How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
Whitening methods range from inexpensive home remedies to more costly professional chairside procedures. Teeth whitening costs vary greatly depending on the product used, whether or not it has been customized and the time involved in the delivery of the treatment. Many products can offer a degree of whitening, but some are more effective and safer than others. It’s important to keep these factors in mind when determining which whitening method is right for you.
Natural Whitening Methods and Home Remedies
A quick search through the fridge or medicine cabinet at home might reveal a whitening product that will only set you back a few cents, but it likely won’t produce the same results as a higher-priced product and might even be harmful to your teeth.
Using things like citrus fruits or baking soda to rid your teeth of unsightly stains can soften the enamel leading to damage. And while that bottle of hydrogen peroxide you have stashed on the bathroom shelf probably won’t cause your teeth any harm. At a concentration of 3 percent, it’s doubtful it will whiten teeth more than half a shade, and stains will likely come right back. “Anything that will stain a white tablecloth will also stain your teeth,” says Kellee Kattleman Stanton, DDS, an Egan, Minnesota dentist who practices at the George Dental Group.
- Whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes usually run from around $4 to $18 for a 14 ounce bottle of alcohol free BriteSmile® whitening mouthwash. Since whitening toothpaste has the same abrasive qualities as some of the home remedies, it’s a good idea to limit use. “I usually recommend using a whitening toothpaste no more than one to two times a week, especially if you use them with an electric toothbrush” says Dr. Stanton. She suggests using regular toothpaste with fluoride on the other days.
- Whitening strips range from less than $20 for a generic or store brand product to more than $50 for a name-brand kit. According to information released by the American Dental Association (ADA), most over-the-counter bleaching products are hydrogen peroxide-based and range from 3 to 10 percent in strength. “I usually recommend people go with a brand they recognize,” says Stanton. “And always look at the box to estimate how long it has been on the shelf. These products don’t have a great shelf life, so you don’t want to buy a box covered in dust.”
Professional Teeth Whitening Costs
- Professional-strength white strips prescribed by a dentist work much like over-the-counter strips, but contain a higher concentration of peroxide. Shannon estimates the professional strength strips will run you about $40 to $100 depending on the area of the country you live in and the exact product used.
- Dentist-dispensed whitening trays are customized for proper fit and to help keep the whitening solution on the teeth, prevent saliva from diluting the bleaching agent and protect the gums. “The percentage of peroxide in the prefilled trays is almost double what you see in over-the-counter kits,” says Shannon Brinker, CDA, whitening specialist, lecturer and co-editor-in-chief of CPS magazine. Custom application trays with bleaching gel can be found for as little as $130 with discount pricing and online group specials but are typically priced from $300 to $800.
- In-office whitening encompasses a variety of procedures. They may be done with a light or a laser and maximum whitening requires between one to six visits, with three being the average. In-office whitening procedures may be done in combination with custom take home trays. The price typically starts around $400 and goes up to around $1,200.
Weighing the Teeth Whitening Costs
Tooth whitening is extremely popular, and there are countless products available. Most contain peroxide as the whitening agent. “There are two types of peroxide used in teeth whitening, carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide,” says Brinker. “The concentration of hydrogen peroxide used in the dental office starts at over 10 percent and goes all the way to 45 percent.”
Patients who are looking for mild results may find OTC whiteners are sufficient, but serious staining usually requires a different approach. “Most patients see a two to five shade whitening result on a VITA shade guide with professional strength whitening procedures,” says Brinker.
Using dentist-prescribed whiteners can also help ensure the product has been stored properly and is fresh says Stanton. “It’s hard to predict exactly how long whitening will last, since it’s different for everyone. But the key to maintaining results is in doing at-home touch-ups. And since touch-up gel refills for custom trays is very inexpensive, usually averaging from $15 to $30, prescription whitening may actually be more cost-effective in the long run.