When a product works better and faster than the competition, people expect a higher price. Teeth whitening is no different. That is not to say that an inexpensive product from the drugstore won’t work to brighten teeth in some cases. But overall, professional whitening at a dental office tends to get better, more consistent results. It is, however, more expensive and the cost of laser whitening is usually at the top of the price list.
It is important to know how laser teeth whitening works and how it compares to other methods. Then the patient can make an informed decision as to whether the additional cost is worth it.
How Much is Laser Teeth Whitening?
It is difficult to give an absolute answer about the cost of any dental treatment. Prices vary widely across the country for everything from a dental office visit to a cavity filling to a whitening treatment. A rough estimate for the cost of laser whitening is $600 to $800, although a patient might pay anywhere between $400 and $1000, depending on their location and the availability of the service.
A similar whitening method using ultraviolet light instead of a laser (Zoom! is a popular brand with many dentists) is a bit cheaper, averaging around $500.
Professional teeth whitening at the dentist is a significant investment, especially compared to the numerous over-the-counter options that are available. But having a professional in charge of whitening teeth has definite advantages. Dentists have more powerful products and sophisticated tools at their fingertips. They will also make sure that the process is as safe as possible from start to finish. All of these things, along with their professional expertise, factor into the price a patient pays for services like laser whitening.
How Whitening Works at a Dentist’s Office
Teeth whitening done at a dental office involves the use of a whitening gel that includes either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide as its active ingredient. Dentists are allowed to use solutions that contain a much higher concentration of peroxide than store-bought products (roughly 25-35% vs. 7-10%). The higher strength of the chemical agents can mean seeing a noticeable change after just one sitting. Do-it-yourself methods often need multiple treatments over several weeks or months to get desired results.
With laser whitening, the dentist uses a laser tool to activate the peroxide solution. This creates a chemical reaction called oxidation which boosts the peroxide’s whitening powers.
Dentists take special precautions to make sure the procedure is as safe as possible. First, patients will undergo a full checkup to make sure their teeth and gums are healthy. Teeth whitening chemicals can be harsh, so if there are cavities or gum disease, the dentist will recommend fixing those before trying to whiten.
Even in a healthy mouth, patients can experience sensitivity to the surrounding gum tissue and the teeth themselves. To reduce this, the dentist will start the procedure by applying a gel along the gum line. The substance hardens to keep the peroxide solution away from the soft tissue. The dentist will give the patient protective safety glasses to wear whenever lasers or ultraviolet light are used.
The whitening process involves brushing the peroxide solution on the teeth. The dentist will then move the laser tool over the teeth to activate the chemicals. The entire process takes about an hour.
Does a Laser Really Work Better?
Lasers by them themselves do not whiten teeth. They are merely a tool to help the peroxide solution do its job faster, giving patients whiter teeth in less time than some other treatments.
It is important to note that any teeth whitening, even laser whitening, is temporary. To keep the same level of brightness, the treatments typically must be repeated about every six months to two years. The dentist will often recommend the addition of at-home whitening trays to use between visits to help maintain the desired shade on the teeth.
Since similar results are achievable with other products, such as ultraviolet whitening, some might wonder if the cost of laser whitening is worth it. Many dentists stand by laser whitening as their preferred method and many patients swear by the results. Each patient should discuss their individual situation with their dental professional to see if it will work well for them.
Lasers and Hard-to-Whiten Teeth
Unfortunately, some teeth can not be whitened, even by lasers. Stains that come from smoking, coffee, wine, and other outside factors (called extrinsic stains) respond well to teeth whitening. Intrinsic staining is much harder, and sometimes impossible to remove. These are things that come from internal sources such as heredity, aging, tooth decay, some antibiotics, and illnesses.
This is another good reason to consult a dentist for any teeth whitening. They will be able to determine the treatment that will work best for the particular stain. If the discoloration is permanent, not only will the patient save the cost of laser whitening, but they won’t waste time and money on over-the-counter items that won’t work either. Instead, they may wish to consider veneers or dental bonding. Both are procedures that cover the entire front of the tooth.
Help With the Cost of Laser Whitening
Because it is a cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening is not covered by insurance. Even if a patient’s dentist tells them they are a good candidate for it, the cost of laser whitening might make it difficult to get started. Many dental practices run special offers or have payment plans to help patients pay in installments.
Dental credit cards like CareCredit are another option. They give patients the opportunity to get any number of dental or medical procedures done and pay for them over time.
If laser whitening sounds like the answer to brightening your smile, start by seeing a dentist. You can find one in your area that provides laser teeth whitening by clicking on our online search tool. It will start the process of making an appointment to get you on the path to whiter teeth.