Teeth Whitening: At-Home vs. In-chair Treatments

Woman at dental office whitening teeth

A bright, white smile is a sign of health and vitality, but your teeth can become discolored over time due to age, diet, and lifestyle choices. Teeth whitening has become a popular solution for those looking to restore their teeth to their former brightness, with around 37 million Americans using whitening products in 2020.

At-home treatment and in-chair teeth whitening services boost your self-confidence and motivate you to maintain better oral hygiene habits. But which option is best for your smile?

At-Home Treatments

At-home treatments offer an affordable alternative to in-office whitening. At Hinsdale Dental, we offer a take-home gel solution (NiteWhite ACP) that can be dispensed into a customized mouth tray and worn in the comfort of your home.

Pros and cons of at-home whitening treatments:


  • Cost-effective: Professional at-home teeth whitening kits are less expensive than in-chair treatments.
  • Professional guidance: Even though the treatments are conducted at home, they are guided by dental professionals who can ensure that the procedure is safe and suitable for your dental health.
  • Customized solution: Dental professionals can provide customized whitening trays and solutions tailored to your teeth, ensuring more effective and even results compared to over-the-counter products.
  • Convenience: These kits allow you to whiten your teeth at your own pace. They are also perfect for touching up an in-chair whitening treatment, keeping your smile brighter for longer.
  • Preservation of dental health: Because these treatments are overseen by a professional, they are designed to be effective without damaging your teeth or gums, preserving your overall dental health.
  • Mild formulas: At-home kits offer milder whitening agents than in-chair treatments that are less irritating if you have sensitive teeth.


  • Less effective: You must use the product longer to achieve the desired results. At-home treatments may not be as effective on deep stains or discolorations as in-office treatments.
  • Inconsistent application: The effectiveness of at-home treatments can be compromised if not applied correctly. Uneven application can result in patchy whitening. Our customized mouth tray fits your teeth precisely, eliminating patchiness when used correctly.
  • Potential for damage: Incorrect usage and prolonged exposure to bleaching agents can lead to gum irritation or enamel erosion. Always follow the instructions carefully and consult your dentist if you have concerns.
  • Requires discipline: Successful at-home whitening requires a disciplined approach to the treatment regimen, and some individuals may find it difficult to stick to the necessary routine.

Professional Treatments

Professional in-office treatments are the fastest and most effective way to brighten your teeth by several shades. At Hinsdale Dental, our Zoom! whitening treatment includes applying a protective barrier to the gums, and the bleaching agents are activated by a specialized light to speed up the breakdown of staining pigments.

Benefits and drawbacks of professional teeth whitening include:


  • Immediate results: Professional teeth whitening provides instant results. A single whitening treatment typically takes around 15 to 20 minutes, and your dentist can repeat the treatment up to three times in one session. This makes your teeth several shades lighter in less than an hour.
  • Customized treatment: Your dentist can customize the treatment to your specific needs, accounting for tooth sensitivity and the level of discoloration.
  • Professional supervision: The procedure is performed by trained professionals, minimizing the risk of complications or damage to your teeth and gums.
  • Uniform whitening: Professionals can ensure even application of the whitening agent, resulting in more uniform whitening compared to at-home treatments.
  • Effective stain removal: In-chair treatments typically use stronger whitening agents than at-home kits, making them more effective at removing stubborn stains.
  • Long-lasting results: The effects of an in-chair whitening session can last for up to three years when combined with proper dental hygiene and regular touch-ups.


  • Cost: Professional treatments are more expensive than at-home kits. However, the results are often more dramatic and long-lasting, making them a worthwhile investment in your smile.
  • Sensitivity: Due to the higher concentration of bleaching agents, some people experience increased tooth sensitivity after professional whitening treatments, although this is usually temporary.
  • Potential gum irritation: Although dental professionals take measures to protect the gums, the strong whitening agents can sometimes cause gum irritation.
  • Dental anxiety: For individuals with dental anxiety, undergoing an in-chair procedure might be a stressful experience compared to at-home treatments.

Make the Right Choice for Your Smile

At-home and in-chair professional teeth whitening options can help you achieve a brighter smile. Dentist-prescribed at-home treatments are ideal if you’re looking for a convenient and budget-friendly solution. However, in-chair treatments are the best option for immediate, long-lasting results.

Your oral health should always be a priority, so consult a dental professional before undergoing whitening treatments. Call us today at (630) 323-5200 to schedule an appointment.

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