How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost?
Last year, approximately 37 million Americans used whitening treatment to enhance the appearance of their teeth. Almost everyone dreams of having a Hollywood smile, but the cost of cosmetic dentistry can be a major setback. In this guide, we’ve compiled the latest price options for various at-home and professional whitening techniques across the continent. We’ve also included quick tips on insurance coverage for cosmetic procedures to help you decide on the best method to brighten your smile.
Let’s dive in!
Cost of At-home Teeth Whitening
For safe and effective at-home teeth whitening, dentists recommend using over-the-counter products that contain regulated levels of hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.
Safe tooth bleaching agents have up to 10 percent hydrogen and should only be applied for 30-minute sessions.
Beware of whitening kits that promise extreme results as they may contain dangerously high concentrations of peroxide. These run the risk of causing tooth sensitivity, mouth blisters, and even throat irritation. It’s not uncommon to find these sellers online, trying to bypass health guidelines in regular pharmacies and supermarkets.
Online kits should always be considered with a grain of salt. Most of them come with custom shade guides that deceive patients into thinking that they’ll remove multiple layers of teeth stains. In reality, the shades increase by tiny increments. What looks like eight shades brighter on a whitening guide could translate to only three shades difference at the dentist’s office.
The American Dental Association (ADA) usually evaluates cosmetic dental products before hitting the shelves. To successfully pass the analysis, manufacturers must:
- Submit complete lists of product ingredients.
- Conduct clinical trials and provide results on their product's safety, efficacy, and uniqueness.
- Present evidence that their manufacturing and delivery processes uphold standards to ensure their product is pure and consistent.
- Provide complete product labels and packaging for inspection.
Those approved by the ADA will have a designated Seal of Acceptance.
The Canadian Dental Association also has a regulatory process. The board requires all manufacturers or local suppliers to submit a cosmetic notification form and corresponding safety guidelines to Health Canada. It’s part of their standard routine to verify the chemicals used in these products1. Unlike the ADA, the Canadian Dental Association doesn’t actually approve or reject any product.
The cost for at-home tooth whitening ranges between $10 to $200. Why the wide gap between prices? Because whitening products aren’t created equal. Even brands that carry a similar product - say whitening toothpaste - will advertise unique selling points that jack up their prices. The table below gives more specific costs for the main at-home teeth whitening products:
|Type of Whitening Product||Average Cost|
|Peroxide Mouth Rinses||$40|
|DIY Whitening Kits||$145|
- Using baking soda to make a whitening toothpaste.
- Rinsing with Apple Cider Vinegar daily.
- Oil pulling to remove bacteria that cause plaque buildup.
Some of these suggestions also carry unpleasant side effects. Oil pulling can cause nausea and vomiting, depending on the type of oil you use. Apple Cider Vinegar is highly acidic, and daily use promotes enamel corrosion. And, like charcoal, baking soda is very abrasive.
If you’re looking to save money on at-home teeth whitening products, you can wait to purchase them during holidays when there are special sales. Some brands, like GLO, offer promotional discount codes that reduce costs by at least 10%.
Cost of Professional Teeth Whitening
The two main types of professional teeth whitening services are enamel microabrasion and in-chair tooth bleaching.
Microabrasion is one of the least invasive options available, with treatment costs ranging from $90 to $200.
However, professional tooth bleaching may cost anywhere between $300 to $1800. The exact price depends on the system used - whether it contains an LED light, laser, or none - and the number of visits you’ll need to complete the process.
First, you’ll need to book a consultation with your cosmetic dentist or dental hygienist to evaluate your oral health and determine whether you’d make an ideal candidate. Bleaching doesn’t work on restorations, so crowns and bridges might be excluded from your overall cost.
If you decide to do the procedure, they’ll take an impression (a mold) of your teeth to create your custom whitening trays. You could opt to have the dentist prepare a take-home kit that you can use to bleach your teeth at home – they’ll walk you through the steps. But most patients prefer to do the in-chair bleaching procedure and couple that with the take-home bleaching trays.
Generally, professional take-home kits can brighten a smile within two weeks (though some systems require up to four weeks to achieve full results).
Zoom whitening treatments can brighten teeth within one appointment. Your dentist will apply concentrated peroxide bleaching gel to your teeth for three 15-minute sessions, using a laser to accelerate the procedure. Zoom whitening treatments usually cost between $400 to $650 per visit. Some practices charge additional fees for the take-home kit, but this depends on their business policy.
Zoom still remains one of the more affordable laser whitening options. Similar services cost as much as \$1000.
Kor Whitening treatments are effective for treating intrinsic stains caused by early antibiotic (tetracycline) use. It’s another gel-based procedure, but it doesn’t require any lights or lasers, but most patients get successful results within one appointment with their specialist. Treatment averages between $500 to $1000 for a package involving in-chair treatment and a take-home kit.
Opalescence only offers a professionally prepared take-home kit with bleaching trays. The concentration of the whitening gel follows a case-by-case basis. Your cosmetic dentist will prepare the solution according to your desired tooth shade and the current strength/sensitivity of your teeth. You’ll have to wear the trays for approximately two weeks for 30 to 60 minutes per session.
Budget about \$500 for the complete treatment.
