Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that restores your teeth to their original color after they’ve been stained or discolored. The average cost of a professional teeth whitening is around $650, though laser whitening treatments can cost as much as $1,800. Over-the-counter and take-home teeth-whitening kits are much cheaper; however, their effects don’t last as long as teeth whitening that is performed by a professional. Alternative options to teeth-whitening treatments include teeth-whitening toothpaste, porcelain veneers, and dental bonding.
A perfect smile starts with white teeth. We all want those movie-star pearly whites that can light up a room. But how much does teeth whitening cost, and how can the average person afford to make their teeth look so spick and span?
Teeth-whitening treatments can help you feel your best, but they come in a wide range of price points. For example, a professional teeth whitening cost will end up being much more than the cost of an over-the-counter whitening kit. Finding the right teeth-whitening treatment for you (and your wallet) can help you gain that new-smile feeling everyone craves at an affordable price.
What is teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a procedure that restores your stained or discolored teeth to their original white color. This is a purely cosmetic treatment that doesn’t improve the health of your teeth in any way, only their outward appearance.
Teeth naturally become stained and yellow from eating and drinking, so a teeth whitening treatment can be used to remove stains and reverse tooth discoloration. In a way, teeth whitening can help improve your mental health by giving you more confidence in your smile.
What are the causes of teeth staining?
Teeth staining is typically caused by normal eating and drinking, though other factors can affect teeth color as well. Maintaining healthy habits can reduce the amount of staining that occurs in your teeth.
Eating and drinking habits
Certain foods and drinks can stain your teeth more than others. For example, certain drinks — like coffee, wine, and tea — contain tannins, which are chemicals that build up on your teeth and attract compounds that stain them, like proteins and sugars.
The nicotine contained in cigarettes leaves brown deposits on your teeth, which leads to staining and discoloration. Tobacco and nicotine can also harm your gums, leading to possible infections and gum disease.
Grinding your teeth wears down the enamel, which is the hard white substance that protects your teeth. Grinding away the enamel exposes the dentin, which is the yellow-colored layer that supports the enamel.
Darkening teeth is a natural part of the aging process, as the enamel slowly wears down over time. In essence, your teeth become more stained as you age, meaning the teeth-whitening process becomes less effective the older you get.
How can I get my teeth whitened?
There are several teeth-whitening options available to consumers that don’t necessarily require a trip to the dentist’s office. The proliferation of at-home teeth-whitening kits means practically anyone can whiten their teeth from the comfort of their own home.
Professional teeth whitening
You can get professional teeth-whitening treatments by going to your dentist’s office or to a dental practice. During a professional teeth whitening, your dentist places a high-concentration bleaching agent on your teeth that typically contains hydrogen peroxide, then they shine an LED light on your teeth to accelerate the bleaching process. Just one session can make your teeth two to eight shades whiter.
Some dentists also use a laser teeth-whitening treatment. This is a more expensive option than common professional teeth-whitening procedures, but it also causes less damage to your enamel. Laser whitening may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired results.
Over-the-counter teeth whitening kits
These kits, typically found in the form of strips, contain a whitening gel at a much lower concentration than what you’d find at a dental practice. These types of at-home whitening solutions aren’t considered to be as effective as a professional whitening treatment.
That said, take-home teeth-whitening kits are the cheapest whitening treatment available, and they allow you to whiten your teeth from the comfort of your own home.
Take-home teeth-whitening kits
With a take-home teeth-whitening kit, the dentist provides you with the materials and instructions to perform the whitening treatment at home. You will typically receive a whitening gel containing a low amount of hydrogen peroxide, which you can then apply to your teeth by placing it in a custom whitening tray.
How much does teeth whitening cost?
The cost of teeth whitening depends on whether you undergo an in-office teeth-whitening procedure at a dentist’s office or if you use over-the-counter treatments to whiten your teeth on your own.
Cost of teeth whitening at a dentist’s office
The average cost of an in-office teeth-whitening treatment at a dentist’s office is around $650. However, this cost can rise to over $1,000 depending on how much your dentist charges for such a treatment and the type of product that they use.
Despite this high cost, getting your teeth whitened at a dentist’s office will be considerably more effective than using an over-the-counter treatment. Your dentist is able to use a much stronger bleaching agent than is found in take-home whitening kits, meaning your teeth will be whitened faster and stay white for longer.
