How much does teeth whitening cost? What additional costs could you expect?

Namrita Harchandani

Written by Namrita Harchandani DMD, Nichole McKenna DDS, Jack Lawrence DMD, Matthew Stewart DDS

You may find yourself startled by the price on the bill for teeth bleaching. Professional whitening costs $300 on average per 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?

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Cost of teeth whitening examined

In-office teeth whitneing

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

The costs of teeth whitening near you range from $25 (for OTC products) up to $1,300 (when having both arches done professionally).

WHITENING TYPEAVERAGE COSTCOST 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

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.

Namrita Harchandani

Namrita Harchandani, DMD

Major cost factors are quality and safety of whitening products used and the expertise of the dental professional ensuring that best results are achieved while avoiding any side effects.

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.

Associated costs

Professional teeth cleaning

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

There are some procedures associated with teeth whitening other than the treatment per se.

PROCEDUREAVERAGE COSTCOST RANGE
Dental exam$100$50-$250
Periapical X-ray$35$25-$50
Teeth cleaning$100$70-$250
Enamel microabrasion$100$50-$250
Fluoride gel carrier$150$30-$350

The dentist will be the one making the final decision as to what is needed.

Dental exam

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. Those are additional costs you have to consider before whitening.

Other contraindications to whitening are pregnancy, tooth sensitivity, cracks, or exposed dentin. If you are having your periodic exams every six months, you will know what is going on inside your mouth.

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. More often they will not, as shade-matching composites are a recent innovation.

Dental X-rays

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.

Dental cleaning

Sometimes the dentist can bleach the teeth over existing plaque. More often than not, however, he or she will advise you to have a dental cleaning. This can remove mild stains and make whitening redundant.

You should include the cost of such a professional cleaning in your whitening budget. In more extreme cases you might even need to pay for scaling and root planing.

If you have your teeth cleaned every six months, as advised by the ADA, this extra step might not be necessary. More often than not, however, patients will skip this routine procedure, allowing plaque buildup.

Enamel microabrasion

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, coffee) 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?

Teeth whitening with custom trays

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

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.

Since getting your insurance provider to cover cosmetic treatments is tricky, you are probably looking for alternative ways to save. We recommend dental discount plans. They offer reductions on all procedures, including cosmetics. They are particularly handy when it comes to whitening.

You won’t need to collect any paperwork or worry about yearly caps. What’s more, you can use your plan to save after the annual maximum on your insurance is reached. There is a regular fee you have to pay, like a membership, and the discounts are ready to be used the day you sign up.

FAQ

Is professional teeth whitening worth the price?

Going to a dentist rather than bleaching your teeth at home with OTC products comes with its benefits. Those usually include a lower risk of side effects and results that are visible right away.

Whitening from home usually takes a couple of weeks and no professional makes sure that you are a good candidate for his treatment. Sensitivity is one thing that is sure to happen, no matter whether you bleach your teeth yourself, or whether you get them professionally done.

What is the cheapest way to get your teeth whitened?

The cheapest way to whiten your teeth is using OTC products. You can find them online and in drugstores. You should be aware, though, that bleaching your teeth this way can take a few weeks or even months and requires you to repeat the treatment everyday.

External in-office bleaching can turn out to be more affordable than buying some high-end products. It all depends on whether you can find a good deal. Either way, consult with a dentist before starting treatment yourself.

References

  1. A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening - MDPI
  2. The use of microabrasion to remove discolored enamel: A clinical report - ScienceDirect