Professional teeth whitening systems: Which is the best one?

- Why choosing the right dentist makes more sense than picking a brand. / Details about major systems: Zoom®, Britesmile®, Lasersmile®, Beyond®, etc...

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In-office whiteners - Too much hype and not enough science.

From all of the advertising you see for professional teeth-whitening systems, you might actually think that it matters a lot which product your dentist uses.

Well, it may to some minor degree. But due to the quality of research and case reports typically cited by so many of the companies that make these products, you'd have a hard time making a scientific case for it. For example:

  • It's not always mentioned that while "statistically significant," the claims made in some comparisons aren't discernible to the human eye.
  • The "data on file" documentation that you sometimes see on manufacturer websites is only found there for a reason. They haven't been able to get this "research" accepted for publication in a dental journal.
  • Any advertising that boasts results in terms of number of "shades" of improvement without stating specifically what dental shade guide has been used as the measure, should be considered flat out suspect.
  • Research suggests that the use of a light unit (bleaching light, laser) contributes little to the whitening outcome. To us, a brand that boasts about benefit of their system's light unit is touting more hype than science.

Don't shop for a whitening system, shop for a whitening dentist.

Here's how to pick the best whitener. Don't place your faith in a particular product, brand name or flashy advertising campaign. Pick the best dentist. They'll already be using a great whitener.

Look for the dentist who loves to whiten teeth.

Dentists, just like people in all types of jobs, have varying interests. And those who are genuinely interested in the whitening-cosmetic aspect of dentistry will be the same ones who will:

  1. Pay attention to detail when performing bleaching treatments.
  2. Have a great curiosity about why treatments didn't work for someone and learn from it.
  3. Have a genuine interest in trying different products and knowing which works best in their hands.
  4. Discovering which products give great results but also tend to create the fewest
    side effects.

If you can find a dentist that has all of these issues covered, then you'll have found the best whitener (although we mean "whitener," as in a person who whitens teeth, not a product).

So, how do you find this kind of dentist?

A comparison of the whitened and untreated teeth.

A comparison of bleaching results.

a) Talk to people you know.

Word-of-mouth reports from satisfied patients can be great resource. Although we will say, patients tend to know more about how they were treated, as opposed to how their treatment results compare to what might be possible. Of course, a single dentist, having a large number of satisfied patient's, is a very good sign.

b) Look around at the dentist's office.

You can probably determine a lot just by looking around at a dentist's office. Does it seem to be a place where they mostly just "drill and fill"? Or does the cosmetic side of dentistry seem to be an important part of the practice? If they use a bleaching light, does it always seem to be stashed away in the same place when you're there, or maybe you've noticed it being used with other patients?

c) Talk to the doctor's staff.

One of your best resource is just talking to the dentist's staff. The doctor's assistant will absolutely know how much of the dentist's time is spent performing whitening treatments. And they'll also have an opinion about how satisfied patients seem to be about with their results. A shrug and a curt "yeah, we whiten a lot of people's teeth" probably tells you all you need to know.

d) Don't look for or expect to get any guarantees.

It's unlikely that a dentist will be interested in giving you any type of guarantee about whitening results. So if you run into one who does, turn on your radar.

If they won't stop talking about how absolutely sure they are that you'll love your results, just ask them to write that promise in your chart for documentation purposes. If they do, or don't, will tell you a lot about what's coming out of their mouth.


Details about popular professional (in-office) whitening systems.

There are some differences in the specific details and protocol associated with the most-used professional systems.

Most of the information we have to share is a FYI sort of thing. We provide it not so much to show you how different systems can be, but instead how similar they are.

And, like we mentioned above, this information may be of interest to you and help you to understand what to expect during treatments, but picking out a system isn't your job. Pick the best dentist. They'll have already picked out the best system.

 


Note: We must state that the information below has not been updated in a few years.

It would be unlikely that a manufacturer would have drastically changed the nature of their product since this information was last edited but at this point in time you have to consider it dated.


A) The Zoom!™ whitening system.