Cost of take-home teeth-whitening kits
Whitening your teeth at home using an over-the-counter teeth whitening product — such as teeth-whitening strips — will generally cost you around $20 to $40 per box. A box of teeth-whitening strips contains enough product to treat your teeth for a week or two.
You can also use over-the-counter trays to whiten your teeth. To use this treatment, simply place a whitening solution in the tray, then place it over your teeth yourself. These are typically under $100, though they are more expensive than whitening strips.
How to finance teeth whitening
There are many options when it comes to financing dental procedures like teeth whitening. Start by checking whether your dental insurance plan covers it. Most don’t, but some will cover at least a portion of the cost. Then ask your dentist if they have any deals or payment plans. Compare the rates and terms your dentist offers with those of the credit cards and personal loans available to you. Some credit cards offer 0% APR introductory offers that amount to an interest-free loan if you can pay it back in time.
Personal loans are another convenient option that can offer competitive rates and make it easy to budget. Check the lenders below to see what rates you qualify for without hurting your credit.
What alternatives are there to teeth whitening?
If you don’t want to deal with the cost of a teeth-whitening procedure or try a take-home whitening kit, here are some alternative options for teeth whitening that you can try:
Teeth-whitening toothpastes are the cheapest method you can use to whiten your teeth, as most such toothpastes only cost a few dollars. However, while it might help remove surface stains, it won’t make much of a lasting difference in the color of your teeth.
Veneers are thin porcelain overlays that are bonded to your teeth. The porcelain material gives the appearance of natural teeth and can be used to hide discoloration and other cosmetic issues. Porcelain veneers are strong enough to work like your natural teeth, and they allow you to eat, drink, and speak like you normally would.
In a dental-bonding procedure, the dentist applies a composite resin over a select number of teeth to conceal any stains or discoloration. The dentist can color the resin so it matches the shade of your normal teeth, giving it a more natural look. However, the composite resin is prone to staining itself, and it cannot remain white for an extended period of time as porcelain veneers can.
How much is it to get your teeth permanently whitened?
While you can’t get your teeth permanently whitened, you can maximize the effects of the teeth-whitening treatment so that it lasts as long as possible. A professional teeth whitening, while around $650 on average, will give you the longest-lasting effects and can put off maximal tooth discoloration for up to three years.
Avoiding habits like smoking, eating staining foods such as beets, and drinking dark liquids like tea and coffee will also help your teeth stay white for longer.
How long does teeth whitening last?
Depending on the condition of your teeth, the effects of a teeth-whitening treatment can last anywhere from six months to three years. Habits like smoking and drinking coffee, wine, or tea can cause your teeth to stain faster, which will affect the longevity of the teeth-whitening treatment.
How much does laser teeth whitening cost?
Laser teeth-whitening treatments typically cost anywhere from $300 to $1,800, depending on the number of sessions required and the type of system the dentist uses. Additionally, because the lasers don’t actually whiten your teeth themselves, the type of peroxide solution used by the dentist will be one of the main determining factors in the cost of the laser whitening treatment.
Does insurance cover teeth whitening?
Because teeth whitening is a cosmetic treatment, it is not considered necessary, so most insurance policies won’t cover it. That said, there are dental payment plans that offer a fixed percentage discount on whitening treatments. Dental loans are also available as a financing option.
Dental loans are generally only a good idea for work that is absolutely necessary for your dental health. You may want to consider whether it’s worth taking on debt for a teeth-whitening procedure, which is only cosmetic.
- Teeth whitening is a cosmetic procedure that restores teeth to their original color, as they can become yellow and stained over time.
- Eating and drinking, smoking, teeth grinding, and old age are all factors that can cause teeth discoloration.
- You can get your teeth whitened by going to the dentist and getting them treated professionally, purchasing an over-the-counter teeth-whitening kit, or using a take-home teeth-whitening kit given to you by your dentist.
- Professional teeth-whitening costs, on average, around $650. Laser whitening treatments, also done by a dentist, can cost even more. That said, getting your teeth professionally whitened is the most effective and durable teeth-whitening solution.
- Over-the-counter teeth-whitening kits, such as whitening strips, typically cost between $20 and $40.
- Take-home teeth-whitening kits from a dentist usually cost less than $100, though they are more expensive than over-the-counter solutions.
- Some alternatives to teeth-whitening treatments are teeth-whitening toothpaste, porcelain veneers, and dental bonding.
Need to get your teeth whitened or some other dental work done? Check out SuperMoney’s guide to the best dental loans, which can help you pay for the dental care you need when you’re short on cash.