How Tooth Whitening Works

Over-the-counter Whitening

Over-the-counter tooth whitening also involves the use of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. It isn't always mentioned in the product instructions, but it's a good idea to get your teeth professionally cleaned, have all your cavities filled, and make sure your gums are healthy before using these products.

The most popular products use either carbamide or hydrogen peroxide gels or hydrogen peroxide containing polyethylene strips. Most of these products are relatively easy to use, and independent research has shown that they are effective.


The main benefit of over-the-counter tooth whitening is the cost. Few cost more than $35, and some are less than $10. Another benefit of the over-the-counter tooth whitening systems is that they are available to use immediately. All you need to do is go to your local drugstore and you can start whitening your teeth right away.

The primary drawback of the over-the-counter tooth whitening systems is that customers who use them may not be good candidates for tooth whitening, and there is no professional making sure everything works correctly. Many of the products do not list the concentration of the whitening agents or contain alternatives of varying strengths, so the consumer can not modulate the dosage to improve results or reduce sensitivity should it develop. In some cases, systems that use trays or strips may not adequately cover all the teeth, and less than desired results or irritation to the gums could occur.