WhiteSpeed™ (Previously - Zoom2™, Advanced Power Plus™)

Zoom!™ is one of Discus Dental / Philips Oral Healthcare's professional-level whitening systems. They also make BriteSmile®.

The Zoom!™ system is "all-inclusive."

Different than with many competing products, Zoom™ is sold to your dentist in all-inclusive "procedure kits."

By this we mean that the whitener can't be bought by itself, in bulk. Instead, it's obtained via the purchase of pre-packaged kits intended for use with a single patient.

Besides just tooth whitener, these kits contain disposable items (many of which the dentist already buys in bulk) and post-treatment products such as tooth desensitizer and at-home whitener (items that may or may not be needed for a particular case).

In some ways, this type of packaging may help to insure consistent product results, as well as add convenience for the dentist's staff. It also, however, tends to increase the dentist's expenses, which must ultimately get passed on to the patient as higher procedure costs.

What type of tooth whitener is used?

The Zoom!™ whitening system uses a 25% hydrogen peroxide-based whitener.

(Discus Dental also markets another in-office whitener called Dash™. This is a non-light activated product that has a 30% hydrogen peroxide content.)

Is a bleaching light required?

Zoom!™ whitening gel has been formulated for use with a bleaching light.

Discus' latest unit is their WhiteSpeed LED bleaching lamp (LED = light-emitting diode). Historically, Zoom!™ lamps were designed to produced output in the 350-400nm range (violet light). According to Discus an important aspect of the new WhiteSpeed unit is that it emits some ultraviolet light too (see below).

This focus on UV output is different than any other bleaching system we reviewed. In fact, many light units are specifically designed to filter out UV light.

Is a light really needed?

A manufacturer's recommendation about the use of a bleaching light is ultimately based on their claims that it activates a catalyst within the whitener, which in turn can help to increase its effectiveness.

In the past, the validity of this type of claim has not been universally accepted by the dental community as a whole. However, Zoom!™ studies suggest that its latest generation whitener does contain a component that once activated by ultraviolet light does assist the bleaching process, thus making the use of the Zoom!™ light unit an aid. This is the only system we encountered that made mention of ultraviolet-light activation.

Light unit characteristics.

Zoom!™ bleaching lights are designed so they are able to illuminate all of the patient's teeth (both upper and lower) at once. This feature makes performing treatments less labor intense for the dentist, which may ultimately help to reduce your whitening costs.

(Some bleaching lights have a relatively narrow beam width. That means a staff member must stay with the patient and continually move the light unit around so every tooth is given proper exposure.)

Other features.

The Zoom!™ bleaching lights filter out infrared emissions. This is important because doing so helps to minimize the amount of heat that the patient's teeth are subjected to during their treatment. (Why this is important.)

How long do treatments take?

Treatments with the Zoom!™ system usually take about 60 minutes, from start to finish.

Each bleaching session is broken down into three individual applications of the whitener, with each application being left on the teeth for 15 minutes (45 minutes total exposure). However, with pre- and post-treatment activities included, the total treatment time will probably take up towards 60 minutes.

Zoom!™ protocol allows for a fourth 15-minute application, if the dentist feels it's needed.

Bleaching trays and whitening gel.

A tray whitening kit.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

At the completion of a Zoom! session, the patient is given a tray-based whitening system to use at home. It might be used to continue on with the bleaching process, or just used periodically for touch-up work.

The use of at-home products in conjunction with in-office systems can enhance a patient's whitening results. (Use the link for more information.)

The whitening procedure.

Zoom™ treatments involve those same basic steps used with any in-office whitening system.

Note: The Zoom!™ system does include "activation" of the whitening gel with a bleaching light, post-treatment application of a desensitizer, and continued treatments with an at-home whitener.


B) The Opalescence® whitening system.

The Opalescence® Boost™ system is Ultradent, Inc.'s professional teeth-whitening product. This system isn't as regimented as some competing products (like Zoom™).

