As you’ve aged, you may have noticed that your teeth have become yellowed or discolored. Perhaps you’ve been smoking for a long time, or you drink a lot of coffee.

Whatever the driving force may be for your teeth becoming discolored, you may be one of the millions of Americans who are actively searching for ways to get back those pearly whites.

As you pursue your research, one of the decisions you need to make (obviously) is how, exactly, you plan on going about getting your teeth.

And the first question you should ask yourself is, should I do it myself at home or should I seek professional help from a dentist?

Because I understand how difficult of a decision this can be, I decided to compile a short list of some points to consider, and the pros and cons of doing it yourself vs. seeing a dentist.

Over the counter products usually contain a lower strength bleaching agent. Professionally applied tooth whitening gels offer levels of the bleaching agent ranging up 4 times higher than at home products. This means, that essentially, it should take less time to whiten your teeth.

Store bought whitening products come with one size fits all a tray. This means that the fit will not be perfect. Poorly fitted trays can aggravate gums by enabling more bleach to find its way onto gums. However, your dentist will apply the bleaching agent directly to the teeth.

The dentist can use protective measures on your gums. Bleaching gel can harm your gums, so either the dentist will apply the gel directly to your teeth or cover up the oral tissue.

Whitening treatments in your dentist’s office are going to be expensive. Over-the-counter products range from $2-3 up to $40. However, you get what you pay for,

Dentist treatments offer extra benefits compared with over-the-counter products. Your dentist will do an an oral exam. This can be helpful in deciding why your teeth are discolored. Your dentist will be able to better match the kind of stain with the best procedure. Your dentist will custom fit trays to your mouth for maximum fit and maximum benefit from the bleach.

Also the dentist will take a starting shade and a final shade and usually document it with pictures so you can see the change you have made with treatment. With over-the-counter bleaching products, you are on your own. As with any aspect of life, including bleaching, you give up something to get something.

Bleaching can cause some sensitivity due the opening of enamel rods and dentinal tubules which can lead to sensitivity.  Dr. Frazier has found that using MI Paste after each bleaching session significantly decreases post bleaching sensitivity while you increase the brightness and whiteness of your teeth.

Make sure to ask your dentist about MI Paste in conjunction with your bleaching treatment.

You’ll be glad you did!

In the end, going to your dentist for bleaching provides the most effective method to whiten your teeth. Most often, the whitening gel is placed in a custom fitted tray that fits only your teeth which is not only more effective, but also protects the rest of your mouth. Results can be seen in within a few weeks.

This type of whitening is the most expensive technique, so if you don’t have the money to go to the dentist, then maybe over-the-counter is your best option. Just make sure you follow the instructions to the letter and seek help if you notice any sensitivity or other problems.