert care and opinion for a tailored whitening approach for each individual patient.
  • When having teeth whitened in the dental chair, patients are under the supervision of a qualified dentist. This allows the procedure to be tailored to suit the patient on the day. It also ensures that the procedure is conducted safely.
  • At-home whitening kits available from dentists are provided in conjunction with consultation and counselling by the dentist. These kits include custom-fitted trays to ensure a consistent colour change across all of the teeth and to reduce the risk of burning the gums.

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