Teeth Whitening Insurance 101
Dental Insurance Plans
The majority of traditional dental insurance plans which typically only cover preventative, basic care, and approved procedures.
Cosmetic Dental Plans
You can explore cosmetic dentistry plans which cover treatment for cosmetic procedures (including teeth whitening) when conducted in-office by dental professionals. At home teeth whitening products would not be eligible for cosmetic dental plans.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teeth Whitening
What are the main ingredients in teeth whitening products? Most at-home products, like whitening toothpaste or homemade baking soda paste, contain abrasive particles that wear away your enamel to give a brighter tooth appearance.
On the other hand, [hydrogen or carbamide] peroxide is the active ingredient in whitening strips, pens, and bleaching kits. These products work through a chemical process between their bleaching agents and oxygen particles within your tooth structure. Regulated at-home bleaching kits may contain up to 10% peroxide, while professionally prepared solutions may have more than 40%.
During treatment, the peroxide reaction often strips the enamel of calcium and other minerals. As a result, most professional bleaching products will also contain fluoride-based remineralizing agents to restore the strength of your outer tooth1. 1 Heshmat, H., Ganjkar, M. H., Miri, Y., & Fard, M. J. K. (2016). The effect of two remineralizing agents and natural saliva on bleached enamel hardness. Dental research journal. Retrieved December 25, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4770470/
What are the most effective teeth whitening products?
The most effective teeth whitening product depends on each patient’s circumstances and expectations.
Most dentists or dental hygienists offer in-chair teeth whitening treatments with aftercare home kits. These are great for patients who feel safer with a professional brightening their smile. Their results may last over a year if you follow the post-op instructions diligently.
However, over-the-counter (OTC) products like whitening pens and white strips can yield quick results for a fraction of the professional cost – though they won’t last very long without frequent touch-ups.
Dentists don’t typically recommend using whitening toothpaste or baking soda long-term because of their abrasive nature, which could cause tooth sensitivity. And while activated charcoal is growing in popularity, there’s little to no evidence of its efficacy for teeth whitening.
Who are the different types of teeth whitening products suitable for?
Over-the-counter products are most suitable for patients who want mild whitening touch-ups or those who want to brighten their smiles on a low budget.
In-chair bleaching kits are best for patients who feel more confident having a trained expert administer their treatment. Most dentists will also ‘train’ their patients to use their prescribed take-home kits following their office visit to minimize the risk of injury during unsupervised bleaching.
Of course, the security of professional treatment comes at a higher cost.
How long do you need to use a teeth whitening product before seeing results?
Whitening strips typically produce results within a few days, while whitening pens can alter your tooth shade in a matter of 48 hours. But some at-home products and bleaching kits may take several weeks or months to create your desired brightness level.
The effects of whitening toothpaste may only be noticeable after 4 to 6 weeks. But continued use could cause your teeth to yellow as abrasion exposes the darker inner layers of your teeth.
You’ll notice results much faster with an in-chair teeth whitening treatment. Most offices offer kits that can brighten smiles within a single appointment. Zoom whitening kits are famous for their ability to remove stains in less than an hour’s session. Check out our longer format guide on how long various teeth whitening products last.
What type of stains can teeth whitening products remove?
Patients could either have extrinsic stains (on the outer surface of their enamel) or intrinsic ones (from the inner structure of their teeth). Extrinsic stains are common among people who drink lots of black teas, sodas, and dark wines. But patients who abstain from these yet focus on a diet rich in brightly colored spices will have similar cosmetic problems.
Intrinsic discolorations are more challenging to remove. They usually surface in patients with a history of tetracycline (an antibiotic) use during their childhood. Persons who suffer from dental fluorosis, Celiac disease, or related conditions may also present with these kinds of stains.
Most over-the-counter whitening products will only remove extrinsic stains since their peroxide concentrations are too weak to penetrate the tooth. Conversely, professional bleaching products are more invasive than OTCs, making them excellent for removing inner and outer teeth discolorations.
How often can you use whitening products?
It’s generally safe to use at-home whitening products consecutively for up to two weeks, then every four to six months to restore fading smiles.
In-chair bleaching results dwindle gradually within the first 6 months after treatment. Typically, dentists include an at-home kit regimen that patients can follow once or twice a year to maintain brightness.
Each patient’s case is different, which means your smile may last longer than someone else’s before needing another round of bleaching. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a dental professional to guide the course of your cosmetic treatment.
What should be considered before a teeth whitening treatment?
Oral hygiene is imperative to any successful dental treatment. You should schedule a visit for a dental cleaning to restore your gum health before whitening
Peroxide sometimes oozes over the gums and causes irritation (though it occurs more commonly with DIY bleaching kits). So you should confirm that your gums aren’t already inflamed, as this could aggravate your condition.
Plaque may also accumulate around your enamel, preventing the bleaching gel from penetrating fully. Regular 6-month scaling appointments usually address this issue.
You should also book a consultation with your dental care provider before using any whitening product. Post-bleaching teeth sensitivity may be short-lived, but it could make lingering cavities unbearable after treatment. Moreover, dentists advise against whitening if you have a history of tooth sensitivity, are pregnant or nursing, or if you’re taking certain prescription medications.
Remember that whitening doesn’t work on restorations like crowns, bridges, implants, or veneers.
What are the risks associated with teeth whitening products?
Regardless of the treatment you use, dental bleaching runs the risk of causing;
- Tooth sensitivity;
- Gum irritation and burns;
- Gum bleaching;
- Mouth blisters;
- Throat sores.
Whitening toothpaste and other abrasive methods increase the likelihood of permanent tooth yellowing. The constant enamel erosion will eventually expose the dentin below, which is much darker in color. Dentin exposure also leads to chronic tooth sensitivity – the deeper you go, the closer you get to the nerves in the pulp cavity.
What are the benefits of the different teeth whitening products?
Most patients opt to whiten their teeth because of insecurities about the shade of their smile. But not all products are made equal.
Over-the-counter whitening products are more convenient for anxious patients. Being able to brighten your smile from the comfort of your home saves you from facing the dentist’s chair or dealing with any nerve-wracking emotions.
But some patients prefer to place their trust in the hands of a professional. For these people, an in-chair whitening session makes them feel more secure about the treatment quality they receive. These might be best if you’re prepping for an event on short notice since most in-chair kits need only one visit to achieve brighter teeth.
What are the drawbacks of the different teeth whitening products?
At-home bleaching kits and strips contain very low concentrations of peroxide and other active agents. As a result, it can take a couple of weeks to over a month to receive expected results. Look out for kits that come with an LED curing light to help accelerate the process.
While in-office whitening is quicker, it is far more expensive, and few insurance providers cover cosmetic procedures.
High peroxide concentrations temporarily increase enamel porosity. So you may need to restrict your diet for the first 2 days after treatment to prevent staining from colored food and drinks.
How much do the best teeth whitening products cost?
Most commercial products cost between $10 (white strips and pens) and $150 (DIY kits), but you can expect to pay more for popular household brands.
If you live in a state or province with a high cost of living, you could pay an average of $1800 for in-chair teeth whitening. Nevertheless, some small offices offer this service for as little as $300.
A cosmetic dental plan could reduce the overall cost. But if you’re not in a rush to whiten, you could join your clinic’s mailing list to stay up-to-date on their seasonal discounts for cosmetic procedures. Take advantage of those opportunities to save big on your smile. Dive deeper into teeth whitening costs with our guide here.
Where can you purchase the top teeth whitening products?
Most pharmacies and multi-purpose supermarkets offer an array of at-home whitening products. Your local Costco or CVS may be good places to start.