Teeth Whitening Cost Guide: Know Your Options
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Table of Contents
- Stained Teeth
- Laser Whitening
- Supervised Whitening
- At-Home Bleaching
- At-Home Options
You look at someone’s smile for the very first time. What’s the first thing you notice? If you’re like the Americans in one study, crooked teeth will stand out first. But the next thing you’ll pay attention to is the color of the person’s teeth.
White, shining teeth are associated with health, wealth, and success. But if your teeth aren’t quite pearly, you’re not alone.
A daily cup of coffee or tea could leave stains behind. And some medications worsen the problem.
Laser Teeth Whitening
Your dentist applies a gel to all visible surfaces of your teeth, and a mouth guard holds your lips away. Sunglasses slide over your eyes, and a bright light shines on your teeth. The gel and the light work together to eliminate stains on your teeth.
Light-activated teeth whitening is available only through a dentist's office, and it isn't cheap. On average, people pay about $1,000 for laser teeth whitening.
Experts agree that this method is effective, but it's not right for everyone. For example, the high cost could put it out of reach for some consumers, and insurance companies rarely help you pay for this kind of care.
People with sensitive teeth may also choose to avoid laser teeth whitening. Researchers say the combination of chemicals and light can leave your enamel feeling weak and thin. Hot or cold drinks could bother you, and touching your teeth together could be uncomfortable.
Supervised Tooth Bleaching
You're not ready for a bright light to shine on your teeth and drive up the costs. But you want a doctor's help as you lighten your smile. In-office tooth bleaching could be right for you.
The process works like this:
- Get custom trays. Your dentist takes molds of your teeth, and they're used to create plastic receptacles for bleaching chemicals.
- Fill with whitening products. The trays are filled and then placed on your teeth. Your team might layer cotton or other materials on your gums to keep the agents from harming sensitive tissues.
- Wait. You stay in the office while the products do their work.
- Repeat. You come back on a schedule set by your dentist for another application of chemicals.
A process like this costs about $300, and dentists know that seems like a high price. Some experts soften the blow by offering payment programs, and others offer to bleach just one part of your teeth (like the uppers) to keep the price palatable.
At-Home Tooth Bleaching
Visiting a dentist means spending extra money. Professionals must train staff, rent a physical space, and buy equipment. All of those costs are pushed in your direction through added fees. At-home options can help to lower the price.
When you choose an at-home product, your dentist makes a set of bleaching trays. You sit for molds of your teeth, and your dentist gives you the completed products and an approved chemical to use.
Trays and products alone with no supervision aren't remarkably less expensive than supervised versions. Some say at-home trays cost $400. But since dentists set their own fees, some might charge just as much for this type of teeth whitening as a standard, in-office appointment for tooth care.
At-Home Whitening Options
Researchers say that at-home options provide less whitening power than their professional counterparts. Your teeth may get whiter, but they won't be as gleaming and white as they would be if you worked with a professional.
Common at-home products include:
- Toothpastes. Clean your teeth with a substance that also includes an abrasive (like charcoal) or bleach.
- Strips. Slide something onto your teeth for a few hours per day, and throw them away when you're done.
- Gels. Use an applicator to coat your teeth with something to lighten them.
- Trays. Slide a plastic piece over your teeth filled with a substance that can bleach them.
Prepare to pay between $10 and about $100 for products like this, depending on their strength and design. Shop around, and you may get a good deal.
Know that products like this do tend to be weak. Professional-grade products that lighten your teeth require application by a dental expert. But weak products aren't always safe. You could still have sensitive teeth when you're done, and you won't have a dentist available to advise you.
Whitening Survey, Summer 2012.pdf). American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Laser Teeth Bleaching: Evaluation of Eventual Side Effects on Enamel and the Pulp and the Efficiency in Vitro and in Vivo. (2015). The Scientific World Journal.
Bleaching Tetracycline-Stained Teeth. (January 2018). Inside Dentistry.
Efficacy of Do-It-Yourself Whitening as Compared to Conventional Tooth Whitening Modalities: An in Vitro Study. (October 2014). Operative Dentistry.
A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening. (September 2019). Dentistry Journal.
In-Office Teeth Whitening: Professional Advantages, Costs, and Options. Consumer Guide to Dentistry.