Professional teeth whitening at the dentist's office is a quick way to get a whiter smile, but is it the best whitening method for you? While some people appreciate the safety benefits of a whitening treatment administered by a trained professional, others find the professional teeth whitening cost prohibitively high.
So, is the higher in-office teeth whitening cost really worth it?
In this article, we cover several professional teeth whitening options, including laser whitening and zoom whitening, and explain the pros and cons of each one.
Find out how much teeth whitening at the dentist costs and how long it takes to see results. If you decide it costs too much to get your teeth whitened professionally, there are some alternative methods to consider, too.
We hope this information helps you decide on the best and safest teeth whitening treatment for your needs.
The Smile Brilliant teeth whitening kit comes with dentist-strength 22% carbamide peroxide, sealed in light-proof foil, and custom mouth trays for safe whitening. Decide how much gel you need for your treatment, and add on sensitivity protection if needed.
But instead of paying $400 or more at the dentist, you can get this kit from just $149, and complete the whole process from home.
Table of contents
- 1 Professional teeth whitening procedures in the US
- 2 Professional teeth bleaching kits from the dentist
- 3 How much does professional teeth whitening cost?
- 4 Benefits of professional teeth whitening
- 5 How do I find professional teeth whitening near me?
- 6 Alternatives to in-office whitening
- 7 Summary of dentist teeth whitening costs and options
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 3 Ways To Finance Dental Work That Aren’t Insurance
- 10 FAQs
Professional teeth whitening procedures in the US
There are several popular methods that dentists use to whiten teeth. Before examining these in detail, let's quickly look at how teeth whitening works so you can understand what's happening when you get your teeth whitened with a dentist.
What is laser teeth whitening?
This teeth whitening service, also known as “laser bleaching” or “power whitening”, uses special teeth whitening lasers to accelerate the bleaching effect of a concentrated gel that is applied to the teeth.
Laser teeth whitening costs more than other methods. Some clinicians agree that this method is the closest you'll get to “instant” teeth whitening. However, there is limited evidence that light-activated methods are more effective than others in the short-term. In fact, effectiveness is usually attributed to the concentration of the bleaching agent.
The first step of the laser teeth whitening process is to apply a seal or shield to protect the gums. Then, the teeth are coated with a bleaching product — usually containing hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening. A laser shone on the teeth during treatment is what makes this whitening technique so quick and effective.
The results of laser whitening should be clear after just one visit, but your dentist may recommend repeating the process to achieve the results you desire.
Is laser teeth whitening safe?
Laser teeth whitening, when performed in-office by a licensed professional is safe. However, because it is so intensive, laser teeth whitening side effects may include sensitivity in your teeth. Current research is conflicting, with some studies saying that this method causes the least sensitivity. Other studies show that sensitivity is associated with the bleaching agent rather than the method. Due to the quick process, some clinicians may not recommend this method for people who want teeth whitening for sensitive teeth.
Any sensitivity should subside quite quickly but can be uncomfortable for some patients and extremely painful for others. This method may, therefore, be best avoided by people who want teeth whitening for sensitive teeth.
What is Zoom teeth whitening (LED)?
Another professional teeth whitening option is Zoom whitening. Using technology from Phillips, this works in a similar way to laser whitening but instead uses LED lights to accelerate a whitening agent. In most cases, Zoom tooth whitening costs less than laser whitening.
LED teeth whitening systems like Zoom are not as intense as laser treatment so you might need more than one session to see the results you want, although Phillips claim they can whiten teeth by up to eight shades in an hour.
LED whitening has largely replaced UV whitening since it's safer and proven to be more effective. It's UV light that causes sunburn and skin cancer, so using it in the mouth can damage gums, cheeks, and lips.
With Philips Zoom teeth whitening, you can choose between two whitening options—Zoom QuickPro and Zoom WhiteSpeed. Let's have a closer look at these options now.
Zoom QuickPro was designed so that patients could spend a minimal amount of time in the dentist's chair. It takes just 30 minutes of in-office time and is ideal for touching up the whiteness of your teeth or getting a jump on the whitening process. According to the Philips website, you'll get 4 shades brighter in a single 30 minute session. How does it work?
