How do I compare bleach products?

There is a vast number of bleaching products out there. Anything from over the counter options, to doctor dispensed take-home trays, and in-office bleaching. But did you know that just because one bleach is labeled a higher percentage, it does not necessarily mean it is stronger?

Let’s talk about how to compare the strength of tooth whitening agents.

Not all tooth whitening is created equal. All bleaching agents break down into a gel form of hydrogen peroxide. This is what does the actual whitening, but that doesn’t mean it is hydrogen peroxide that is in your bleaching gel. The active ingredient in bleaching gel comes in two formations: Hydrogen peroxide and Carbamide peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is already in its active form, carbamide peroxide breaks down into ⅓ the amount of hydrogen peroxide. That means a concentration of 30% Carbamide Peroxide to equal 10% Hydrogen Peroxide.

That asks the question, why bother with something that is only ⅓ as strong? The reason is the duration of action. If your bleaching agent’s active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, then it is actively working for about 30-60 minutes before that hydrogen peroxide is spent. Carbamide peroxide breaks down much slower. That means it remains actively bleaching for up to 8 hours. Some types of stains need more contact time with the bleaching agent to be removed. Also, the slower bleaching process usually gives you less sensitivity. Both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide have been shown to have equal results in bleaching as long as the equivalent hydrogen peroxide percentage is the same.

There are multiple whitening options out there and knowing their relative strengths can help you decide what product is right for you. Typical over the counter bleaches you get from the store average about 6% hydrogen peroxide. The bleach gels your dentist dispenses for you to use in your custom trays are anywhere from 10%-35% carbamide peroxide. This is the equivalent of about 3% to 12% hydrogen peroxide. The in-office bleaching where you sit in the chair and we monitor your progress is about 30%-40% hydrogen peroxide. This is 3-4 times stronger than anything you can use at home. 

So which bleach option is the best? That depends on a lot of factors and we always look to cater those to the individual. Knowing what option is best for you starts with a thorough exam, so if you are interested in whitening please do not hesitate to call our office. I look forward to hearing from you!