How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

professional teeth whitening at the dental office

Teeth whitening costs are so conservative, that it makes having your teeth professionally whitened one of the most price-savvy cosmetic treatments on the market. Even though teeth whitening costs at the dental office are more than what you’d spend on a kit from the store, their return on investment and efficacy makes them worth every penny! If you’re wondering about how much to get teeth whitened professionally, there are some things you’ll need to consider.

What Causes Discolored Teeth?

First and foremost, the cause of your tooth stain can impact teeth whitening costs. Understanding the reasons behind your tooth discoloration can help you decide how “strong” of treatment to get (and pay for) and minimize re-staining.[1]

Some of the most common causes of discolored teeth include:

  • Tetracycline antibiotics
  • Chlorhexidine prescription mouth rinse
  • Other medications such as antihistamines, antipsychotics, and blood pressure medicine
  • Past tooth trauma or enamel demineralization
  • Tobacco use
  • Inhalants
  • Swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • Tea, coffee, red wine, and soda
  • Foods like berries, curry, or tomato sauces (anything that would stain a white shirt)
  • Age
  • Environmental factors
  • Oral hygiene
  • Enamel erosion
  • Tartar buildup

Since your teeth are covered in thousands of tiny micro-pores (tubules) it’s possible for your enamel to naturally absorb stains from what your teeth are exposed to each day. Diet and lifestyle factors that include stain-causing habits will result in darker teeth than people who do not use those items.

Additionally, some of us just have naturally yellow teeth. And that’s completely normal. It might be our genetics to blame. All of us have a thick layer of yellow-colored “dentin” underneath our outer layer of tooth enamel. Dentin is naturally yellow and since enamel is semi-translucent, some of that yellow hue can shine through your smile.

How To Prevent Tooth Discoloration 

Good oral hygiene is the most important step in preventing tooth discoloration. Daily brushing and flossing in particular. By removing food debris on a frequent basis, you can limit the number of stain particles that soak up into your enamel.

Rinsing with water on a frequent basis is also helpful. Especially if you’re out and about without access to a toothbrush. Rinsing after you eat or drink anything (other than water of course) will help flush away stain particles to limit how much residue is left on your teeth.[2]

Drinking through a straw can help you limit stain buildup from dark beverages, such as coffee, tea, and soda. Since the liquid zooms straight past your front teeth, there won’t be as much of a chance for those stain particles to accumulate.

Always remember:

  • Avoid or limit stain-causing foods/drinks
  • Rinse with water after you eat
  • Brush twice daily (an electric toothbrush works best)
  • Floss once a day
  • Consider using a straw
  • Schedule professional dental cleanings at least every six months

Professional Whitening Cost 

How much to get teeth whitened professionally depends on which type of system you choose. Typically, we divide teeth whitening costs into two categories: in-office (same day) and take-home (custom trays). Because of the equipment, time, staff, and materials used, there is usually a fairly significant cost difference between the two.

The best way to save on whitening and other cosmetic treatments is by being prepared. Dental saving plans can help reduce costs by up to 60% off cosmetic treatments.

Professional Teeth Whitening Treatment TypeAverage Price
In-office Whitening (same day) $200 - $1,000
Custom Whitening Trays$100- $600
Custom Whitening Trays Refill $10 - $30
In-office Whitening plus Take-Home Whitening Trays $300 - $1,200

As an elective cosmetic procedure, teeth whitening costs are not covered by dental insurance. Meaning you’ll probably want to do a little investigative work to find the best pricing options before you commit to treatment.

Teeth whitening costs can be affected by things like brands your dentist uses, where the dentist's office is located, and add-on procedures such as the cost of an exam and X-rays to screen for decay ahead of treatment.

1) ZOOM! Whitening (Same Day)

ZOOM! Is one of the most tried-and-true same-day teeth whitening brands. This in-office treatment can be completed in about 1-2 hours, depending on how dark your teeth are.

The Process

Same-day whitening with ZOOM! involves polishing your teeth, having a protective isolation material placed over your gums, and a light-activated bleaching gel applied to your teeth. The procedure usually involves 3-4 applications, with each one lasting about 15 minutes. For an in-house treatment, how much to get teeth whitened professionally usually costs the most.

2) Opalescence (Take-Home Whitening Trays)

Custom take-home trays provide almost the same results as having your teeth whitened in the dentist’s office, except it’s spaced out over several days. Opalescence whitening gel comes in various solutions and concentrations, allowing your dentist to select the one that’s best for your tooth color, sensitivity level, and the ideal brightness.

The Process

Your dentist will need to take molds of your teeth to create the fitted bleaching trays. Apply a small dot of Opalescence bleaching gel inside of the tray at each tooth reservoir. Wear your trays as directed (usually 30-60 minutes per day) for 10-14 days. You can also keep your trays handy for touchups throughout the year.

At-Home Teeth Whitening Costs

One of the ways a lot of people try to minimize teeth whitening costs is to use over-the-counter whitening products. If you’re someone who only has mild to moderate dental stain, home whitening methods are just fine. The key is to use them correctly and exactly per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits are formulated for minimal sensitivity and efficacy. In other words, they’re safe for just about any adult or teen to use, as long as their mouth is healthy. The initial price for these systems is typically less than buying into professional treatment.

