It's inevitable that over time, your teeth will start to discolour, thanks to your diet, smoking habits and just the ageing process. Fortunately there they can easily be whitened again; the most effective method is to use bleaching agents in conjunction with a strong LED light. This can be done either at home with a kit bought from a store, or professionally at the dentist's surgery. Which of these options should you go for?

The main advantage of using a kit at home is the cost; many of these products can be bought very cheaply from a local store, saving hundreds of dollars in dental fees. Whitening treatments will not be covered by insurance.

Time and convenience are also a consideration. Home kits avoid the necessity for dental appointments, and need not take up so much time. You may also find it less stressful to undergo the treatment in the comfort of your home rather than at the dentist's surgery.

There are many advantages to having the work done professionally, however. Firstly, you have the peace of mind of knowing what you're getting. An at-home kit, especially one ordered online, may not contain what you expect, and could cause a risk to your health.

Secondly, a cosmetic dentist can achieve much better results by using stronger products. In Australia, a home kit can legally contain at most 6% hydrogen peroxide, or 18% carbamide peroxide, the bleaching agents that whiten the teeth. A professional can use products with much larger concentrations, leaving you with whiter teeth than you could achieve yourself.

Thirdly, dental treatment can provide immediate results. An at-home kit can take a couple of weeks to work, but whitening at a dental surgery can produce the maximum effect after a single session.

The treatment will last far longer if done professionally. The procedure will wear off eventually, however you have it done. But whereas an at-home kit can last for several months, professional whitening can last for anything from one to three years before another session becomes necessary.

Ultimately, it comes down to the old adage: you get what you pay for. Home kits produce good results, but if you can afford it, you should seriously consider having your teeth whitened at a dentist. The security of knowing you're getting a good job, and the far superior results you will achieve, will make the extra cost well worth it.