For example, Ultradent protocol doesn't include the use of a bleaching light, a dentist can purchase whitener in bulk, and additional bleaching materials (like at-home touch-up kits and disposables) aren't automatically bundled together with the whitener but are available separately. Having these options can help your dentist to lower their expenses and your costs (read below).

What type of whitener is used?

This system uses a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel named Opalescence® Boost™ PF. It has a 40% hydrogen peroxide concentration (the highest of any whitener included in our review) and the ideal pH, which is pH 7. (Why this is important.).

Desensitizing agents (fluoride and potassium nitrate) have also been included in its formulation to help to minimize the potential for tooth sensitivity.

Tooth whitening gel in place.

Treatment without light "activation."

Is a bleaching light required?

The protocol for the Opalescence® Boost™ system does not include the use of a bleaching light. Ultradent's stance is simply that numerous studies have demonstrated that excellent in-office can be obtained without the use of a light. For this reason they have not designed their whitener with this technique in mind.

A no-light requirement may help to minimize your expenses.

Since no special bleaching light must be purchased, a dentist's expenses associated with providing Opalescence® treatments should be comparatively low. Hopefully some aspect of this savings will be passed on to their patients.

How long do treatments take?

Whitening treatments usually take about an hour, from start to finish. Each bleaching session is broken down into two individual applications of the Opalescence® whitener, with the duration of each application being 20 minutes.

This means that the cumulative exposure of the patient's teeth to the whitening gel is 40 minutes. Pre- and post-treatment activities typically round the total treatment time up to about 60 minutes.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

Continuing with at-home treatments after a bleaching session has been completed is an option that's left up to the discretion of the dentist. Ultradent does manufacture an at-home system (TresWhite). The fact that it doesn't automatically come bundled with their in-office system will help to contain costs for those patients who don't require this step.

The whitening procedure.

The procedure a dentist follows when performing Opalescence® treatments does not vary greatly from those steps our pages outline for in-office whitening in general.

Note: This system does not include the "activation" of the whitening gel with a bleaching light. Post-treatment application of a desensitizing agent (UltraEZ) is an option, as are continued at-home bleaching treatments (TresWhite).


C) The LumaCool™ teeth whitening system.

The LumaCool™ system is LumaLite, Inc.'s professional teeth whitening product. (This system previously went by the name LumaArch™.)

What type of whitener is used?

This system uses a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching compound (LumaWhite™ Plus). It has a 35% hydrogen peroxide concentration and a pH of about 6.

Is a bleaching light required?

LumaLite's LumaCool™ LED (light-emitting diode) bleaching light is used with their whitening system. It creates output that has a wavelength on the order of 380 to 530nm (meaning that the light has a blue-green coloration).

Of course, the implication of the requirement for a bleaching light is that light that has a specific wavelength triggers whitener "activation." LumaLite states that their whitener contains a photo-activated catalyst that makes the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide faster and more efficient.

Other light unit characteristics.

The LumaCool™ light unit is able to simultaneously illuminate all of the patient's teeth, which is a time and effort-saving feature for the dentist. Tests have confirmed that this unit does not create a harmful tooth-heating affect when it is used.

How long do treatments take?

LumaCool™ whitening treatments usually take substantially less than an hour. Competing products typically take one or more.

Each treatment session involves three individual applications of the whitener. Each application is left in place for 8 minutes. This means that the total exposure of the patient's teeth to the bleaching agent is around 24 minutes. This is a shorter duration than most other systems we reviewed (only LaserSmile™ was as quick).

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

LumaLite makes the recommendation that whitening sessions should be followed up with at-home treatments. The bundling involved with their single patient kits includes their StayBright™ Plus product. This is a paint-on whitener (most other systems we reviewed recommended the use of a tray-based system).

The whitening procedure.

The individual steps involved with LumaCool™ are essentially the same as our pages outline for in-office whitening in general.

(Note: The LumaCool™ system does include "activation" of the whitening gel with a bleaching light and continued treatment with an at-home whitener.)


D) The LaserSmile™ teeth whitening system.

