Why Teeth Whitening?
There are many things in our everyday environment that can stain teeth. Coffee, tea, wine, and other beverages can cause staining. Smoking often leads to yellowing of the teeth. Other foods, medicines, and even environmental factors like air pollution can potentially leave their marks on our teeth.
When you smile, you want to show your pearly whites — not browns or yellows! If your teeth have significant staining or discoloration, you may not feel like smiling. You may hide your teeth when you talk, and avoid smiling or laughing to keep others from seeing your discolored teeth. Teeth whitening can remove many of the stains from your teeth, and leave your teeth pearly white again. This procedure can only remove surface stains and discoloration; if the enamel underneath is discolored, you may want to consider veneers as an alternative to get the beautiful white teeth you desire. For more detail about teeth whitening, please visit our Teeth Whitening page in our Education Wiki.
While you can buy over-the-counter tooth whitening kits, a professional whitening by a dentist is a better option for many people. While the cost is higher, you can get better results, and you get the peace of mind of knowing that a highly-trained professional is ensuring your safety. But you may wonder whether you’ll be able to afford to have your teeth whitened.
An in-office teeth whitening by a dentist costs an average of $500 to $700. Some dentists dispense a professional-strength whitening kit to be taken home and used there; this typically costs $100 to $500.
Keep in mind that this is only an average; it varies by region and by individual dentist, so you should check with the dentist(s) you’re considering to determine their exact fee for the procedure. Ask what’s included in that fee, to make sure you aren’t surprised by extra costs when you get the bill later.
You can get an over-the-counter kit for $25 to $100, though it will be of lower strength and may be more difficult to use properly. If you’re thinking of buying an over-the-counter kit, you may want to ask your dentist for advice on which ones are worth even that low price; many aren’t.
Will Insurance Cover It?
Because teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic procedure, with no medical necessity or functional benefit, it is almost never covered by dental insurance. If you’re having a teeth whitening treatment along with your regular dental check-up, the exam will be covered, but any extra cost of teeth whitening will be your responsibility.
Medical insurance typically does not cover dentistry at all. You need to have a separate dental insurance plan to cover dental care.
To many people, paying hundreds of dollars up front seems impossible. However, if you don’t already have the money saved, you have many options available for financing. In some cases, dentists offer financing plans for their patients. You can also get a medical credit card or other credit card, often with an attractive introductory interest rate; a medical loan, personal loan, or home equity loan from your bank; a loan from your 401(k); or loans or gifts from family and friends. Even if your credit isn’t great, you’d be surprised how many options you have. For more details about the financing options for your procedure, check out our Dentistry Financing page.