Your smile is the accessory that you’re stuck with. And if you didn’t heed mom’s warnings and neglected your teeth in your youth — or you’ve been drinking five cups of coffee a day for the past two decades — you might be stuck with a dulled, sepia-tinged smile you’re not terribly jazzed about.
Fortunately, there are teeth whitening products and services to rejuvenate your smile and have it looking bright and clean again. If you’ve tried the over-the-counter remedies and found them to be lacking, you might want to consider bringing in the big guns to get your teeth sparkling again. What’s that going to cost you, though?
How Does Teeth Whitening Work?
First, we’re going to bottle this discussion: We’re not talking about whitening strips or whitening toothpaste. We’re going to assume that you’ve tried these and that they haven’t worked for you. So what goes into teeth whitening when it comes to sitting down in the dentist’s chair?
There are actually three procedures known as “teeth whitening, ” and they’re all remarkably different:
In-Office Bleaching: This is effectively a more hardcore, intensive version of the at-home teeth whitening products you might have already used. The bleach is more intense and is applied under the guidance of a dentist, ensuring the safety of the patient.
Light-Accelerated Bleaching: This is sometimes referred to as “laser bleaching, ” but there are no actual lasers involved. Instead, different kinds of light (LED, plasma arc, or halogen are the most common) are used to whiten the teeth. This leads to greater sensitivity than other methods, and might not even be more effective than certain kinds of hydrogen peroxide-driven methods of teeth whitening.
Internal Bleaching: This procedure is specifically for people who have had their teeth discolored by root canals and other dental treatments that go inside the tooth.
The whitening products you can get in the stores are going to cost you very little — under $10 — but you’re going to be paying for them week in and week out for an indeterminate period of time.
If you go in for a similar treatment at your local dentist’s office, the fees can vary widely, generally based on geographic location. Smaller towns and rural locations tend to be less expensive, while the bigger your city is the more you’re likely to pay for your teeth to get white. The general range is somewhere between $400 and $900 to get your teeth whitened in a dentist’s chair.
What’s that price going to cover? Upper and lower teeth, but maybe not the ones in the back. Always ask what you’re getting for the price of your teeth whitening. You’re also almost certainly going to have to go in for more than one session, so make sure to ask what you’re getting in terms of number of visits. The cost of teeth whitening can add up quickly, especially for those who have more advanced darkening of the teeth. Get an all-in quote if possible so you can see the full picture of what you’re paying for.
Laser treatments are more expensive than just bleach. This is true even when the majority of the treatments are done with bleach. That’s because the equipment used to laser your teeth white often costs many thousands of dollars, and the dentist will want to recoup that expense.
Your costs don’t end there. Your dentist will probably recommend that you go back to at-home treatments to keep the progress going — so you’re not just going to sit in a chair, get a few bleaching sessions, and be done with it. Chances are good that you’ll still be paying for bleaching products for many years into the future. It’s just a little bit here and there, but it will still add up over the weeks, months, and years.
Still, a nice, white smile that you feel proud of is also the type of thing you can’t really put a price tag on. How much is it worth to you to not be self-conscious about your smile? That’s a price point only you can determine.