The LaserSmile™ system is manufactured by Biolase Technology, Inc. (This company also manufactures dental lasers.)

What type of whitener is used?

The LaserSmile™ system uses a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel called LaserWhite20™. It comes prepackaged and ready for use. It has a 38% hydrogen peroxide concentration (which is fairly high compared to the other professional systems).

What kind of laser is used?

The LaserSmile™ system can be utilized with either Biolase's LaserSmile™ 810nm or Ezlase™ 940nm lasers. These units create output that lies in the near-infrared portion of the spectrum. (In comparison, most bleaching units primarily emit visible light.)

The reasoning associated with the use of one these lasers is that their output (a specific wavelength) "activates" a catalyst within the whitener that, in turn, increases its effectiveness.

Light activation of the tooth whitener.

Bleaching light exposure to just a few teeth at a time.

Laser concerns.

Since the output of these lasers lies in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, there could be concerns that a tooth-heating effect might be produced during treatment.

To minimize this potential, the laser is only exposed to a few teeth at a time, and even then only briefly (about 15 seconds). During the entire whitening process (about 24 minutes) it is likely that each tooth will only receive about 2 to 4 minutes of exposure to the laser's output.

How long does treatment take?

LaserSmile™ treatments take substantially less time than most other in-office systems.

Each bleaching session is divided into two individual applications of the whitener. Both combined, these applications take about 20 minutes. With pre-treatment preparations and post-treatment wrap-up activities, a patient's procedure should only take between 30 and 40 minutes.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

Continuation of the bleaching process at home is an option that's left up to the discretion of the dentist and the patient. It is not a formal part of the LaserSmile™ system's protocol.

The whitening procedure.

The process that a dentist follows when performing LaserSmile™ treatments is basically the same as that utilized with any other professional teeth-whitening system, with the exception that an actual laser is used as the bleaching light.

Note: This protocol does include the application of a desensitizing agent at the end of a bleaching session.


E) The BriteSmile® teeth whitening system.

The BriteSmile® system is manufactured by Discus Dental, Inc. who bought the majority of BriteSmile, Inc.'s assets in 2006. (Discus Dental, Inc. also manufactures the Zoom® teeth whitening system.) Discus Dental is now owned by Philips Oral Healthcare.

You may already be familiar with this brand name. It has a history of being advertised fairly aggressively.

Where can you get BriteSmile® treatments?

Treatments are only available through a dentist who has chosen to join the BriteSmile® "Associated Center" network.

Historically, you also had the option of receiving treatment through one of the BriteSmile® "whitening spas" located in several cities throughout the US (these centers were not owned by Discus Dental). At this time, we're unclear if this second option still exists.

The BriteSmile® system is "all-inclusive."

Similar to the Zoom™ product line, BriteSmile® is an all-inclusive system. The manufacturer bundles the materials needed to perform a patient's treatment into individual "procedural kits." This includes the tooth whitener and many disposable items.

As we discussed previously, this type of product packaging tends to increase the dentist's costs, which in turn will affect the fee they must charge for this service.

(As a point of interest, and unlike with the other systems we review, the bleaching light is not owned by the dentist. The cost of using the light is passed on to the dentist on a per-patient basis.)

What type of whitener is used?

The Britesmile™ system gives the dentist the option of utilizing either a 15 or 25% hydrogen peroxide-based whitener. An "accelerator" is added to the gel right before it is applied to the patient's teeth to increase its effectiveness. The whitener has a pH 6.5 (very close to neutral, which is good).

Is a bleaching light required?

Current BriteSmile® protocol calls for the use of a LED (light-emitting diode) bleaching light. These units are manufactured specifically for use with this whitening system. They emit light that has a wavelength between 400 and 500nm (blue-green color).

BriteSmile® claims that this wavelength activates the "photo-initiator" that's included in the formulation of their whitener, which in turn boosts its effectiveness.

Other light unit characteristics.

The BriteSmile® bleaching light is capable of illuminating all of the patient's teeth (both upper and lower) at once. This makes performing treatments easier and more efficient for the dentist. It's been designed so it doesn't create a significant heating effect on the teeth being treated.

