At Home Teeth Whitening Systems vs. Professional In-Office Whitening Treatments

Cosmetically conscious generations continue to demand teeth whitening at a rate that grows year after year since the early 2000’s. This growing demand has created more opportunities for at home teeth whitening companies to offer affordable teeth whitening to people of all incomes. If it were not for the inconvenience of a dental visit accompanied by a price tag ranging from $300-$1,000+ everyone would visit the dentist for an instant 8 shades whiter smile; however the average consumer’s budget will not allow it.

Professional in-office whitening treatments

Dentist offer custom teeth whitening trays as well as 2 types of teeth whitening services with the first of the two services being optimal yet not affordable to the majority.

Dentist Provided Custom Whitening Trays

The patient will use their custom fitted teeth whitening trays in the convenience of their own home or as they go about their day at any time they wish, without their speech or appearance being impaired during whitening treatment. Whitening gels can be purchased either online or from their dentist however dentist typically mark up the cost up by 100% or greater. There is absolutely no difference between the whitening gels sold online or from the dentist so it is best to purchase whitening gel from an online teeth whitening retailer.

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
1-3 hours per night for 1-3 weeks $300-$1,000 about 5-8 shades whiter


In office Whitening Treatments

Dentist offer a standard teeth whitening treatment with or without a halogen light. Both services begin by applying a protective layer to the gums to minimize the contact of the teeth whitening agent to the gums. Contact will cause a non-threatening irritation to the gums. Once the protective layer is in place the teeth whitening agent is then painted on to the surface of the teeth. The whitening gel used varies by request or the preference of the dentist but will either be carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide based. From this point patients will usually have the option of using a halogen light to accelerate the whitening gel, thus breaking down the stains exponentially faster. Those who opt out of the halogen light or are not offered will typically be asked to return for multiple treatments to achieve their desired level of whiteness.

Dental Bleaching w/o halogen light

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
1-2 hours per visit, 1-4 visits $300-$1,000 about 5-8 shades whiter


Dental Bleaching With halogen light

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
1 hour $600-$3,000 about 8 shades whiter


At Home Teeth Whitening Systems

All at home teeth whitening systems are effective to a degree however only one will achieve whitening results comparable to those achieved at the dentist. Below is a scale of most to least effective at home teeth whitening systems/tools.

Custom Fitted Teeth Whitening Trays

Few consumers are aware that custom whitening trays can be purchased online at a cost savings of 200% or greater. The customer purchases their custom teeth whitening system from an online retailer such as Once their kit is received they will reference to the instructions supplied for tips on taking good dental impressions. This process will take about 5-8 minutes in total for both the upper and lower teeth. Once completed the customer will place their impressions in the pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope and mail back to the dental lab they purchased from. These labs are typically the same labs that service dentist across the country so rest assured the quality will be equivalent to that received from the dentist. Within 1-2 weeks the custom trays will be in the customer’s mailbox and ready for their teeth whitening treatment to begin.

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
1-3 hours per night for 1-3 weeks $139-$189 (cost typically varies by the quantity of gel supplied with a kit) about 5-8 shades whiter (more frequent treatments result in whiter the teeth)


Teeth Whitening Pens With LED Whitening Light & Protective Tray

The LED teeth whitening system typically comes equipped with a teeth whitening pen tipped with a brush used to apply the gel evenly across the frontal upper and lower teeth. It is best to purchase from a retailer that uses carbamide peroxide whitening gel because it contains a “sticky” formula that bonds the gel to the teeth thus preventing the gel from running off the tooth’s surface. Once applied, the protective tray is inserted to guard the lips from coming in contact with the gel. Last, the user will insert the LED whitening light for 15-30 minutes to accelerate the whitening gel which can remain in the mouth for an additional 20 minutes and as long as 3 hours.

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
30 minutes to 2 hours per day/night for 1-3 weeks $30-$60 about 3-6 shades whiter


Teeth Whitening Strips

While effective, teeth whitening strips can be a bit of a nuisance due to frequent slippage caused by saliva production. Simply apply a set of strips 1-2 times daily for 30-120 minutes (varies by package). Expect splotchy results around the crevices of the teeth due to the whitening strips ability to maintain prolonged contact with the tooth.

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
30-120 minutes per day/night for 1-3 weeks $40-$70 about 2-4 shades whiter


Boil’n Bite Whitening Trays

The second best whitening treatment is referenced to as boil’n bite whitening trays. The customer is to place their unformed trays into boiling water for a period of time that allows the material to soften. After drying the tray it is then placed in the mouth and bit down on until the material hardens. Negatives of boil’n bite whitening trays include: Difficult to get a deep, accurate impression, bulky in the mouth, extreme speech impairment during 1-3 hour whitening treatment, inconsistent whiteness on teeth (splotchy results).

Duration: Cost: Expectation:
1-3 hours per day/night for 1-3 weeks $5-$20 (gel not included) about 2-4 shades whiter


In conclusion:

Whitening strips are the most popular teeth whitening method, however with the average cost being $50 it only makes sense to spend another $20-$40 and upgrade to a dental quality set of custom fitted teeth whitening trays identical to those the dentist will charge $300-$1,000.

Erin Stelbrink
Erin Stelbrink is a Registered Dental Hygienist with 11+ years of experience as a licensed hygienist and oral health care professional. She holds a passion for researching and acquiring awareness of the latest technologies and methods for providing valuable health care service and clinical treatment. Have more questions? Email Erin at