If you want to whiten your teeth, there are plenty of options available. Not only do numerous products populate the local drug store, but you can also solicit your dentist for teeth whitening assistance. But which method is best? And what does each entail?

At-Home Teeth Whitening

The first option to whiten your teeth is at-home whitening systems. These usually consist of a collection of plastic trays designed to slip over your teeth and tubs of hydrogen peroxide gel, which is the agent used to bleach your teeth.

At-home teeth whitening systems are the least expensive type, but the gel is less concentrated so it might take several days (or even weeks) before you see any changes. Prices range from under $25 to more than $100, depending on brand, potency and application.

When you use at-home systems to whiten your teeth, make sure to follow the directions carefully and give yourself plenty of time to get the hang of the process. This form of teeth whitening can be very messy for the uninitiated and you might feel awkward at first.

Take-Home Teeth Whitening

The second method to whiten your teeth is take-home teeth whitening products you get from your dentist. These are usually more potent than the over-the-counter versions you find at the drug store, but they are also more expensive.

Take-home teeth whitening systems have another distinct advantage over the at-home version: They include mouth pieces that are specifically designed to fit your teeth. Your dentist will take a mold before issuing the kit, and it will allow you to apply the gel more thoroughly and accurately.

You will probably spend between $75 and $200 on take-home teeth whitening kits, but you won’t have to use them as long as over-the-counter versions. They are also more comfortable because they fit your mouth, and are less likely to cause gum irritation.

In-Office Teeth Whitening

Finally, you can also use the in-office teeth whitening system, which involves letting your dentist whiten your teeth while you sit in the chair. A similar-but more potent-peroxide gel is placed on your teeth, and the dentist will use a laser to quickly activate the gel.

This is the most expensive teeth whitening option, and generally costs between $500 and $1,000 per session, depending on your dentist. It’s faster, however, and many patients see improvement after the first one-hour session, and rarely more than a few sessions are needed.

It is important to realize, however, that no method used to whiten your teeth is permanent. If you have coffee or wine stains on your teeth, but you continue to drink wine or coffee after having your teeth whitened, the stains will likely reappear.

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