- Your dentist preps your mouth and gums
- They apply whitening varnish to each tooth
- They then apply a protective sealant to protect from sensitivity
- You are free to go! After 30 minutes, once you're back at home, you brush of the dried varnish and you'll have your results.
Zoom WhiteSpeed offers the most results. It takes 45 minutes and teeth can get up to 8 shades whiter. Should you choose this options:
- Your dentist preps your mouth, and applies whitening gel to your teeth
- They shine a blue LED light on your teeth to speed up the whitening processes
- This is repeated three times
- Your dentist applies a protective gel after treatment
Zoom teeth whitening review
To give you a better idea of what this whitening treatment involves, here is a video review from a woman named Brooklyn who had Zoom whitening at the dentist. She explains the process in detail and shows each step as it happened, so it's interesting to watch if you're considering having this treatment.
Brooklyn made two visits to the dentist, the first to create molds of her teeth and the second for the actual whitening. The whitening consisted of three 15-minute sessions, all in the same day.
Straight after her whitening session she was given mouth trays containing a sensitivity-reducing gel, which she wore for 30 minutes. This last step makes this a good option for those looking for teeth whitening for sensitive teeth.
Zoom teeth whitening near me
You can find Zoom teeth whitening at dentists all over the country. If you need help finding a dentist who offers Zoom in your area, call 800-794-7437 to get connected and make your appointment.
Professional teeth bleaching kits from the dentist
The best way to whiten teeth professionally at home is with a take-home kit provided by your dentist. These apply professional tooth whitening gel to your teeth using custom-made dental bleaching trays (like mouthguards). Because the gel is administered by a qualified professional, it's allowed to be stronger than over-the-counter whitening products.
This treatment begins with a visit to your dentist to take impressions of your teeth. These are used to create your custom trays, which will fit snugly in your mouth to ensure even coverage of the gel.
Once your trays have been made, you'll return to collect them. Your dentist might begin the treatment in-office or may just show you how to use your kit at home.
Some kits come with pre-filled whitening trays, but most include one set of trays and several gel-filled syringes. Your dentist will tell you how much gel to use for each application. Don't be tempted to exceed this in the hope you'll get better results — gel can easily leak out of overfilled trays and damage your gums.
Depending on the type of treatment, trays can be left in for 30-60 minutes or up to eight hours. The latter is useful for people who don't have time during the day to wear their trays, as they can leave them in overnight while they sleep.
Take-home bleaching kits might be the best teeth whitening method for you if you are disciplined enough to follow your dentist’s instructions and don't need the rapid results provided by more expensive in-office teeth whitening treatments.
Each dentist will have their own opinion as to the best teeth whitening gel to use and may only offer one particular product through their practice.
Smile Brilliant professional whitening kit
If you're looking at take-home whitening kits, we recommend you check out Smile Brilliant. Their whitening kit is identical to the treatment you'd get from a dentist, but instead of visiting a dental office to get your teeth whitening trays, you take your own impressions at home and mail them to the lab. However, we strongly recommend visiting your dentist first to examine your teeth and determine if they are suitable for any whitening treatment.
Smile Brilliant's 22% carbamide peroxide gel is strong enough to whiten teeth by up to eight shades in a single treatment course. When you purchase your kit, you can customize it according to how heavily stained your teeth are and whether you need extra desensitizing treatments.
What's more, the gel is sealed in foil bags, which prevents light from breaking the peroxide down into water. Thus you have gel that maintains its strength for longer!
And because you apply the gel in custom-made trays, this is as close as you'll get to in-office whitening without actually visiting a dentist. And the best bit is that it costs as little as $149, with affordable refills available.
Sporting Smiles follows the same concept as Smile Brilliant, in that you order an impression kit online, make your impressions at home and send them back in so that you can get custom whitening trays.
The gel from Sporting Smiles is professional-strength 35% carbamide peroxide, and it delivers a special foaming action that ensures it whitens in every crack and crevice of your teeth.
The trays are strong and will last for years, so you don't need to order new ones every time you want to whiten your teeth. Plus, Sporting Smiles is one of the more affordable whitening treatments that uses custom trays on the market, at just $80. You can get your impression kit now to get started.
How much does professional teeth whitening cost?
Professional teeth whitening at the dentist costs from $300 to $1,800, depending on the procedure. Zoom teeth whitening costs around $400 on average, and laser teeth whitening costs around $1,000.
