For those who want stunning, pearly-white teeth, there is no shortage of options to get them. But if you're serious about your smile, at-home teeth whitening solutions (e.g., whitening toothpaste and over-the-counter strips) might not be enough.
When it comes to intense whitening, many people turn to laser teeth whitening or professional bleaching as more practical options. Although they have bigger impacts on your wallet, they also have a significant impact on your smile that you won't get with DIY solutions.
So which whitening option is right for you? Let's explore the differences, pros, and cons of laser teeth whitening vs. bleaching so that you can make an informed decision about your smile.
How Does Teeth Bleaching Work?
Teeth bleaching is an in-office teeth whitening procedure in which a dentist applies a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel to the teeth. In some cases, the dentist will use carbamide peroxide, which quickly breaks down into hydrogen peroxide.
In typical cases, the process follows these steps:
- A cheek retractor is placed in your mouth to keep the gums and lips away from the teeth.
- The dentist adds a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide-based gel to a bleaching tray.
- The bleaching tray is applied to your teeth.
- Oxygen molecules release from the peroxide as it comes into contact with your enamel. The molecules permeate your enamel and oxidize the dark-pigmented molecules within the tooth structure, chemically removing surface-level and deep-set stains.
- After 15 to 30 minutes, the gel is washed or suctioned off and fresh gel is reapplied.
- This procedure can be repeated for several more applications (typically three to four).
Between each session, a fluoride gel may be applied to your teeth to reduce sensitivity and strengthen enamel.
Your dentist will also create custom-fitted teeth whitening trays for your teeth that you can comfortably wear for anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours daily. In some cases, you may use a weaker bleaching solution and wear a tray while you sleep. This is where the real magic happens with professional teeth bleaching.
Depending on the severity of the discoloration, this process should be repeated every day for a few days up to several weeks.
How Does Laser Whitening Work?
Laser teeth whitening is a 30-to-60-minute procedure and like bleaching, it must be carried out by a cosmetic dentistry. Contrary to what you might think, laser teeth whitening does not involve laser-etching the teeth.
The process is similar to bleaching, except that a special light is used to speed up the oxidation oxygen molecules:
- The dentist gives you protective glasses and place a cheek retractor into your mouth.
- A protective gel (light-cured resin material) or a rubber shield is applied to the gums to protect them from the laser light.
- An intensely concentrated peroxide-based whitening gel (similar to bleaching gel) is then applied directly onto your teeth.
- After a couple of minutes, the carbon dioxide or argon laser is then used to activate the gel, which breaks up the stain particles and helps them wash away.
- After several applications, a fluoride paste and/or buffer are applied to reduce sensitivity.
Most patients agree that laser teeth whitening is painless, but your teeth may be sensitive to cold for up to 24 hours afterward.
The Pros And Cons Of Teeth Bleaching
When choosing between professional bleaching or whitening, it's essential to look at more than just the results. While both processes may have identical outcomes, other elements should be taken into account when you make your decision.
Let's explore the pros and cons of teeth bleaching:
Pros Of Teeth Bleaching
- Your dentist's custom-fitted teeth whitening trays provide a targeted fit, so your peroxide paste is applied with precision to your target areas.
- Since you'll continue to bleach your teeth at home, you won't need to take additional time out of your day for additional steps in the process.
- Take-home bleaching trays are slim and non-invasive, so you don't need to worry about feeling uncomfortable while you bleach your teeth.
- Bleaching shows results faster because it doesn't require multiple dentist visits with space in between.
- Ongoing teeth whitening costs with bleaching are surprisingly affordable. It costs just $40 each year for the carbamide peroxide gel syringes needed. You don't need to purchase new equipment—your trays are reusable and can last up to five years. As a result, this budget-friendly option gives you long-lasting and stunningly beautiful teeth without breaking the bank.
Cons Of Teeth Bleaching
- Bleaching requires far more applications than laser whitening, as it is less powerful.
- Teeth whitening trays and daily applications may be inconvenient for some people.
- The bleaching gel may cause temporary sensitivity.
- Some people experience uneven whitening, as the trays don’t evenly apply the product to all parts of your teeth.
The Pros And Cons Of Laser Teeth Whitening
Laser teeth whitening involves multiple doctor visits and is more expensive than bleaching. However, the results may be worth it if you're after faster and more efficient whitening for your teeth.
Let's look at the pros and cons of laser teeth whitening.
Pros Of Laser Teeth Whitening
- Laser whitening is incredibly powerful. The procedure can bleach several shades lighter in just 2 to 4 sessions (though this depends on the severity of your discoloration).
- Whitening sessions are quick—each one takes under an hour.
- You'll probably see immediate results that are more dramatic than those of standard bleaching trays.
- Medical professionals perform these procedures, so you can be sure they are safe and effective, even if you experience sensitivity.
- New laser whitening innovations make the process safer than ever. For example, when comparing laser teeth whitening vs. Zoom, the latter uses a unique light-activated whitening gel that works with the laser to reduce tooth sensitivity.
Cons Of Laser Teeth Whitening
- Some people with sensitive teeth find laser whitening treatments painful due to the high concentration of peroxide. Those who fit this description often feel a sensation akin to electric shock in their pearly whites toward the completion of each session.
