Whitening toothpaste can often be purchased for under $201 and will take two to six weeks to show a noticeable difference. This method works by removing surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee or smoking. Since whitening toothpastes don’t alter the natural color of your teeth or lighten stains that go deeper than the tooth’s surface, the effects won’t be as significant as other methods.2
Over-the-counter whitening strips and gels usually fall between $103 and $1004 and can take 10 to 14 days to whiten teeth.5 The bleaching agents used for these products are weaker than those used by dentists, so they require longer application times than professional whiteners to achieve similar effects.6 Each product will be applied differently based on the instructions included in the package
At-home whitening trays typically cost between $150 and $600 and take full effect in one to four weeks.7 Your dentist will customize a bleaching tray for you to take home and wear as instructed. The bleaching tray looks somewhat like a retainer or mouth guard in which peroxide-based bleaching gel or paste is contained during the whitening process.8 You may wear it overnight or during the day for several hours at a time. 9
In-office bleaching can cost between $500 and $1,000 and normally takes less than two hours.10 The process is completed painlessly at the dentist’s office. After applying a bleaching agent, your dentist may also use light, heat or both to enhance the whitening effect. Depending on your situation, you may need to complete more than one session.11
Whiteners may not work on all teeth. For example, teeth with porcelain crowns and composite fillings won’t whiten along with your natural teeth, so their color may no longer match. After or during your whitening process, you may also experience a temporary increase in teeth sensitivity.
Before choosing a whitening method, consult with your dentist to determine the best and safest whitening option for you. It is also important to review your dental plan policy to determine if teeth whitening is covered by your dental plan. Many dental plans do not cover teeth whitening, so you may be responsible for the total cost out-of-pocket if you choose to get your teeth whitened by the dentist.
Whatever whitening method you choose, remember that white teeth aren’t the same as healthy teeth. Good oral health habits – like brushing twice a day, flossing once daily and visiting the dentist regularly – keep your smile healthy.