How much does it cost to have your teeth professionally whitened?

While brightening your smile won’t break the bank, your final answer depends on a variety of factors.

Your dental insurance (if you have coverage) is the first element affecting what you might spend even though most plans will not cover cosmetic procedures. The first step in the process should be a cleaning appointment by a licensed hygienist, which could set you back about $100.

Then, your selection of branded systems, treatment options, and provider type results in many different price points. For example, you must choose between bleaching and lasers, at-home and in-office procedures, then dental offices or spas or salons, plus Zoom or DaVinci or KöR.

Teeth Whitening Covered by Dental Insurance

Traditional dental insurance typically does not cover professional teeth whitening services because having a brighter smile is not medically necessary. Cosmetic procedures fall outside of the coverage parameters, for they enhance appearance only and do little to address oral health or function.

However, some plans offer cosmetic dentistry riders that pay for procedures that improve appearance, and medically necessary cleanings reduce yellowing and diminish stains.

Cleanings

Most dental insurance plans cover teeth cleanings two times each year, or every six months, as prophylaxis prevents tooth decay (caries) and gum (periodontal) disease. Plus, as a preventive treatment, many plans cover 100% of the allowed charges, leaving little for patients to pay out-of-pocket.

During a cleaning, a hygienist will first remove plaque and tartar, which forms on the gum line, roots, and enamel and has a yellow color. Then, the hygienist polishes your choppers using a circular tool and pumice paste to remove surface stains.

While oral health is the primary objective of prophylaxis, a slight blanching of the enamel is a secondary benefit. Also, the decolorizing agents can reach the tooth surface more readily once the plaque and tartar are absent.

Cost With Insurance

Some supplemental dental insurance plans include cosmetic benefit riders, which then cover designated procedures that improve appearance rather than function, such as teeth whitening. A rider is an optional feature that you can add to your base policy at an additional cost to extend coverage to other aesthetic services.

  • Occlusion adjustments: alters contact relationships between incisors
  • Labial veneers: material bonded to the tooth surface
  • Enamel microabrasion: remove discolorations of the enamel
  • Odontoplasty: change a tooth’s length, shape, or surface
  • Internal & external bleaching: lightens dark areas of enamel

Always read the fine print and perform some simple math before buying any dental insurance product – as they often are not worth the money. For example, one cosmetic dentistry rider includes three restrictive features.

  1. 24-month waiting period when you fund a premium of $25.70 monthly for $617 in total before filing a claim
  2. A yearly benefit limit of $600, which means that you are still behind the eightball after three years of paying premiums
  3. A lifetime benefit maximum of $1,800 which requires up to five years of premiums to reach, or a total of $1,542

Professional Teeth Whitening Costs Without Insurance

Estimating the total cost of having your teeth whitened professionally without insurance presents a unique challenge. The many different methods, brands, retail price points determined by providers, and the number of treatments you might need to reach and then maintain the desired shade go into the equation.

Financing programs can make the treatments more affordable by spreading the charges out over time. However, going into debt to improve your appearance is not a great idea.

Bleaching

Having your dentist or spa professional bleach your teeth is a lower-cost whitening option when over-the-counter toothpaste and strips prove ineffective. Expect your dentist to create a custom-fit tray and utilize a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide gel to break down the discolorations and stains.

  • Take-home bleaching kits range in price from $100 to $500
  • In-office treatment entails higher charges of $500 to $700[1]

No reliable online source can quote an exact price for any bleaching option because dentists buy the supplies at wholesale, and then charge retail rates to patients – and bill for their time as well. Plus, suppliers could have multiple solutions, as illustrated by the KöR Company, which has four products.[2]

  1. KöR Home for daytime and nighttime use
  2. KöR Max combines at-home use with a single in-office visit
  3. KöR Ultra for stubborn cases such as fluorosis and dark geriatric staining
  4. KöR ULTRA-T for extra-difficult circumstances of tetracycline staining

Lasers

Many teeth whitening treatments can include the use of lasers, which heat the oxygen in the peroxide in an attempt to accelerate the chemical breakdown of stubborn stains and discolorations.

Once again, no reliable online source can quote an exact retail cost for laser teeth whitening. However, the average $700 in-office fee is a decent ballpark figure.

Each branded laser system has multiple products, and providers must choose which to offer patients, and how much extra to charge for their overhead and time – based on the local supply and demand.

The Phillips Zoom has four products you can buy at the dentist at varying price points based on the provider mark-up over wholesale.[3]

  1. Zoom Quick Pro is the most affordable in-office option and involves a varnish applied to your enamel that you brush off 30 minutes later
  2. Zoom WhiteSpeed provides results in 45 in-office minutes using a combination of bleaching gel, and a blue LED lamp to accelerate the process
  3. Zoom DayWhite are take-home custom-fit trays that you wear 30 to 90 minutes at a time over two weeks
  4. Zoom NiteWhite are custom-fit take-home trays that you wear while you sleep using a gentler chemical

The DaVinci Teeth Whitening System uses an LED blue laser light in combination with a proprietary blend of gel that they distribute in two distinct “methods” based on the industry of the provider.

  1. The Davinci dental method provides licensed practitioners with a brush application process performed in-office
  2. The DaVinci professional method serves medical spas, aesthetics and wellness centers, and salons, with a self-administered process

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Health Cost Helper Whitening

[2] Evolve Dental Technologies

[3] Koninklijke Philips N.V