How long do treatments take?

BriteSmile® teeth whitening treatments take a little over 60 minutes from start to finish.

Each bleaching session is divided into three individual applications of the whitener, with the duration of each one being 20 minutes (60 minutes total exposure). Additional of pre- and post-treatment activities round the total treatment time to a little more than an hour.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

Continuing on with at-home treatments is an option that's left up to the discretion of the dentist.

The whitening procedure.

Performing BriteSmile® treatments involves the same basic steps our pages outline for use with other professional systems.

Note: The BriteSmile® system does include the "activation" of the whitening gel with a bleaching light and the application of a post-treatment tooth desensitizer.


F) The Lumibrite™ teeth whitening system.

The Lumibrite™ system is Den-mat Corporation's professional-level whitening product. (Den-mat has a long and active history in the field of cosmetic dentistry.)

What type of whitener is used?

This system utilizes a hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel that has a 35% hydrogen peroxide concentration and a pH around 6.

Different than any other professional system we reviewed, Lumibrite™ protocol includes the application of desensitizer before each application of the whitener. This helps to minimize the potential for post-bleaching tooth sensitivity.

Is a bleaching light required?

For best results, Den-mat recommends that its plasma arc light unit (the Sapphire™ Supreme PAC) should be used during treatments. They do state, however, that whitening will also take place without the use of a light, just to a lesser extent.

Other light unit characteristics.

The Sapphire™ Supreme PAC unit has been designed so it filters out infrared emissions, which helps to insure that the teeth being treated don't become over-heated. The wavelength of the light emitted from this unit is in the blue-green range.

It is also capable of illuminating all of the patient's teeth (both upper and lower) simultaneously. This helps to make performing the procedure more efficient for the dentist.

How long do treatments take?

From start to finish, Sapphire™ treatments usually take on the order of 90 minutes or so.

The whitener is typically applied to the patient's teeth for a total duration of one hour (two applications, 30 minutes each). Both the upper and lower teeth are treated simultaneously. Including all of the activities that need to be performed before and after treatment, the total amount of time usually rounds up to about 90 minutes.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

The protocol for the LumiBrite™ system recommends that a patient should continue on with at-home treatments after their in-office bleaching session has been performed. They recommend the use of their LumiBrite™ Home Whitening Gel product. (More information about why this is done.)

The whitening procedure.

The way a dentist performs Lumibrite™ Chairside treatments does not vary greatly from those same steps our pages describe for used with other professional systems.

Note: The option of "activating" the whitening gel with a bleaching light is left up to the discretion of the dentist.


G) The Beyond® Whitening system.

The Beyond® Power Whitening system is Beyond Dental and Health's professional-level teeth whitening product.

Please note: This product should not to be confused with this manufacturer's seemingly similar system that can be found in non-dental venues, such as beauty shops and day spas.

What type of whitener is used?

Beyond®'s professional system utilizes a 35% hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel.

Features

Different from what our review found with any other in-office whiteners, Beyond® offers the following options.

  • The use of Beyond Blast® as a pre-treatment. This step is recommended for difficult stains (including tetracycline and fluorosis).
  • Beyond® claims that their whitener is formulated with a broad-spectrum catalyst, which makes it suitable for use with any bleaching light (visible spectrum output).

    This feature may make Beyond® a cost-cutting alternative for those dentists who own a light but are currently forced to purchase materials from its manufacturer as a bundled, "all-inclusive" kit. (Hopefully this will help to reduce patient's costs too.)

Is a bleaching light required?

For best results, the Beyond® system protocol recommends the use of a halogen bleaching light (either their "Power Whitening Accelerator" or Polus models). It also states, however, that their whitener can be used effectively without light "activation."

The Beyond® units emit light in the 480 to 520nm range (blue-green light). The company claims that light having this wavelength activates a catalyst in their whitener, which enhances it effectiveness. (Note: Claims regarding the photo activation of whiteners are not universally accepted by the dental community as a whole.)

