The quest for a whiter, brighter smile leads many people to a logical place: The dentist’s chair. In fact, whitening is one of the most common cosmetic dental treatments. Dentists have many options for professional teeth whitening that can meet different needs—and different budgets. What most people want to know before getting started is the bottom line: How much does teeth whitening cost?
The truth, as with many topics, is that it depends. However, patients should expect to pay somewhere between $300 – $1,000 for professional, in-office whitening treatments. Within that range are a variety of whitening options.
How Do Dentists Whiten Teeth?
While over-the-counter tooth whitening treatments you can do at home are available, they typically produce less dramatic results. In-office tooth whitening at the dentist is a great way to noticeably whiten teeth in a short period of time. Patients can expect to see results right away, with only one or two visits required. This is great news when preparing for a big event like a wedding or a graduation—or just wanting to improve the look of your smile in one afternoon.
Of course, results vary from patient to patient. A lot depends on the cause of the tooth stains in question. Deeper stains that have penetrated the tooth enamel are harder to remove than surface stains caused by food and drink.
Dentists whiten teeth in two ways. One is to use a mild abrasive to remove stains. The other is to use a bleaching agent, such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to change the color of the tooth enamel itself. Dentists use chemical solutions that are much more powerful than those found in over-the-counter products. Though they deliver results much faster, the chemicals can be harsh to teeth and gums, causing tooth sensitivity or irritation if used incorrectly.
A dentist can evaluate each patient’s case to determine which treatment will be effective and ensure safety throughout the procedure. This starts with a dental exam. Whitening treatments should only be used on healthy teeth. Any issues such as cavities or gum disease will need to be addressed before whitening can take place.
Costs For Teeth Whitening
There are several options dentists offer for whitening teeth. The cost for each depends on multiple factors. For instance, severe staining may need multiple treatments, while other cases may get by with one. Price can also vary greatly depending on the location of the practice across the country, as well as the number of years of experience the dentist has.
When considering cost, it is important to remember that tooth whitening is a cosmetic procedure. That means it is not covered by most dental insurance plans. However, some practices might offer a payment plan or a discount for paying cash up front. Budget savvy patients can be on the lookout for special offers and can consider seeking treatment at a dental school, where fees are typically lower.
Of course, the price for teeth whitening depends on the type of treatment the patient chooses, and there are several options.
When teeth are stained by dark foods like wine, tea, and coffee, or even from smoking, a good polish can help. Many stains can be removed with a powerful whitening toothpaste and polish during a routine dental cleaning. Getting teeth professionally cleaned regularly is a great way to keep a smile bright. Polishing may be enough to remove minor stains and is included in the price of a regular cleaning.
When discoloration goes deeper than surface stains that can be polished away, dentists can choose from a variety of powerful chemical treatments.
Opalescence Boost is a whitening gel that contains hydrogen peroxide and potassium nitrate. The hydrogen peroxide whitens and brightens teeth while the potassium nitrate helps strengthen the tooth enamel to reduce sensitivity and help prevent cavities. The gel has a distinctive red color that helps dentists see exactly where it gets applied and ensure that it is removed completely by the end of the treatment.
Opalescence Boost often requires only one visit to produce noticeable results. Though it uses strong chemicals, the whitening treatment is safe when administered by a dentist.
On average, an Opalescence Boost treatment takes about 1-2 hours and costs about $500.
Zoom! whitening also uses a strong hydrogen peroxide solution to lighten teeth. First, the dentist applies the bleaching agent to the patient’s teeth. Then they use an instrument that emits ultraviolet light to activate the solution. The light causes the chemicals in the solution to oxidize, lightening the tooth enamel in the process.
Because strong chemicals are used to bleach teeth, dentists follow strict protocols to protect teeth and surrounding tissue. Patients are also given protective eyewear when the ultraviolet light is in use.
Zoom! treatments usually require 1-3 visits, each with a 15 minute light treatment. This type of whitening usually costs around $300-600.
Laser teeth whitening
Laser whitening is similar to Zoom! in that it also uses a strong hydrogen peroxide solution for whitening. However, instead of ultraviolet light, the bleaching solution is activated using a special laser instrument. The laser heats the bleaching solution to help it oxidize. The dentist takes care to protect the patient when the chemicals and laser are in use.
The laser’s beam is small, so covering each tooth takes some time and skill for the dentist. Because this treatment requires more precision and a special laser, it tends to cost more—but whitening typically happens faster than with Zoom! treatments.
Laser teeth whitening costs approximately $500-1,000 and takes about one hour.
How Much is Teeth Whitening in Your Area?
The best way to understand which whitening option is best for you—and how much it will cost—is to discuss the options with a dentist near you. They will evaluate your dental health and recommend a treatment that is safe and effective.
To find a dentist near you that offers teeth whitening, try our online find a dentist tool.