Can my teeth be whitened by over-the-counter products sold in stores?

All of the over-the-counter whitening products have some ability to whiten the teeth, for they all contain some form of peroxide to remove stain. The shortcoming is in their application. For example, Crest White Strips are only wide enough to apply the peroxide to the six front teeth. If you want to lighten more than those teeth, Crest White Strips is not the product to use.

Initially, we tell patients to try an over-the-counter whitening product. If it is unsatisfactory, we take impressions and make a custom tray to hold a stronger peroxide against the teeth. Patients use these trays at home for one hour each day.

Dr William Dorfman, the dentist who starred in Extreme Makeover, gave a talk at a local dental meeting several years ago. He owned the company that makes the Zoom bleaching light. He performed bleaching in his office and then sent patients home with bleach trays to finish the job. If the in-office bleaching was so effective, the patients would not have had to go home with bleach trays. We feel it is more cost-efficient for the patient to bleach the teeth using only the trays and to skip the in-office bleaching expense.