Other light characteristics.

Beyond® light units are designed to filter out both ultra-violet and infrared wave lengths. The result of this filtering is a "cool" blue-green light that does not produce a heating effect on the teeth being treated.

When either unit is placed into position, it's capable of simultaneously illuminating all of the patient's teeth (both upper and lower). This makes providing treatments easier and more efficient for the dentist.

How long do treatments take?

Professional Beyond® whitening treatments usually take less than an hour to complete.

Each treatment session is subdivided into three individual applications of the tooth whitener, with each application left in place for 10 minutes. That means the patient's teeth get a total exposure time of 30 minutes.

If a bleaching light is not used during the whitening process, Beyond® recommends that each application should be extended to 15 minutes.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

Continued bleaching with an at-home teeth whitening product after the completion of an in-office session is a decision that can be considered by the treating dentist (and patient). It's not a formal part of the Beyond® whitening protocol.

The whitening procedure.

The procedure that a dentist follows when they perform professional-level Beyond® treatments is essentially the same as for any other in-office system.

Note: With this system the use of a bleaching light is optional (although recommended). The use of a post-treatment tooth desensitizer and/or at-home whitening treatments is left up to the discretion of the dentist.


H) The NUPRO® White Gold teeth whitening system.

The NUPRO® White Gold in-office system is manufactured by Dentsply International. (This company makes a wide range of dental products.)

What type of whitener is used?

The NUPRO® system utilizes a 36% hydrogen peroxide-based bleaching gel that is prepared for use at the time of application.

Is a bleaching light required?

This system's protocol does not call for the use of a bleaching light.

How long do treatments take?

Appointments usually take about an hour. Each treatment session consists of three separate applications of NUPRO® White Gold whitener. Each application is left on the teeth for 15 minutes (45 minutes total exposure). Pre- and post-treatment necessities usually round the total treatment time up to about 60 to 70 minutes.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

After the completion of an in-office treatment,
continued bleaching with an at-home whitener is an option left up to the discretion of the dentist and the patient.

The whitening procedure.

NUPRO® White Gold treatments involve the same general steps our pages outline for use with other in-office products. Note: This system does not make use of a light to "activate" the whitener.


I) The Niveous™ teeth whitening system.

The Niveous™ system is Shofu Dental Corporation's professional teeth whitening product. It's another in-office system where the manufacturer considers the use of a bleaching light to be optional.

What type of whitener is used?

The whitening gel used with the Niveous™ system is hydrogen peroxide-based. It comes prepackaged and ready for use. It has a concentration of 25% (which is at the lower end of the scale for professional products).

One unique feature of this system is that the applicator brush (the disposable tool that comes with each kit that is used to apply the whitener to the patient's teeth) is impregnated with an activator (an agent that boosts the whitener's effectiveness).

Is a bleaching light required?

Shofu considers the use of a bleaching light to be optional. If one is used, then a standard dental "curing" is appropriate.

Curing lights are those units that a dentist uses to set dental composite (dental bonding). The output of these units is usually a blue to blue-green colored light.

(If a dentist does choose to use a light when they perform Niveous™ treatments, it will be one that they are already own and already use in conjunction with other dental procedures. Since there will be nothing new or extra to purchase, their expenses will be comparatively lower than with other professional whitening systems. Hopefully this savings will be shared with the patient.)

How long do treatments take?

Niveous™ treatments take about an hour. Each bleaching appointment is broken up into two separate applications of the whitener (a third is allowed at the dentist's discretion). Each application is then left in place for 15 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes of exposure. However, preparations and post-treatment wrap-up will typically round the appointment's total time up to a little less than an hour.

Are at-home follow-up treatments recommended?

Shofu Dental doesn't make a recommendation about the need for at-home treatments, with the exception of suggesting that it should be left up to the discretion of the dentist.

The whitening procedure.

Niveous™ treatments take the same format as any other in-office product. Note: The use of a bleaching light is considered to be optional.

 

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