How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost and Is It Worth It?

Looking at all the pearly white smiles on television may have you wondering what you can do to brighten your own smile. As you may have guessed, a Hollywood smile requires more than good dental hygiene. Discoloration of the teeth is not always the result of a poor brushing and flossing regimen. It can also result from the foods and beverages you frequently consume, habits such as smoking, and even simply age. So, what do you do when you practice stellar dental hygiene, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough? If you have been in search of a smile fit for the big screen, teeth whitening could be your key. When thinking about having your teeth whitened, there are many factors to consider: teeth whitening cost, preferred method, and your candidacy for teeth whitening.

Read on to compare teeth whitening costs and methods and to determine if you may be a candidate.

What Is Teeth Whitening?

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Teeth whitening is a process that removes discoloration from the teeth and restores them to a whiter shade. The teeth whitening process often involves a bleach-based whitening agent. Teeth whitening can be done at home or in a professional office setting.

​At Home Methods

Many people enjoy methods of teeth whitening that can be implemented from the comfort of their home. Besides the convenience, at home methods reduce your teeth whitening cost. Below are the common methods of teeth whitening that can be done at home.

​Bleach Strips

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Bleach strips are over-the-counter strips made of a flexible material that contains a gel and bleach solution. The strip is fitted over the teeth and left on for 5-30 minutes, depending on the brand. The strips are usually applied twice a day. Most brands claim results can be seen within 10 days.

​Bleaching Trays

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Bleaching trays are like bleaching strips, except they are pre-formed. Some bleaching trays are pre-treated with a bleach solution, while others will come with the solution in syringes to apply to the tray with the user’s discretion. Bleaching trays typically must be left on longer than bleaching strips, and sometimes an overnight application is recommended. A dentist can provide bleaching trays that are a custom mold of your teeth.

​LED Light Home Whitening Kits

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LED home whitening kits can be purchased to whiten teeth at home. LED lights do not whiten teeth on their own. These kits come with a tray to which a tooth-whitening agent is applied. The LED lights accelerate and improve the results of the tooth-whitening agent compared to using the tooth-whitening agent on its own.

​Professional Methods

There are many advantages to having your teeth whitened professionally. In-office teeth whitening is performed in the dentist’s office, meaning the client is in a safe and carefully monitored environment. Dentists can use a higher concentration of bleaching gel than what is available over-the-counter. This provides faster and more dramatic results. While professional methods tend to be safer and more effective, you will find that your teeth whitening cost is considerably higher than the over-the-counter methods.

​Deep Bleaching

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Deep bleaching is a multi-phasic process known for whitening stains many other methods cannot and producing long-lasting results.

At the first appointment, the dentist will get impressions of your teeth to make custom trays from vinyl that contain reservoirs for the whitening agent. These custom trays keep the whitening agent sealed inside, protecting the gums safe from irritation. This first visit takes about 30 minutes.

The next visit is called a “conditioning visit,” and its purpose is to make the teeth more permeable to oxygen. This is done by polishing the teeth with pumice powder followed by applying two coats of a desensitizing-conditioning agent. From here, the custom-made bleaching trays are filled with a nine percent hydrogen peroxide gel and applied to the teeth for two 20-minute intervals. They then apply two more coatings of desensitizer. The conditioning visit takes about one hour.

At the end of the conditioning visit, you are sent home with a kit to use overnight for two weeks. The kit contains the custom trays, a whitening agent, and a tooth desensitizer. The kit will whiten your teeth and make them more permeable to oxygen.

After two weeks of treatment at home, you will return to the dentist for a power bleaching session. The dentist will use a nine percent or a 27 percent hydrogen peroxide solution, depending on the efficacy of the bleach trays that were used at home. This appointment takes about an hour.

For maintenance, you use your bleaching trays overnight once every one to three months, unless directed otherwise by your dentist.

Deep bleaching can be a long and costly process. For those who prefer a more budget-friendly professional teeth whitening experience, there are several brand-name whitening systems being used in dental offices. Below are examples of these systems.

​BriteSmile

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BriteSmile can be performed in the dentist’s office or at a BriteSmile facility. This whitening procedure will use one of two hydrogen peroxide gels that differ in concentration. If the procedure is performed in a BriteSmile facility, the hydrogen peroxide gel will have a 15 percent concentration. If the procedure is performed in a dentist’s office, a gel with a 25 percent concentration will also be available.

In the BriteSmile procedure, the gels are applied to the teeth 3 times for 20 minutes each. During these applications, a blue light is directed at the teeth. This process takes around an hour.

​Opalescence Boost

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This whitening system uses a hydrogen peroxide gel with a 38 percent concentration. This gel also contains a mix of potassium nitrate and fluoride called PF. This patented component makes Opalescence Boost an attractive option because the PF helps to reduce the risk of tooth sensitivity and strengthens enamel. A blue light is not used in Opalescence Boost. This process can take 1-2 hours.

Zoom! Chairside

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Zoom! Chairside is like BriteSmile in many ways. It uses a 25 percent hydrogen peroxide gel, a chairside lamp, and the gel is applied in three intervals. Each application lasts for 15 minutes. Once the whitening gel applications are complete, a fluoride paste is applied to the teeth to reduce sensitivity. The Zoom! system also sends clients home with a touch-up kit containing custom-fitted whitening trays. This process takes around an hour.

Professional whitening treatments are not for everybody. With age, teeth will often develop a transparent quality, especially the front teeth. If you have transparency in your teeth, teeth whitening is probably not for you. If you have highly sensitive teeth or gums, your dentist will probably recommend a take-home bleaching kit with a whitening agent less potent than hydrogen peroxide.

How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

Teeth whitening costs can vary depending on the method used. Over-the-counter methods are the cheapest. Bleaching strips and trays will cost anywhere from $20-$50. The price range of an LED home whitening kit is anywhere from $20 to $100.

Professional teeth whitening will cost more. On average, deep bleaching costs about $1250. The name brand whitening systems start around $400 and go up to about $600.

If you really want teeth whitening done professionally but can’t afford the entire cost upfront, you can ask your dentist’s office what they offer for payment plans. You can also look for third-party financing. Some medical financing companies will provide loans for cosmetic dentistry with attractive repayment plans. If you don’t know where to start, the administrative staff at your dentist’s office may be able to help.

Expected Results

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The results of teeth whitening vary from person to person as they are influenced by factors such as age, genetics, and type of staining. People with organic teeth stains—such as those caused by aging, consumption of certain foods, and tobacco use—will usually have very favorable results from teeth whitening treatments.

Some inorganic stains have proven to be resistant to even professional whitening procedures:

  • ​Stains that are present due to trauma
  • ​Stains caused by certain antibiotics administered during tooth-formation
  • ​Stains caused by overexposure to fluoride

If you have resistant staining from inorganic sources, you may want to consider bonding, crowns, or veneers.

It is important to note that there isn’t a permanent solution for white teeth. Whether a professional whitens your teeth or you do treatments at home, maintenance will be required.

Conclusion

If you are unhappy with your teeth and are considering whitening them, try a home method first. The teeth whitening cost of an over-the-counter product may achieve the results you want at a fraction of the price. If you are unhappy with the results or find they are not as dramatic as you had hoped, you can always seek a professional whitening treatment at that point. If teeth whitening costs are holding you back, remember to look into third-party financing or payment plan options at your dentist’s office. If you are not happy with your teeth, it can make you feel self-conscious and even reluctant to smile. Having your teeth whitened can give you a major boost in confidence and will probably leave you smiling more than ever.

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