Teeth Whitening vs. Cleaning: How to Choose

Your teeth always seem whiter after a cleaning. But are they really? And is a cleaning a better choice than teeth whitening? Do the two procedures do the same thing? Why get your teeth cleaned? Why opt for teeth whitening? CHD is here to help with a comprehensive guide to teeth whitening, teeth cleaning, and how to figure out what’s right for you.

The inside skinny on teeth cleanings and whitening

  • A dental cleaning is a procedure that removes dental plaque, or biofilm, and tartar. 
  • Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that uses acidic products to lighten your teeth. 
  • A cleaning can make your teeth look whiter because it removes superficial discoloration. 
  • But if your lifestyle has left you with heavily stained teeth, we’ll recommend tooth whitening – after a check-up, of course!

What different whitening treatments are available? 

There are two types of teeth whitening treatments:

Home whitening 

Home whitening starts with creating custom trays made to fit your teeth (no one else can borrow them!).

The rest is easy. You just apply a hydrogen peroxide-based whitening product inside the trays once a day.

The product stays active for several hours and is available in two different strengths. Depending on which product strength you pick, you’ll need to wear your trays for about 90 minutes during the day or overnight.

Some patients prefer to sleep through their daily treatment, others prefer the shorter daytime option. The choice is yours!

No matter which one you pick, you will need to stick with it daily for about two weeks. Then it’s up to you to decide when you’re happy with the color you’ve achieved.

In-office whitening

In-office whitening uses a similar but much stronger whitening product.

The product we use for in-office treatments is very similar to the bleach used on hair. That means it’s essential to protect all your soft tissues, including your gums, cheeks, and lips, before we get started.

Several layers are successively applied and activated with a blue light until we reach your desired color.

At the end of your treatment, we’ll provide tips on maintaining your shiny new smile as long as possible.

How much does teeth whitening cost? 

Teeth whitening costs between 390 and 750 CHF, depending on whether you opt for home or in-office treatment.

Our home treatment option costs 390 CHF, while combining in-office and home treatments for optimal results costs 750 CHF.

Once your custom trays have been made, future whitening treatments cost just 20 CHF each.

The home treatment option for 390 CHF includes:

  • Taking impressions to make custom trays
  • Laboratory costs
  • A kit containing 3 weeks’ worth of whitening products and tips for optimizing your treatment
  • A dazzling smile!

The 750 CHF option includes an in-office whitening treatment plus home whitening.

In-office treatment alone is not a full whitening since it is only temporary. That’s why at CHD we only offer in-office treatments combined with home treatment.

For 750 CHF, you get:

  • A 2-hour whitening agent product application session in our office
  • A complete home whitening treatment (worth 390 CHF)

So what’s the difference between cleaning and whitening?

What’s a cleaning?

A dental cleaning is a procedure that removes tartar and dental plaque both above and below your gums. That means it also removes superficial stains. Your teeth will also be polished at the beginning or end of your appointment to smooth their surface and prevent staining and buildup.

What’s teeth whitening?

Professional teeth whitening is a procedure that lightens your teeth from the inside, to varying degrees. It uses tooth-friendly acidic products that penetrate into the second layer of your teeth and can make them up to six shades lighter.

Teeth whitening isn’t a cleaning

Getting your teeth cleaned won’t really whiten them, but it does remove most superficial stains thanks to polishing, especially with the latest air polishing technology.

That will make your teeth look a little whiter by eliminating superficial stains from things like coffee and tobacco. But if your teeth are yellowing or very worn, cleaning and polishing won’t do the job, since they only remove superficial discoloration. To do that, you’ll need a whitening treatment, which can be done in a single session.

Can you have your teeth whitened without getting them cleaned?

Since tooth whitening actually cleans the second, inner layer of your teeth, it’s essential to clean the outside layer and remove superficial staining by getting them cleaned and polished.

It’s also key to make sure your mouth is healthy before starting a cosmetic treatment like whitening.

At CHD, we require a full dental exam and provide personalized advice on at-home care before providing whitening services. That keeps stains from coming back too fast, so you can enjoy your pearly white smile as long as possible.

What are the different steps involved in teeth whitening? 

Here’s your step-by-step guide to in-office whitening:

  • Step 1 is cleaning and polishing your teeth

Remember that you need to have had a dental cleaning within the past 3 months to be eligible for whitening! Whitening doesn’t work on plaque and tartar, so any plaque and tartar on your teeth will show up as stains.

Tartar also forms a barrier that keeps the whitening product from fully penetrating your teeth.

  • We protect your soft tissue (gums, lips, cheeks, etc.) with a hardening paste. We position a saliva ejector and protective glasses
  • Your hygienist applies the first layer of product with a brush.

This whitening agent, carbamide peroxide, contains the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide, which is activated by a blue light for several minutes.

Once the product has penetrated your teeth, a second layer is applied and activated with the light. These cycles can be repeated multiple times until the target color is obtained, a process that takes about 2 hours.

  • We remove the protective equipment and in some cases apply a desensitizing gel
  • We provide you with post-operative instructions, particularly about what you should eat to keep your teeth white as long as possible

Here’s your step-by-step guide to home whitening:

  • We take impressions of your teeth
  • We make a custom tray that fits your teeth and arch. You can keep your tray for life to take advantage of future whitening treatments for just 20 CHF each!
  • We give you the tray and advice on how to use it
  • You apply the whitening gel to the side of the tray that fits against the outer side of your teeth as evenly as possible. Use just one dose of product per day, whether you choose the day or night option.
  • Clean the tray after each use and dry it to keep humidity from stagnating on the inside. Store your tray in the box the hygienist provided at your appointment.


How much does teeth whitening cost?

Depending on the technique used, teeth whitening costs 390.- to 750.- at CHD. For more information, you can check our detailed price guide.

How much does a cleaning cost?

An adult cleaning including polishing and a check-up costs 140.-. For children under 10, it costs 79.-. Check out the full Clinique Hygiène Dentaire price guide.

How to get in touch with CHD Dental Hygiene Clinic?

Feel free to contact the CHD Dental Hygiene Clinic by phone, email, or WhatsApp. We are delighted to welcome you in our dental clinics in Geneva, Meyrin, Lausanne, and most recently Yverdon!