Whitening trays

At-home whitening can be the most effective way to brighten and maintain your shade, without the side effect of extreme sensitivity. We unpack why that is and how to get started.

When it comes to teeth whitening Americans aren't afraid to open their wallets. Every year Americans spend billions of dollars on teeth whitening. Some of that money goes to over the counter solutions like white strips or trendy fads like charcoal whitening toothpaste (which our clinicians strongly advise against). And the rest of the spending goes to professional teeth whitening. 

There are two types of professional whitening: 

  • In-office whitening
  • Custom-made trays with gel used at home

So how do you choose? Our clinicians make the case for custom-made trays that you take home. True, the in-office whitening is advertised as "quick, dramatic effects" there are a few other things to consider before you spring for the fast (and expensive) option.

Custom teeth whitening trays versus in-office treatment

Most patients want speed when whitening their teeth. However, there are a few other factors to weigh when deciding the right whitening for you.

  • Cost: In-office treatments are by far the more expensive option. In NYC you'll spend $400-$600 per session on in-office whitening. Compare that to the $200 - $450 you'll pay for custom trays with your dentist, and only $30 / refill to continue your whitening. If you need multiple sessions during the year you can easily save hundreds going with custom-made trays. Winner: At-home
  • Speed to shade: This is the factor where in-office whitening wins out. At-home whitening takes 2+ weeks for you to reach your desired shade. Meanwhile, after "only" three hours of sitting in the dentist chair to whiten your teeth, your smile will emerge noticeably brighter. Winner: In-office … but read on 👇
  • Longevity: As soon as you leave your in-office whitening, your teeth will fade immediately. That's because part of the whitening effect comes from your enamel drying out during the in-office process. Once you close your mouth and rehydrate your teeth, some of the brightness will fade. And your teeth will continue to fade back to their original color. With at-home whitening, you can touch up your teeth as often as you need to maintain your desired shade of white. Winner: At-home
  • Comfort: If you really love to sit in a dentist chair for hours at a time with your mouth open, in-office could be a "comfortable" option for you. Or if you're like most people, it's more comfortable to sit at home binge watching a new show or even sleeping (yes, you can sleep with some at-home solutions!). Additionally, in-office whitening can cause extreme tooth sensitivity which at-home whitening does not. Winner: At-home
  • Safety: The pH of your saliva is a key factor in your oral health. If your saliva is acidic it starts to break down the enamel in your teeth. In-office whitening increases the acidity of your saliva, not great for tooth health. At-home whitening gel is formulated so its safe for your enamel and for the health of your teeth. Winner: At-home

Convinced of the benefits of at-home whitening? If so let's dive into a couple of well-known brands that are often used for professional whitening at home.

Opalescence whitening trays

Regarding to whitening gel, Opalescence has made a name for itself in the industry. That's because clinicians love that it has a formulation with carbamide peroxide and comes in different strengths so you can get the whitest smile in the most comfortable way possible. 

"Carbamide peroxide is an extremely effective whitening agent" shares Wally hygienist, Sarah Clark, RDH. "The custom formulation means less sensitivity while also being effective on stubborn stains."

The trick is to be consistent with using carbamide peroxide. Because it releases about 50% of its whitening power in the first two hours, and remains active for up to another six hours, it's helpful to keep your trays in for longer each time you wear them. Following these instructions, you can get to your target shade within weeks.

Opalescence also has a hydrogen peroxide gel option. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down faster than carbamide peroxide, which means you'll leave it on your teeth for less time. While it does act faster, a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association has shown that carbamide peroxide shows slightly more dramatic results at first. 

Zoom whitening at home

You've likely heard of "Zoom whitening." Here's a little secret: Zoom whitening at home is the same as Opalescence. You'll get trays, place your gel in them, and wear them each day until you reach your desired shade. 

And Zoom has carbamide peroxide and a hydrogen peroxide option of varying strengths, just like Opalescence.

The one you get started with likely depends on whichever is available through your dentist. 

Teeth whitening trays from dentist - how to get started

So what do you think, are you pumped about custom whitening trays? If you are, your dentist is the best place to kick things off. They'll get a 3D scan (or use putty to get a mold) of your teeth, send it to their lab to print your trays, and then you'll be whitening within a few weeks.

Most dentists have gel on-hand that they'll give you when you pick up your whitening trays. When you run out, you'll either buy more from your dentist or order more online (most companies sell online direct-to-consumer or through sites like Amazon).

If you're in NYC Wally is another option to consider. Whitening is part of our membership-based dental care so printing trays and getting refills is no extra cost to you.

Once you get your trays home pop that gel in the fridge so it lasts as long as possible. Then open up your first syringe and happy teeth whitening!

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