Choosing Between Professional and DIY Teeth Whitening: What You Need to Know

Women pointing at her mouth showing off her white teeth

Everyone wants a white, Hollywood-worthy smile, but there’s more to teeth whitening than what you see on the surface of your teeth. When it comes to your teeth, “white” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy,” while “healthy” doesn’t always mean “brilliantly white.” A bright, white smile can make you feel more confident, but it’s just as important for your teeth to be strong and healthy. 

A quick glance down the toothpaste aisle or a commercial break during your favorite show is enough to see that there are plenty of DIY or at-home options for getting a whiter, brighter smile, but how do you know what’s right for you? More importantly, how do you know what’s safe for your smile and if you’ll get the results you want?

At Dental Depot of Kansas City, we understand that you want to love the smile you see in the mirror, and if that means making it whiter, then our team of experienced dental professionals can help you decide what teeth whitening option may be best for you. If you’re thinking about whitening your teeth, you owe it to yourself–and your dental health–to make sure you’re choosing a product that’s just as safe as it is effective.

Understanding Stains on Teeth

Teeth whitening works by using carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide to penetrate the enamel of the teeth and break up and remove stains and discoloration. Stains and discoloration in the teeth can develop as the result of a variety of factors, such as:

  • Frequent consumption of dark-colored or acidic beverages like coffee, wine, and soda
  • Smoking or other tobacco or nicotine use
  • Dental trauma
  • Weak, thin, or eroded enamel
  • Excessive fluoride
  • Medications or disease treatment, like chemotherapy, radiation, or tetracycline/doxycycline
  • Age

Dental stains may be either extrinsic (on the outer layer of the enamel) or intrinsic (appearing in the dentin, which is the inner material under the enamel). Stains or discoloration are not always an indicator of their health–even perfectly strong, healthy teeth can appear off-white, yellow, or even stained as a result of genetics, age, diet, or medication–but they can make you feel less than confident in your smile.

While teeth whitening can make your teeth appear whiter and brighter, it doesn’t necessarily make them healthier. In fact, using teeth whitening products improperly may even harm your teeth.

Types of Teeth Whitening: DIY vs Professional 

Teeth whitening treatments and products are available as either DIY/at-home, such as from a pharmacy or other store, or as a professional service from a dental care provider. There are pros and cons to both, but no matter which one you choose, it’s important to remember that teeth whitening is not permanent and is no substitute for good oral hygiene. 

DIY or At-Home Teeth Whitening Kits

DIY or at-home teeth whitening kits are widely available and promise results from the comfort and convenience of home. 


  • They come in a variety of product types, from strips and trays to gels, toothpastes, and mouth rinses.
  • They can cost less than professional teeth whitening treatments. An average at-home kit costs around $50, as compared to the several hundred dollars of a professional treatment.
  • They’re convenient–you can use them at home when it works best for your schedule, such as before bed.
  • Results are gradual for a more natural look.


  • Results can be mixed and inconsistent since they rely on you using the product as directed. Moreover, many of the products, especially toothpastes, can only tackle extrinsic stains on the surface of your teeth, not deep intrinsic ones.
  • It can take longer to see noticeable results, with some at-home kits requiring several weeks of regular, consistent use and lengthy application times to be effective. 
  • While they cost less than professional teeth whitening treatment, at-home teeth whitening kits can still be fairly pricey, with no guaranteed results.

When choosing an over-the-counter teeth whitening solution, whether it’s toothpaste, trays, strips, or gels, prioritize products bearing the ADA Seal of Acceptance. This seal ensures quality and typically indicates a carbamide peroxide concentration of 10%, including 3.5% hydrogen peroxide.

Additionally, it’s wise to anticipate the timing of whitening treatments for special occasions, as over-the-counter products generally yield results over an extended period. Immediate effects may not be noticeable, so planning ahead is essential for achieving desired outcomes.

Professional/In-Office Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening uses a higher concentration of prescription-strength whitening products to deliver faster, more dramatic, and longer-lasting results in less time than over-the-counter products. It is applied by a dentist or other dental professional, and available as a take-home kit or as a chairside in-office procedure.

During a chairside appointment, you will sit in a chair while your dentist applies a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide (typically between 25-40%) and special whitening chemicals in combination with a light or laser. Chairside whitening can whiten your teeth by up to eight shades in one 45-minute session.

Professional take-home teeth whitening kits use prescription-strength whitening gel and a custom-fitted silicone tray to help you whiten your teeth at home.

Dental Depot of Kansas City offers Opal Go from Opalescence for professional at-home teeth whitening.

For even better results, you can combine an at-home kit with in-office treatment, such as with Dental Depot of Kansas City’s Opal GoBoost, KOR Max, or KORMax Ultra.


  • It can be safer for your teeth. In the office, special protection can be placed over the gums so they aren’t damaged by the additional peroxide exposure and the application can be much more precise. Take-home trays are better fitted to your mouth to minimize how much of the bleaching gel comes in contact with your gums and reduce sensitivity.
  • It is applied more carefully and precisely for better results.
  • A dentist can make sure your teeth and gums are healthy enough for teeth whitening before starting treatment.


  • Professional teeth whitening is usually more expensive than over-the-counter products, but it delivers better, brighter, and longer-lasting results in less time and with fewer applications.
  • You have to visit a dentist to receive the treatment or the take-home tray.

DIY or Professional Teeth Whitening: Which is Better?

The right teeth whitening solution depends on your personal preference as well as your current oral health. There are some situations where teeth whitening is not recommended and may actually do more damage than good if it works at all. For example, the high concentration of chemicals in professional teeth whitening can further irritate sensitive gums and teeth, while gum disease and tooth decay may preclude you from any teeth whitening treatments at all. Deep intrinsic stains, such as those caused by antibiotic use, may not respond to whitening treatments, and whitening will not work on restorations like bonding, bridges, crowns, or implants.

If you’re serious about getting a whiter smile, a dental professional can help guide you through your options and achieve your healthiest smile no matter what shade of white it is.

Trust Dental Depot of Kansas City for Your Teeth Whitening

Professional teeth whitening is just one of the comprehensive dental care services offered at Dental Depot of Kansas City, where we believe everyone deserves a beautiful, healthy smile. We pride ourselves on providing common sense care at an affordable price for everyone in your family, from routine checkups and cleanings to restorations, preventive treatments, and more. Call today to schedule an appointment at the Kansas City Metro Area location nearest you, and find out how we can help you discover a smile you love!








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