How much does laser teeth whitening cost?
Laser teeth whitening costs the most when it comes to teeth whitening professionally, because of the technology used but offers the fastest and most noticeable results.
At-home dental whitening costs less than teeth whitening costs at the dentist because you're spending relatively little time in the dentist's chair.
Note that the main benefit of laser and LED whitening over take-home trays is the speed at which they produce results. If you are happy with more gradual whitening, a take-home bleaching kit will still give good results over the duration of the treatment.
It's worth getting quotes from more than one dentist for the laser teeth whitening cost since professional dental teeth whitening costs vary from one clinic to another according to a number of factors.
Another way to save money on professional teeth whitening and the laser teeth whitening cost is to get your treatment abroad. If you live near the Mexico border, you could save hundreds of dollars on dental whitening (and any other treatments) by visiting a dentist in Mexico. Alternatively, you could get cheaper teeth whitening while on holiday in places like Costa Rica or Thailand. Read more about getting dental work abroad here.
Benefits of professional teeth whitening
Although the cost of teeth whitening at the dentist is higher than at-home alternatives, there are a number of safety benefits from being treated by a professional:
- The dentist will check that you're a suitable candidate for safe teeth whitening. If you have inflamed gums or tooth decay, for example, whitening is not advisable.
- For in-office whitening, your gums will be protected with a seal or shield.
- Mouth trays are custom-made to fit your teeth properly and ensure even gel coverage.
- The dentist controls your treatment intensity and duration to produce the results you desire.
There is also a notable time advantage with in-office procedures. The American Dental Association (ADA) states that “while OTC products are less expensive than at-home or in-office approaches, there is a time trade-off in that OTC products may take significantly longer than do either of the other options for whitening.”
Most home whitening kits just do superficial work, cutting down on surface stains. It could take up to a month to see any results, and your teeth are going to get maybe three or four shades lighter. At-home trays that you can get at the dentist’s office are more effective, but you will still have to wait a week or two to get results.
With laser teeth whitening, the procedure doesn’t take much more than an hour, and you get long-lasting results. It uses light-activated bleaching, and just one appointment can get your teeth eight shades lighter. You aren’t going to get that kind of immediate result from a home whitening kit.
Dr. Alexei Aguil, Exquisite Dentistry
Note that although laws vary by state concerning who can legally carry out tooth whitening, the ADA recommends all bleaching is performed or supervised by a professional.
“Dental professionals are responsible for managing patient care, and are a key resource on oral health to the public at large. Consumers may pursue tooth bleaching without understanding the risks of treatment or the factors that may affect treatment success or failure. For optimal safety and to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment, examination by a dentist is necessary.” explains the ADA.
How do I find professional teeth whitening near me?
Not all dentists offer cosmetic tooth whitening, and those that do each have their own preferred methods and brands. First, decide which kind of whitening you would prefer. Then, search for a teeth whitening dentist near you using the internet or by asking around in your area.
Your first step will be to have a consultation with a teeth whitening professional who can assess your suitability for your chosen teeth whitening procedure. This gives you the chance to ask about the dentist's teeth whitening costs and any other questions you may have. If you don't already have a dentist in mind, call 800-794-7437 to get connected to a dentist offering teeth whitening near you.
If you have dental caries or inflamed gums, you'll probably need treatment for this before getting your teeth whitened. The strong bleaching products that dentists use can easily lead to increased inflammation or sensitivity if used on patients with untreated dental problems.
Alternatives to in-office whitening
The main downsides to professional teeth whitening at the dentist are the cost and inconvenience. If the prices mentioned above seem high to you, or if you simply don't have the time to spare for several dental visits, an at-home teeth whitening kit could be a good alternative.
Although home whitening doesn't give you the assurance of a dental professional administering your treatment, it is safe as long as you choose a good quality product and follow the instructions carefully.
One of the home whitening systems that we recommend for professional results is from Smile Brilliant. This kit is quite a bit cheaper than a visit to the dentist, costing between just $149 and $189, but it works in exactly the same way.
First, you are sent an impression kit to use at home. You send your teeth impressions to a lab and they make your custom mouth trays. Then, you can begin your whitening treatment.
Smile Brilliant's whitening system comes with a 45-day satisfaction guarantee, so why not give it a try?
