Teeth Whitening in a Salon vs at the Dentist

Apr 29, 2020 | Professional Teeth Whitening | 0 comments

We’re the teeth whitening experts! Let us explain the differences you can expect between teeth whitening in a salon vs at the dentist. In this article we’re comparing a teeth whitening treatment done in a salon to a teeth whitening treatment done at the dentist – in the USA. However, the same differences that apply to salons apply to any non-dental teeth whitening professional.

Gel Strength

At a Salon

The strongest gel that we recommend for use in a salon is 16% hydrogen peroxide or 16% HP. We determined this to be the perfect combination of whitening power while minimizing the potential for tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. Because of its dramatic whitening power, this gel MAY NOT BE USED IN A TRAY. That’s why our founder developed the paint-on system where the gel is painted on the visible parts or your teeth without touching your gums.

At the Dentist

Dentists may use teeth whitening gel that is twice the strength of what a salon may use, up to 36% HP and even higher. However, they usually won’t use such strong gel because of the extreme tooth sensitivity that comes with it. The reason they can use stronger gel is that they can apply a gingival barrier to your gums to protect your gums from the oxidizing effects of strong whitening gel. Many dentists choose to use the 16% HP gel, just like salons because it is fast, effective, safe, and gentle.

Application Method

At a Salon

Anyone who is not a dental professional may not apply teeth whitening gel to another person’s teeth. Therefore, when you go to the salon to whiten your teeth, you can expect to apply the gel to your teeth yourself. Your cosmetic teeth whitening technician will guide you and assist you during the process. It’s easy. If you can use a tooth whitening pen, you can do this! Expect anywhere from 1-3 applications of gel during your visit.

At the Dentist

At the dentist, the dentist or dental hygienist will apply the whitening gel to your teeth directly. If you choose whitening gel stronger than 16% hydrogen peroxide, they will also apply a gingival barrier to your gums. Expect anywhere from 1-3 applications of gel during your visit, just like at the salon. If you choose gel stronger than 16% HP, you might not be able to tolerate more than one application if you have sensitive teeth.



Teeth whitening results depend on variables controlled by your dentist or salon such as gel strength, how long the gel is on your teeth, and how many back-to-back applications you receive. However, your results also depend on YOU! That’s right. Your habits, age, tooth porosity, natural tooth color, how much you salivate, and the age, degree, and types of stains you have, ALL affect your results.

All things being equal, if you receive three back-to-back 20-minute applications of 16% HP gel from your dentist or your salon, your results will be the SAME! Most people are extremely thrilled with their results either way.

The main difference is that if you have stubborn stains, your dentist can give you more whitening power with a stronger gel and a gingival barrier. Expect some tooth sensitivity or zingers, though.



Expect the cost to be higher at the dentist because a dentist has specialized knowledge and education that was very costly to acquire. A dentist also tends to have a more expensive office and staff. Finally, you receive a higher level of service in that your dentist probably has your dental history and can make more personalized recommendations. Your dentist can also apply the gel to your teeth for you and he/she may even be able to give you something for sensitivity. Treatments requiring the application of a gingival barrier or custom fitted trays will definitely be significantly more expensive but these are services above and beyond those that a salon is allowed to offer you. 

After Care


Both dentists and salons can send you home with take-home whitening kits so that you may further extend your in-office results at home, particularly if you have stubborn stains. However, only a dentist can prepare custom fitted mouth trays for you. These usually come at a much higher cost because the dentist has to take impressions and have them specially made just for you.

If you choose to continue whitening at home, your salon will give you either thermo-forming trays or a pre-formed tray. Pre-formed trays have the least custom fit. With custom-fitted mouth trays from your dentist, you receive a better seal against saliva that breaks down the teeth whitening gel. You can also wear the trays for a longer time or even over night.

As far as the gel is concerned,  you can expect to take home the same kind of teeth whitening gel from your dentist or your salon. We recommend 36% carbamide peroxide for home whitening for most people.

Be sure to closely follow all of your after-care instructions.

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