Professional in-office teeth whitening produces the greatest whitening results in the shortest amount of time. The trade-off is that it tends to cause more sensitivity issues than other types of whitening. And it's a lot more expensive. If you prefer a more affordable alternative, our Best Reviewed selection -- professional at-home teeth whitening (*Est. $200 to $600) -- also produces dramatic results for a fraction of the cost, although it will take a little longer. Experts say both types of professional whitening are the safest options available.
Fast and dramatic results. Experts say professional in-office teeth whitening is the most effective teeth whitening procedure available. Whether performed at a dentist-supervised center such as BriteSmile or by your own dentist, reviewers say professional light-activated treatments speed up the bleaching process and that they can lighten teeth up to 10 shades in a single one-hour treatment. According to researchers at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), professional at-home treatments can take up to 40 times as long to produce the same results.
Most reviewers at TeethWhiteningReviews.com are pleased with the results of in-office bleaching. One says, "my teeth were very yellow due to neglect and lots of coffee drinking. I didn't expect them to be this white! They look amazing." Results, of course, vary depending on the condition of teeth. Some reviewers said their teeth got whiter by eight or more shades, while others said their teeth improved by just four or five shades. One reviewer said, "my teeth are whiter by a few shades, but I did have white teeth to begin with." Results last a long time (up to two years), but the procedure is expensive and you may need multiple treatments.
Uncomfortable but over in an hour. Although in-office whitening can be uncomfortable -- we saw several complaints of zingers during the treatment -- most users are pleased with the speed of the procedure. The whole process takes about an hour and results can be seen immediately. Furthermore, the process is relatively uncomplicated since your dental practitioner is doing all the work. That being said, many dentists send patients home with mouth trays for further whitening and/or maintenance. Patients are also asked to follow a "white" diet that eliminates all coffee, tea, colas and other foods known to cause staining for 48 hours.
ADA-approved. Professional teeth whitening is the only type of bleaching treatment to earn the ADA seal of approval. That's because it's the safest method for whitening teeth. Experts say that having a dentist's supervision makes all of the difference because it ensures that you are a good candidate for whitening. Those with cavities and/or gum disease are at risk for additional pain and further damage from the bleaching agents.
Although experts say professional teeth whitening is completely safe, we saw several complaints of extreme tooth sensitivity and zingers from users at TeethWhiteningReviews.com. One user says, "The 'zings' have turned into constant pain ... I had to leave work early and have my dentist call in pain meds for me." Sensitivity issues vary from one person to the next -- some don't notice any at all -- but most users say they diminish completely within a day or two.
Our Sources: Teeth Whitening by Dentist Reviews
1. 88th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research
Review Credibility: Very Good Researchers evaluate the efficacy of professional light-assisted teeth whitening in comparison to that of Crest Whitestrips Advanced Seal (now Crest 3D White Whitestrips Advanced Vivid). The in-office procedure produced similar results to that of twenty 30-minute applications of the Whitestrips.
Review: Clinical Comparison of Take-Home Whitening Strips and In-Office Light-Assisted Whitening, G. Kugel et al., July 16, 2010
2. 87th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research
Review Credibility: Very Good Researchers compare the results of at-home and in-office, dentist-supervised whitening treatments. In testing, five 8-hour, at-home treatments were needed to match the results of a single one-hour, in-office treatment.
Review: Subjective and Objective Comparison Between At-Home and In-Office Tooth Whitening, J. Da Costa et al., April 3, 2009
Review Credibility: Good Hundreds of reviewers at TeethWhiteningReviews.com weigh in on Zoom Whitening System, a popular in-office whitening treatment. Reviewers give it an overall rating of 3 out of 5 stars for how well it works and 2.5 stars for agreeability. Most users are pleased with dramatic results, but several complain about sensitivity issues. While some insist that zingers and sensitivity go away within a day or so, others say the results are not worth the excruciating discomfort.
Review: Zoom Whitening System, Contributors to TeethWhiteningReviews.com, As of August 2012
4. CBS News "The Early Show"
Review Credibility: Fair Beauty expert Maggie Gallant discusses products that quickly brighten your teeth with relative ease. She says the good thing about in-office procedures is that they are closely supervised by a dentist, but they are expensive and can make teeth especially sensitive.
Review: Cinch Teeth Whiteners for Sparkling Smile Fast!, Editors of CBS News, Jan. 18, 2011
5. U.S. News & World Report
Review Credibility: Fair Matthew Shulman, a health writer, discusses teeth-whitening procedures but doesn't test or rank them. He says in-office professional procedures produce the "most dramatic improvement in the shortest time."
Review: Tooth Whitening Leads in Cosmetic Dentistry, Matthew Shulman, Feb. 6, 2008