- In-office bleaching
- Home-use professional whitening
- Internal bleaching
- OTC products
- Associated procedures
- Save money
You may find yourself startled by the price on the bill for teeth bleaching. Professional whitening costs $300 on average per each arch! But it can change your entire look and boost confidence greatly.
The price quoted above is very steep. What’s more, it doesn’t include additional procedures which you might need to do. So, can you make your smile white affordably?Creative Commons
Teeth whitening cost
Bleaching your teeth will temporarily brighten them and remove staining. External whitening is used in simple cases. If your situation is more severe (dead tooth or RCT discoloring) you might need internal bleaching or even veneers or crowns.
If your staining is caused by tetracycline or smoking you may have to drag out the procedure and be billed on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. This could be more expensive, since it is harder to determine how many treatments will be needed.
|Whitening type||Average cost||Cost range|
|External in-office (per tooth)||$70||$40-$275|
|External in-office (per arch)||$300||$125-$625|
|External for home application (per arch)||$250||$75-$500|
|Internal (per tooth)||$300||$75-$500|
|External, OTC products||$150||$25-$200|
Have a look at the calculator below. You can change the options around to see what combination is most affordable.
External in-office bleaching
External teeth whitening means bleaching the tooth from the outside, rather than from the inside. It is less complicated, and therefore cheaper, than internal bleaching.
First of all, your dentist will conduct an X-ray to make sure you are a candidate for teeth whitening. You should remember this when estimating your budget for bleaching.
Dr. Namrita Harchandani
We do our routine exam and imaging and see if there is no decay and only then do we recommend whitening. If it is an existing patient and we have records, we don’t take any images.
A whitening product, usually containing hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, is applied. Lasers and LED devices can be used to speed up the process, but this drives up the costs.
The price for professional bleaching includes the guarantee that there will be little to no side effects other than sensitivity. Bleaching teeth in-office also gives you results right away, so you are paying for instant effects. OTC products generally need to be used for a few weeks.
External bleaching for home application
Take-home kits are a compromise between OTC products and having your teeth whitened in-office. It is still a lot safer than working completely on your own, as the dental professional can choose the correct product and adjust the dosage. It is, however, more expensive.
You will firstly be paying for a personal assessment on whether you qualify for bleaching at all. If you do, a custom tray will be made. It will fit your mouth perfectly and ensure even coverage of the product.
The solution will be stronger than what you might get online or at the drugstore. That’s what makes it more expensive. You will probably get a set of trays and gel-filled syringes. Sometimes kits consist of pre-filled trays only.
This treatment is cheaper than whitening your teeth in the office, as you spend less time “in the chair”. This means that the dentist will not have to be compensated for as much of their time.
Internal bleaching is a complicated process that must be done by a skilled professional. This is what makes it the most expensive form. The procedure involves drilling a small hole inside a discolored tooth and inserting a bleaching solution. A temporary filling closes off the hole and the process can be repeated as necessary.
This method of whitening is meant for singular teeth that have become discolored due to, mainly, root canal work. Other indications include necrosis (discolored dead teeth) or intrapulpal haemorrhage (bleeding inside the tooth).
Internal bleaching can only be done at the office and may require up to six visits. It involves a lot of “meet, greet, and seat” time which drives up the costs.
Teeth whitening at home (OTC products)
You can whiten your teeth at home using products such as whitening pens or toothpaste. This is the most affordable option in terms of professional-grade solutions.
There are also alternative methods that cost even less, for example charcoal or baking soda, but dentists usually advise against them.
The most common OTC method is using a combination of a bleaching gel and LED light. These come in “ kits” such as Snow Teeth Whitening. They include universal trays that have to be filled with the product and a light that fits inside the mouth.
For this method of teeth whitening you won’t have to visit the dentist at all, you can simply order it online. This reduces the cost greatly.
It is, however, prudent to visit the dentist prior to working on your own, to make sure you are a good candidate. A check-up is a cost you should include in your whitening budget.
|Procedure||Average cost||Cost range|
|Fluoride gel carrier||$150||$30-$350|
There are some procedures associated with teeth whitening other than the treatment per se. The dentist will be the one making the final decision as to what is needed.
Before the teeth can be whitened one has to make sure they are a good candidate. This means there cannot be significant decay, gum disease, or other infections. A dentist will assess the mouth and decide whether any work needs to be done before whitening.
Other contraindications to whitening are pregnancy, tooth sensitivity, cracks, or exposed dentin. Also, if you have had work done on your front teeth it’s good to check that the materials used will change color as well. If you are having your periodic exams every six months, you will know what is going on inside your mouth.
Consider the costs of dental X-rays when whitening your teeth. They can show the tooth from the crown to the tip of the root (below the gums). Decay that isn’t visible to the human eye can also show up.
You can expect a bitewing and a periapical radiograph. You can learn more about dental X-rays and their types in our article.
Sometimes the dentist can bleach the teeth over existing plaque. More often than not, however, he or she will advise you to have a prophy (a professional cleaning).
If you have your teeth cleaned every six months, as advised by the ADA, this extra step will probably not be necessary. More often than not, however, patients will skip this routine procedure, allowing plaque buildup.
This procedure is a mixture of chemical and mechanical treatment. A small amount of tooth enamel is removed to get rid of discoloration.
This only works on the surface. Microabrasion targets both extrinsic and intrinsic staining. The former includes dietary or lifestyle choices (tobacco, wine) and the latter is most commonly caused by disease.
This treatment is common among those affected by fluorosis (high exposure to fluoride in the first eight years of one’s life). If your teeth aren’t fully erupted it will be difficult to place the rubber dam. Other than that there are no contraindications to this procedure.
Fluoride gel carrier
Fluoride can help prevent decay and strengthen the enamel, and that’s why it is included in our tap water. Sometimes the dentist might recommend using a fluoride gel carrier after whitening to remineralize the teeth. It works similarly to bleaching trays.
A custom tray that will fit your mouth perfectly will be made at the office. You will wear it with fluoride serum for about five minutes every day. It is important not to rinse your mouth or eat anything for thirty minutes after doing this.
Does insurance cover teeth whitening?
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that your insurance will cover the costs of teeth whitening. This procedure is deemed cosmetic, and providers are reluctant to cover anything that is not medically necessary.
If you do manage to convince your policy provider to cover some of the related costs, maybe a dental exam, or a prophy prior to bleaching, you will have to deal with a lot of paperwork. There are other ways to save on this procedure though.
How to save money on teeth bleaching?
You can try a dental plan. They offer discounts on all medical procedures. There is a regular fee you have to pay, like a membership, but there are no yearly caps. This way you don’t have to worry about which of your procedures are more important. There is also no paperwork.
Another option is to just bleach the top arch. Often patients who opt to do this don’t come back to whiten their bottom arch, as it’s just not visible. Some offices, however, might offer to bleach the bottom arch free of charge (or rather, it is included in the price for the top).
Dental schools offer many services at a smaller cost. You have to take into account, though, that dental students might take more time than a professional. Each step also has to be graded, which drags the procedure out even more.
Lastly, you can simply order a kit online or visit the drugstore. Whitening can be done from home, and at a much smaller cost too.
What is your experience?
Professional tooth bleaching can be very expensive. It can be disappointing to find out that insurance won’t cover the costs, especially as this procedure is increasingly popular.
How much does it cost to get teeth whitened in your area? Tell us about your experience in the comments.