Ballpark estimate: $300 to $800 for a session at a dental office (some people will need multiple visits) Less expensive DIY options also exist
Your smile is one of the first thing people notice about you, so it’s important to take steps to ensure that your teeth are white and sparkling clean. But if your pearly whites look more yellow than you’d like, it can be worth it to invest in the cost of teeth whitening to bring them back to bright.
Causes of Discolored Teeth
While some people are born with very white, strong teeth, over time the things you eat and drink can stain or dull the enamel and make your teeth look yellow and dingy. Smoking can also discolor your teeth, as can aging, and even some of the medicines you take. Further, other people can blame their genetics for having teeth that are naturally more of a yellowish shade than a brighter white.
The good news is that you don’t have to settle for stained or discolored teeth indefinitely. There are many tooth whitening options worth considering that can help you brighten your teeth several shades or more—as long as you are a good candidate and you choose your method wisely. (Read on to learn more!)
Ways to Lighten Up
Teeth whitening methods fall into two general categories: professional procedures and at-home product. What you can expect for results all depends on which route you go, as well as how much time, effort, and expense you are willing to invest in the quest to brighten your smile.
When weighing your options, it’s important to talk to your dentist and determine the cause of your teeth discoloration, since not all methods will work on all stains and yellowing. Therefore, you’ll need an expert opinion of the cause of the discoloration to determine what will work best. (If your teeth are yellowed due to trauma to your mouth
or due to medication use that affected the color, keep in mind that the problem won’t respond to whitening approaches. Veneers, crowns, and dentures can also not be lightened using standard whitening methods.) This is why it’s important that your situation be assessed by an expert.
For most correctible stains, professional teeth whitening is typically the most effective option. This is because a dental expert can apply stronger whitening solutions than you can use at home. There are several popular approaches that a professional can use. While professional methods are sure to be more expensive than other options, the investment can be worth it since you will be most likely to be satisfied with the results.
The first type of professional whitening treatment is a standard bleaching treatment that consists of using either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide applied using a special mouth-guard tray. The peroxide solution lightens the color of your teeth both at the surface and also underneath, giving you a brighter smile. Bleaching can require a series of visits, as well as using some follow-up products at home, to get the results you desire. Therefore, you can expect this method to take three or four weeks from start to finish, including the time needed to create the special mouth-guard appliance used for the application. A more economical version of this treatment option involves having your dentist custom make you the mouth tray and then selling you the products to use with it at home.
Another professional option is to use a laser to whiten your teeth. This procedure (which is also called power whitening) involves painting the bleach directly on to your teeth and then shining a laser to activate it. This can be an effective method that can be done in one sitting (typically in an hour), although some people do need multiple sessions, so you’ll need to budget accordingly. This method is generally the faster and can also be the most aggressive in terms of getting results.
In exchange for the cost of teeth whitening from a professional, you can expect the results to last for a few years. Over time, the things you eat and drink will cause them to become discolored again so the procedure may need to be repeated down the road.
If you prefer to do your teeth whitening yourself, there are a number of products you can use at home. These will be much less expensive than going to a dental professional but they also use less powerful whitening agents, so the results won’t be near as striking.
Using whitening strips is a common DIY option. These strips are applied to your teeth for a designated amount of time (depending on which kit you select) and they must be repeated for multiple days in a row to get the results you desire. Whitening gel that you can use at home works in a similar way, but it’s applied using a special mouth-guard tray. Unlike the professional version, this won’t be custom fitted to your mouth (the trays are heated and formed to your mouth, but the results aren’t equal to a custom-made version from your dental professional), so it may not stay in place as well or bleach your teeth as evenly.
Paint-on whitening or whitening pens are another, even easier, DIY approach. As the name implies, you simply paint the whitener right on your teeth, either using a brush or a special pen applicator. The downside to this option is that it may not be strong enough to remove set-in stains or change the color in a significant way.
Whitening toothpaste and whitening mouthwash can also be used on a regular basis. These don’t typically bleach the teeth but rather, they are designed to remove stains. Some experts don’t feel they are all that effective, and they can also make your teeth more sensitive since you are exposing your teeth to them daily over the long-term.
What to Look For
If you go with a professional whitening method, you’ll want to find a dentist who is licensed in your state and doesn’t have any disciplinary actions against him or her. (You can check with your state’s licensure board.) You can also family, friends, and colleagues to give you a recommendation, or check with the American Dental Association (ADA) to use their searchable directory find dentists who practice in your area.
If you don’t want to invest the time and money in a professional whitening session, but you want something more than a DIY option, you may be tempted to try one of the new
bleaching kiosk that have been cropping up around the country. You can find these bleaching kiosks in some of the local malls and and they are usually relatively inexpensive. However, they are also not regulated and they usually aren’t run by a dental professional, which means that there is lots of room for error. As a result, many experts don’t recommend this option, since it isn’t always safe.
Most people tolerate teeth whitening methods with very little in the way of side effects. But if you do experience any minor symptoms, it could be in the form of an increased sensitivity of your teeth to cold, sore gums, or a sore throat. Occasionally, teeth whitening can also cause white spots along your gum line. All of these issues usually go away on their own within a few days.
Cost of Teeth Whitening
The cost of teeth whitening spans a wide range, depending on the option you select and on how much whitening you need to achieve the results you seek. For professional options, the level of experience the dental expert brings to the job will also factor into the cost. For DIY options, the quantity provided, the strength of the whitening agent, and the level of effectiveness can impact the price. (Although keep in mind even very expensive options may not get the job done, so price isn’t always equal to results.)
Here are some ideas of what to expect for the cost of different whitening procedures:
- Professional bleaching in office: Professional bleaching costs between $300 and $600 a session in your dentist’s office. Multiple sessions are usually needed.
- Professional bleaching products in a customized tray used at home: Your dentist may also make you a custom-fit tray and give you the solution to use it at home. This option can be cost-effective, starting in the $250 range and going up as high as $500 or more.
- Laser or power whitening in office: This can be between $500 and $800 a session. For some people, one is enough but others need repeat treatments.
- Whitening Kiosk: A mall kiosk that provides whitening can run about $150 to $250 for a bleaching treatment. Similar treatments in a spa setting can cost about $400 or more.
- DIY gel or strips: These start at about $25 for a kit and can go up to $50. A kit typically includes all you need for the process.
- Whitening pens and paint-on whiteners: These can start at about $5 and go up to $20 for a 30-day supply.
- Whitening toothpaste and mouthwash: A tube of whitening toothpaste can cost between $5 and $10, while a bottle of whitening mouthwash can cost between $10 and $25.
When selecting DIY products, look for those that are approved by the ADA since not all of the items are created equal. Also remember that whitening alone won’t be enough to keep that perfect smile. You’ll also need to pay attention to the things you eat and drink to help keep your teeth gleaming white.