This is an excellent question! If you’ve done any research into tooth whitening products, you probably know that all of them include the same active ingredient: hydrogen peroxide.
All teeth whitening products are similar in that they use the same ingredient to break up pigment stains in tooth enamel. But they can be extremely different in their delivery method, strength, and how well they maintain the chemical integrity of the active ingredients. All tooth whitening products may use hydrogen peroxide, but that does not mean all whitening products are the same.
Delivery Methods for Whitening Products
All products use the power of hydrogen peroxide to bring oxygen into the upper layers of tooth enamel, which then breaks down the stains left from food and beverages. But there is great variety in how efficiently they deliver that ingredient and keep it on the teeth.
Think of the effectiveness of bandages (band-aids). Bandages can be an excellent way to protect a cut, so it can heal faster and more efficiently. But what happens if that bandage is the wrong size? (It will not cover the cut adequately.) What happens if you try to apply a bandage to skin that has not been cleaned first? (It will not stay in place.) What happens if you use too much first aid ointment under the bandage? (It will slip out of place and not adhere to the skin.)
Over the counter whitening products can be like a bandage that is not applied properly. They will not produce the best results, because they often don’t fit right. One-size-fits-all whitening strips and trays can shift and slide around. This allows saliva to come in contact with the active ingredient, which dilutes it and lessens its effectiveness. It can cause the peroxide to spread to your gums, as well, which can cause an unpleasant burning sensation.
Dentist-provided systems are customized to fit your mouth better and hold the whiteners against the teeth more efficiently. Little, if any, saliva will be able to dilute the whitening gel, and it will not spread to the gums when used as directed. This means our products break down stains faster and bring you quicker, more consistent results.
Strength of Active Ingredients
Over the counter whiteners have legal limits on how much peroxide they can contain, whereas dentist provided products are allowed to use more. Because dentists must oversee and counsel patients on how to use their whitening products correctly, we are allowed to use products with higher concentrations of the ingredients that break down and eliminate stains. Again, this means you’ll see better results with dentist-provided products.
Maintaining the Effectiveness of Active Ingredients
The best tooth whitening products are those that have specific handling instructions and more precise expiration dates. Like most chemicals, hydrogen peroxide can break down and become ineffective if not stored properly. If you’ve ever opened a can of diet soda that was past its expiration date, or that had been left sitting in the sun too long, you know first-hand how easily the chemical sweetener can break down and the carbon dioxide bubbles can go flat. The same process happens with peroxide.
All drugstore whiteners need to have a long shelf life, which means they stretch the limits on how long the ingredients will be effective. Inconsistent packaging, storing, and transportation of the products may lead to one batch being less effective than others. Some may be totally ineffective by the time you purchase them and take them home.
Dentist provided products, on the other hand, are kept at optimal temperatures to maintain the chemical integrity of the hydrogen peroxide. We also have shorter expiration periods, to make sure the whitening gels you use are going to work well.
All Teeth Whitening Products are Not the Same!
All these factors contribute to a more effective whitening system when you get it from your dentist. Patients get more consistent, more predictable results from our whitening services, and in less time than OTC products take. Products that work faster are arguably safer for your teeth, as well, as long-term constant use of whiteners is not safe for your enamel.
If you would like to brighten your smile, talk to one of our dentists at Metropolitan Dental Care and we’ll tell you how it works. If you’ve been unimpressed by store bought products in the past, we provide a faster, safer, and more efficient alternative.