OTC Teeth Whitening Treatment TypeAverage Price
Whitening Strips$10 - $22
Whitening Trays (one size)$40 - $200
Whitening Toothpaste $3 - $18
LED Teeth Whitening Products $40 - $300

Types Of Over-The-Counter Teeth Whitening Products 

1) Whitening Strips $10 - $22

You can buy teeth whitening strips practically anywhere, including the grocery store, online, or even at your dentist’s office. Each strip is about the size of a bandage. All you do is peel and stick them to your teeth. The important thing to remember is to shape the strip to each tooth and along the gums.

As a commercial product, whitening strips do take a bit of time to see results. Most people will notice a difference in about 5-7 days with full results after a couple of weeks. Others may need to buy a second kit to get their teeth more than a few shades whiter.

2) Whitening Trays $40 - $200

Over-the-counter whitening trays use a “one size” whitening applicator instead of peel-and-stick strips. The trays may already be pre-loaded, or you might have to apply the gel inside of them each time you wear them. Keep in mind that with a non-custom stock tray you have less of an opportunity to shape it to your teeth. You can buy these kits at any major retailer or online. You can also find custom trays online as well.

Always consult with your dentist before trying direct-to-consumer oral products!

Commercial whitening trays take the same length of time to work as bleaching strips do because they use the exact same ingredients. As long as you wear them as directed, you can expect to see a few shades of improvement in about two weeks.

3) Whitening Toothpaste $3 - $18

You can find whitening toothpaste on any oral care aisle at the drugstore or supermarket. In fact, it seems like almost every toothpaste these days is formulated for whitening.

Whitening toothpaste works best for stain prevention and maintenance, as opposed to bleaching away discoloration that’s already there. It’s a great add-on to your other whitening routines to help you get the most of your results between dental checkups.

4) LED Teeth Whitening Products $40 - $300

Light-activated LED whitening kits use a combination of over-the-counter whitening trays and a small handheld lighting mechanism. They work by triggering oxidation to help remove stain particles more quickly. One of the things you’ll need to keep in mind about LED kits is that they require a bit more time and effort to use, so some people find them more cumbersome to work with.

Home LED whitening kits tend to give a little quicker result than other trays or strips you’ll find in the store.

Will My Insurance Cover Professional Teeth Whitening Services?

Since whitening your teeth is considered an “elective” or “cosmetic” procedure, you don’t technically need the service to keep your smile healthy. For that reason alone, teeth whitening costs usually aren’t covered by your dental insurance. You’ll be responsible for 100% of the fee, regardless of which type of teeth whitening kit you choose. That’s why choosing the best system can vary so much from one person to the next. Everyone has a different budget and timeline to work with.

The best way to save on whitening and other cosmetic treatments is by being prepared. Dental saving plans can help reduce costs by up to 60% off cosmetic treatments.

What To Expect From OTC Products

The most important thing you need to know about commercial teeth whitening products is that even if they claim to contain the same ingredients, they’re going to be weaker than the products you get directly from your dentist. Just like it’s impossible to go buy a prescription medication off of the shelf at the store, you can’t get the same concentration of whitening gel unless it’s administered by a licensed provider. As such, you won’t see the same brightness of results that you would with a professional-grade system.

The last thing to be aware of is that since you’re using a “one size” application process, it’s fairly common to see some areas of your teeth skipped over. It may not always conform to every single tooth surface. This scenario can lead to uneven results across your smile.

What To Expect From Professional Whitening

Having your teeth whitened by your dentist means that you’ll have access to a truly customizable experience that provides the best results. Your dental team can help you select the best concentration of gel for your tooth color, sensitivity level, and stain. Since the ingredients are highly concentrated, you’ll see dramatically whiter teeth (5-8 shades or more) in less time compared to over-the-counter systems.

You might be saying, “Well, yeah I’ll get better results, but those kits cost a lot more.” That’s not always the case. For professional teeth whitening, costs usually level out. Particularly because if you’re getting a custom set of trays made, you don’t have to re-purchase a brand new kit every time you want to touch up. You can usually stop by the dentist’s office once a year to get a refill syringe of whitening gel for less than a box of strips from the store.

Talk To Your Dentist

Before spending any money on whitening kits, be sure to have your dentist check your teeth and gums. Not everyone’s smile is healthy enough for whitening. While you’re there, ask your dentist which type(s) of whitening products would work best for your situation. Find a dentist here ->

Teeth Whitening FAQ

How Much Does It Cost To Get Teeth Whitened At The Dentist?

Professional teeth whitening will usually cost anywhere between $99 to $500 depending on where you live and the type of treatment you get. Some offices even offer it for free as part of a package.

How Often Should You Whiten Your Teeth?

One-time whitening can provide results for months. But you’ll see stain come back if you’re a heavy coffee, tea, wine, or soda drinker (or if you smoke.) Most people need to touch up their whitening 1-2 times per year.  

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive After Whitening?

Tooth sensitivity is the most common side-effect of whitening. The concentration of gel that you use and how often you’re applying it has a lot to do with this issue. Teeth whitening toothpaste in particular is known for causing chronic tooth sensitivity.  

What Is The Fastest Way To Whiten Teeth?

Hands-down, the fastest way to get white teeth is to have ZOOM! Whitening applied in your dentist’s office. You’ll see immediate results.  

How Long Should You Keep Whitening Strips On Your Teeth?

Most strips are meant to wear for 30-60 minutes. Do not keep them on any longer. Not only will doing so cause sensitivity or burns, but it also won’t make your teeth any whiter. Use them as directed.  

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