- Despite the advantage of being a fast procedure, laser whitening requires multiple sessions with an interval of 10 to 14 days apart (due to the laser application). So it might take longer (up to two months) to complete your treatment in its entirety.
- Those who work jobs during regular 8-5 hours will have to take time off for their whitening sessions. Even though these are short, they still require a block of time out of your day. Since dentists also have busy schedules, many factors make a longer-than-expected whitening process a possibility.
- Dentists may use peroxide mixtures with up to 44% peroxide, a higher concentration than the American Dental Association's approved 10% solutions for bleach trays. Although these stronger formulas are not necessarily dangerous, further research is necessary before they can be definitively recognized as safe.
- Laser teeth whitening costs are at least $1,500 per year for initial whitening and ongoing maintenance procedures, making it cost-prohibitive for some people.
Laser Teeth Whitening Vs. Bleaching: Key Differences
Now that we've gone over the pros and cons of each teeth whitening option, let's take a look at the key differences between laser teeth whitening and bleaching.
1. Which Is Safer?
For many prospective teeth whitening patients, safety is among the most critical factors when considering whitening procedures.
While laser teeth whitening and bleaching are safe with no long-term damage to enamel or gums, some people may experience increased sensitivity during their treatment. With laser treatments, the peroxide concentration used by dentists can be higher than that found in bleach trays, but fewer applications and shorter sessions balance this out.
Especially if you have sensitive teeth, traditional bleaching is your best bet, as it uses diluted peroxide and less intense sessions.
2. Which Is More Cost Effective?
Laser teeth whitening can cost almost 40 times more than what you would pay for a traditional bleach tray.
That said, pricing for each procedure varies wildly based on the region of the country you reside in and the particular dentist you choose. A highly reputable dentist in Los Angeles, for instance, may charge the same amount for a basic bleaching procedure as a dentist in a small Kansas town would for a laser whitening session.
If budget is a deciding factor, you can achieve solid results with a bleaching tray over the course of weeks or months.
3. Which Requires A Bigger Time Commitment?
Laser teeth whitening sessions are much faster than standard bleaching procedures and require fewer dentist visits. However, patients must take time out of their day multiple times to attend their laser treatments. These times must coincide with the dentist's schedule, which may be booked for days or weeks.
Bleaching trays, on the other hand, can be worn while you do your day-to-day activities (or after you are finished with them), so they show results faster.
If you are flexible enough to carve time out of your schedule for timely appointments, laser teeth whitening is the way to go.
4. Which One Lasts Longer?
At the end of the day, you're investing in professional teeth whitening to get the best results.
Laser teeth whitening does work faster and is more reliable than traditional bleaching, but both methods are capable of achieving stunningly white results.
Laser teeth whitening can last up to three years, depending on the person, making it the most effective form of whitening.
Laser whitening is the clear winner if you're looking for a purely results-based decision.
Laser Teeth Whitening Vs. Beaching: Which Is Right For You?
When comparing teeth whitening vs. bleaching of any kind, there are some inherent risks. Teeth sensitivity may arise with both processes, but laser whitening is more likely to cause pain. And compared to at-home solutions, both procedures are more expensive and require a much greater time commitment.
The right choice for you depends on how you weigh the effectiveness and cost against the risks of each procedure. If you have sensitive teeth, bleaching is probably the safest bet. If you're looking for a more reliable, impactful solution and don't care about the cost, laser teeth whitening is your best option.
No matter what you choose, make sure to discuss it with your dentist and carefully weigh all of the pros and cons before making a decision.
Let's take a look at some of the more common questions about Laser Teeth Whitening Vs. Bleaching.
Do Teeth Whitening And Bleaching Cause Sensitivity?
Yes, both teeth whitening and bleaching can cause sensitivity. However, the higher peroxide concentration used in laser treatment is more likely to cause pain or discomfort during a session.
How Many Whitening Sessions Do I Need For Laser Teeth Whitening?
Laser teeth whitening consists of 3-4 back-to-back whitening sessions. Due to the nature of laser whitening solutions, these sessions must be spaced out over about 10-14 days, so you will need to plan ahead of time in order to stay on-schedule with your treatments.
How Many Whitening Sessions Do I Need For Teeth Bleaching?
Most people only need to visit the dentist once for a bleaching session. However, if your teeth are severely discolored, multiple visits may be required in order to achieve the desired results. This treatment also involves wearing trays for several weeks or months, depending on the severity of the discoloration.
Can Laser Whitening Damage Your Teeth?
Laser whitening cannot damage your teeth. Since tooth enamel is hard tissue, the peroxide used in laser whitening solutions does not damage it. All dentist-supervised teeth whitening procedures have received the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Laser Teeth Whitening?
The biggest disadvantage of laser teeth whitening is its expense. It's much more expensive than at-home bleaching solutions, and you may need to pay for multiple visits to achieve your desired results. If you have sensitive teeth, it can also cause pain or discomfort due to the high peroxide concentration used in the procedure. Scheduling follow-up sessions may also be difficult if you work during normal business hours.
What Are The Risks Associated With Laser Teeth Whitening?
As with any teeth whitening procedure, laser whitening is not meant to be a permanent solution. Good dental hygiene is still paramount, and overall tooth health should be monitored. It may also cause sensitivity in some patients, though this can be managed with preventive care and products. Additionally, the higher peroxide concentration used in laser whitening solutions can cause pain or discomfort during treatments.