Some practices offer payment plans or work with By Now Pay Later (BNPL) providers, like Zip PayTM, to accommodate patients with different financial means. But you could also apply for a dental savings plan to reduce the cost of most of your dental procedures. DentalPlans.com offers price comparison services and a marketplace with over 30 plan providers. Their site advertises discounts of up to 20-25% on professional whitening treatments nationwide.
Insurance Coverage for Teeth Whitening in the U.S. and Canada
Teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t contribute to your oral health. And it’s not necessary to maintain a healthy smile. The brightness is purely aesthetic.
As a result, most insurance providers don’t cover whitening procedures. So the full cost will have to come from your pocket, regardless of whether you buy your product online or book a visit with your dentist.
However, Health Canada doesn’t consider fluoride-containing whitening treatments as strictly cosmetic procedures, so you may still be able to get assistance if your insurance provider allows it.
When Might Insurance Cover Teeth Whitening?
There are multiple cosmetic options available that cater to all kinds of budgets and schedules. But there are certain situations where insurance providers may cover a percentage of your whitening treatment. You may be eligible for insurance-provided financial assistance if you need;
A veneer is a thin layer of tooth-colored material that fits over the front surface of your tooth. It’s usually used to address cosmetic issues by altering your tooth’s shape, size, and color. Thus, it’s one of the less conventional whitening methods.
In most cases, veneers come in either porcelain or composite material, giving them a natural, tooth-like appearance. Veneers are among the most expensive teeth whitening procedures, with prices between $400 to $2000 per tooth. Porcelain veneers are the strongest and most costly, but they could last for 25 years.
Overall, the price varies based on the material used and the location of the dental practice (states and provinces with higher standards of living will normally have higher fees for dental treatment).
The majority of veneer installations are cosmetic, so it’s unlikely that your insurance provider will assist with the cost. However, there are situations when they may be deemed ‘medically necessary’ and eligible for coverage.
Veneers may be essential if used to treat:
- Tooth decay
- Chipped teeth
- Broken teeth
- Fluoride stains
- Tetracycline-induced discolorations
- Enamel damage from acid reflux
- Discoloration from Celiac disease
- Trauma from accidents or oral injuries
- Maloclussions or teeth misalignments
- Enamel hypoplasia (a developmental defect causing enamel deficiency)2
In these situations, teeth whitening comes as a secondary benefit, and some companies may cover up to 50% of your dental (medical) bill.
Some employers offer cosmetic treatment (whitening, orthodontics, etc.) as additional benefits under their dental insurance policy. So you could also use this avenue to get a percentage off the total cost of your procedure – whether veneers or bleaching.
Nevertheless, the amount of coverage you receive depends on the number of teeth you claim for during the year and the cost of the veneer material. You won’t receive aid once you’ve passed your annual benefit limit.
A cosmetic dental plan will also cover a percentage of these dental procedures. But a cosmetic dental plan is different from insurance because it does not account for unforeseen complications like decay, damage, and tooth loss.
Dentists recommend tooth bonding for patients who need to repair chips, cracks, and minor gaps between their teeth. Your dentist will apply a tooth-colored resin over your problem areas and use a curing light to help the material adhere to your enamel structure. It can remove minor tooth stains by either covering the defect or polishing it away during tooth preparation.
You can expect to pay $250 to $600 per tooth. The exact price will depend on the type of tooth (incisor, canine, premolar, or molar) and the extent of the repair. Deeper fractures or wider cavities will cost more to resolve.
Although dental bonding is a cosmetic procedure, your insurance provider may cover part of the cost if it repairs the tooth structure or fills a cavity.
What Can Make Teeth Whitening More Expensive?
Not every teeth whitening product will work well for your smile. To save yourself from unexpected expenses, here’s a summary of the main factors that affect the cost of your whitening treatment:
- If your teeth have plaque and tartar buildup, you’ll also need to schedule a dental cleaning or deep scaling to restore your oral hygiene before whitening.
- Extrinsic stains can be resolved with most at-home products or even enamel microabrasion. However, internal tooth stains require more invasive whitening techniques.
- Professional teeth bleaching services are more costly than at-home products. It’s an understandably greater investment since you’ll receive treatment from a trained dental expert.
- Laser whitening procedures are more expensive than those without light curation.
- Treatments requiring multiple dental visits cost more than those only needing a single session.
- Some whitening brands are more expensive than others, especially if they have a long-standing reputation for quality products.
The Bottom Line
The safest way to brighten your smile is by using professionally-approved whitening products or treatments. You should always consult your dentist about any tooth whitening technique. Not all products will protect your teeth, and you may need dental work before starting your regimen.
The less severe your stains, the more affordable your treatment options. But there may be circumstances where your insurance can step in to help. Talk to your insurance provider about your options or find a policy that you can work with.
Once you’ve ticked all those boxes, the question is: which tooth whitening option will you choose?
Nozaka, K., Sato, T., Mukaida, T., Shimazu , A., Hasegawa , J., &; Amari, E. (1990). [clinical study of enamel hypoplasia and its causes. 1. primary teeth]. Shoni shikagaku zasshi. The Japanese journal of pedodontics. Retrieved December 13, 2021