Risky Business

Bleaching Teeth

What Works!

Who knows about the Tissue test? By putting a tissue next to your teeth you can judge how not white your teeth really are. This is kind of a ridiculous test because nobody’s teeth are “white” but what a great sales tool/marketing campaign by the teeth whitening companies to bring awareness to teeth color. The truth is, every one of us would fail the Tissue test.

With that being said, who doesn’t want whiter teeth? Some of us are born with yellow or grey hued teeth and have waited until about 16 years of age to bleach. While all of us as we age watch our teeth become dull and yellow and want to reverse the signs of aging with a more youthful looking smile. This can be achieved through the use of different bleaching products. Will our teeth turn tissue white? Probably not, but it can make a huge difference in our appearance by lightening the color by many shades.

The shades of change can be directly influenced by the concentration of bleach and the duration of use. Simply stated, not all bleaching products work the same or even remotely the same. I’ve listed three categories of bleaching that make up most of the bleaching options for consumers. Over-the-counter, In-House, and The Mall, (which is any place outside the dental office). Evaluating these options should help make smart, safe, economical decisions when it comes to teeth whitening treatment.

Over-the-Counter products are bought at the supermarket, retail outlet or drugstore. They are readily available and easy to administer. They come in the form of gel, toothpaste, rinse, strips, pen, paint or molds. With these products manufactures are aware consumers are not under the watchful eye of a licensed dentist. So the products they sell over-the-counter have very low “whitening power” ingredients. They do not want to be liable for putting out a product that can cause harm to consumers. With low “whitening power” comes minimal or even no results. Consumers should realize they could probably get the same results from 3.5% hydrogen peroxide and/or baking soda if going down this avenue.


  • Easily accessible
  • Safe
  • Vary in cost
  • Subtle whitening effects


  • Doesn’t work for most
  • Repeat purchases add up
  • Committing to a bleach program requiring the use of product daily
  • Concentration of “whitening power” is low

The Mall has kiosks that offer teeth bleaching. A few years back there was a boom in this type of industry. Today it seems to be less available, but still out there. It’s declining in popularity may be due to adverse patient experience or mismanagement by non-dental professionals. A lot of these kiosks were being shut down for being unlawful, causing harm to participants and for not working. Essentially for about $100, anyone can get their teeth bleached in about an hour. The treatment usually includes some form of bleach trays lined with high concentration bleach and an acceleration light/laser to speed up the bleaching process.


  • Less money than doing the bleaching at the dental office
  • Higher concentration of bleach than over-the-counter
  • Teeth will whiten
  • One-time bleaching experience
  • Convenience of location


  • Unregulated
  • Soft tissue or gum burns
  • Tooth sensitivity for some
  • Molds are not custom made and do not fit over teeth nicely
  • Not under the direct care of a dentist
  • Non-sterile environment
  • Misinformation from kiosk employees

In-house teeth whitening are procedures done at the dental office or products administered at the office. Patients can choose between custom bleach trays, prefabricated trays lined with high concentration bleach or bleaching treatment.

Custom trays are what they are. The dentist takes impressions of your teeth and custom trays are fabricated. A high concentration bleach is dispensed and the patient wears the trays daily until they are happy with the color. Unlike custom trays are prefabricated trays which are similar to the over-the-counter bleaching trays but with higher concentration bleach. The bleach concatenation is about 2x-4xs higher than store bought products. These products definitely work but patients must be careful not to burn their gums and trays must be worn repeatedly to obtain optimal results.

Teeth whitening procedures usually refer to laser whitening such as ZOOM. It’s a two hour appointment, one hour to prep the patient and another to do the bleaching. The gums and cheeks are protected by gauze and a resin damn to help prevent tissue trauma. Gel is applied to the teeth by a dental assistant every twenty minutes to regulate the process and make sure the patient is comfortable. Patients relax under the acceleration light/laser as the bleaching process takes effect. At the end of the session the patient leaves with whiter teeth or as white as they can be. Treatment is finished. The laser whitening cost anywhere from $400-800.00 depending on the location, $500.00 is about average. A lot of offices will advertise whitening specials to attract new business. Please ask for more information if the special is with ZOOM or other laser bleaching treatments. Some offices do the bleaching for cheap because they are splitting kits between patients. Meaning only part of the treatment is being done.


  • Under dental professional supervision
  • Soft tissue is less likely to be insulted
  • High concentration of bleach
  • Teeth will whiten
  • Saves time


  • Can be costly
  • Teeth sensitivity for some

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