How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?

by Team eLocal
Look of gratitude. Beautiful young woman sitting in a dentist chair and smiling at her dentist while he holding a mouth mirror and a probe for a checkup

Teeth can develop a yellowish or brownish hue with age (or regular coffee drinking), even if you do everything you can to keep your mouth healthy. If this sounds familiar, professional teeth whitening can transform your smile and give your teeth a healthier, more youthful appearance.

However, it's essential to understand how much teeth whitening costs before embarking on this potentially expensive treatment.

How Much Do Dentists Charge for Teeth Whitening?

According to the Consumer Guide to Dentistry, teeth whitening costs around $650 per visit when performed by a dentist. However, many people require two or more visits to achieve the look they want, increasing the overall cost of teeth whitening at the dentist to $1,300 or more.

A more affordable option is to purchase a take-home teeth whitening kit dispensed by your dental practice. These kits include custom-made trays to slot over your teeth and use a lower peroxide concentration than a teeth-bleaching service by a dentist. Therefore, you can safely leave the trays on your teeth for longer. Expect to pay between $100 and $400 for a custom-made, at-home teeth whitening set.

How Much Does DIY Teeth Whitening Cost?

You can purchase DIY teeth whitening kits from drug stores and pharmacies for significantly less than professional teeth whitening. The advantage of these kits is that they cost between $20 and $100.

However, DIY kits contain a lower peroxide concentration than dentist-dispensed kits, so they're unlikely to produce comparable results. Furthermore, DIY solutions come with one-size-fits-all trays, which could be an issue if the trays don't fit your teeth comfortably.

What Factors Affect How Much Teeth Whitening Costs?

The main factor affecting how much professional teeth whitening costs is the condition of your teeth. If you have light staining, you may only need a single session with your dentist for satisfactory results.

However, teeth whitening can take significantly longer (and cost substantially more) if you have severe staining. Consuming foods and beverages that tend to stain teeth can make whitening them more costly. Common culprits include coffee, red wine and cola. Smoking can also leave brown stains on your teeth and make them more expensive to treat.

Whether you have intrinsic or extrinsic staining can also affect the cost of teeth whitening. Intrinsic stains are superficial and affect the surface of the tooth enamel only, making them relatively quick and affordable to remove.

Meanwhile, extrinsic stains penetrate the enamel and affect the inside of the tooth. Extrinsic stains are more likely to occur if you grind your teeth or experience tooth trauma, as this can cause enamel cracks that allow stains to permeate the tooth. Dentists can often remove extrinsic stains with a combination of in-clinic treatments and take-home whitening kits. However, you'll usually have to pay more to cover multiple treatments.

Where you live can also contribute to dental treatment costs. Dentists typically charge more for teeth whitening and other dental procedures in areas with high living costs, such as major cities. Meanwhile, dental work often costs less in more affordable rural or semi-rural areas.

Does Dental Insurance Cover Teeth Whitening?

Most dental insurance plans exclude teeth whitening because it counts as a cosmetic procedure. In other words, your plan is unlikely to cover your treatment because it isn't medically necessary. You can check what treatments your insurer covers by consulting your policy documents or speaking to a customer service representative from your insurance company.

In the unlikely event that your insurer agrees to cover tooth whitening, it may not cover the entire cost. Companies offering coverage for teeth-whitening dentistry usually set a relatively low annual limit, so you'll need to pay the balance out of pocket.

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