Hismile is an at-home teeth whitening kit that takes a different approach with a formula that goes beyond teeth whitening. The main ingredients are phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP+), hydroxyapatite and potassium citrate. That's quite a mouthful, so let's break down what each one does.
The PAP+ is the main whitening ingredient that works on whitening the discolored molecules in your teeth. This ingredient is particularly special because it causes no negative effects during the oxidation of tooth stains, and therefore, causes no sensitivity.
Hydroxyapatite is a mineral that is naturally present in bones and enamel, and it actually helps remineralize teeth.
Finally, the potassium citrate helps get rid of any tooth sensitivity you already experienced, prior to treatment, for an entirely sensitivity-free experience.
In other words, Hismile is an excellent option for people who experience tooth and gum sensitivity while whitening, and are looking for a different and effective alternative to professional whitening. You can find more about this kit in our full Hismile review.
Summary of dentist teeth whitening costs and options
In this table, you can see a summary of how much professional teeth whitening costs at the dentist using the different methods we've mentioned.
$400 - $1,800
1 hour, 1 or more sessions
Intense whitening procedures can cause greater sensitivity
$300 - $1,000
1 hour, 3-4 sessions
Right away but build up during treatment
Whitening trays can be used at home following this procedure to maintain results
$300 - $900
3-4 weeks with 2-3 dentist visits; 30 minutes - 8 hours for each home treatment
Begins with 2-3 dentist visits and is completed at home; 8-hour treatment can be done overnight
Remember, these professional teeth whitening costs include:
- The expertise of a qualified professional
- Specialized technology
- High-quality, concentrated whitening ingredients
- Assistance if you experience sensitivity or any other problems
Additional work such as hygiene treatments and fillings will incur extra charges.
If you want fast results, laser whitening and Zoom whitening can whiten teeth by several shades in just one hour. A bleaching kit supplied by your dentist is a more affordable way to achieve good results while still under the supervision of a dental professional.
All of these methods of professional teeth whitening at the dentist can be expensive. Those wanting a cheaper way to get whiter teeth can try a home whitening system instead. There are many brands of kits available, but we recommend choosing one like Smile Brilliant which comes with lab-made mouth trays to fit securely around your teeth.
Other kits like Snow are also very popular for home whitening, but use a different system without custom trays. But remember, not everyone is a good candidate, so check with your dentist first.
3 Ways To Finance Dental Work That Aren’t Insurance
How do dentists whiten teeth?
Dentists whiten teeth by applying a bleaching agent (often hydrogen peroxide) to remove stains on teeth and give teeth a whiter appearance. Common treatments include Zoom and laser teeth whitening.
Qualified dental staff are allowed to use higher concentrations of peroxide than you'll find in over-the-counter teeth whitening kits. This means professional whitening services can deliver better results.
How long does teeth whitening take?
Professional teeth whitening can take just an hour of treatment in the dentist's office. You may need several visits to the dentist to achieve the desired results. If you opt for a professional bleaching kit, you should start to see results after a few days of daily use, but treatment continues for around 10-14 days.
How long does professional teeth whitening last?
Professional teeth whitening can last for 2 to 3 years after the procedure. However, results will diminish sooner if you consume a lot of foods and drinks that cause teeth to stain. We have some information on how to avoid yellow teeth in a separate article. Results will also vary for each person based on:
- The original shade of your teeth
- The whitening method used
- How well you care for your teeth after whitening
- The kinds of food and drink you consume after whitening
Does professional teeth whitening work?
Yes, in most cases, professional, dentist-approved teeth whitening is an effective treatment. With professional treatments, your dentist can remove both intrinsic and extrinsic staining in most cases. There are some cases, like if your teeth are severely discolored from taking certain antibiotics as a child, that may not be suited to professional whitening.
How much is professional teeth whitening?
Professional teeth whitening costs average between $300 to $1,800. These costs of teeth whitening, including laser whitening costs, depend on where you go and the exact procedure you choose. The average cost for Zoom teeth whitening is around $400 on average, and laser teeth whitening costs around $1,000.
American Dental Association: Tooth Whitening/Bleaching: Treatment Considerations for Dentists and Their Patients. Consulted 4th May 2019 American Dental Association: Oral Health Topics: Whitening. Consulted 4th May 2019