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How Much Does Teeth Whitening Really Cost?

A white smile is often a confidence booster if you’re looking to stand out and make a positive impression.
ceramic piggy bank on a table, how much does teeth whitening really cost

Whether preparing for a big life event like a class reunion or wedding, a white smile is often a confidence booster if you’re looking to stand out and make a positive impression.

Many are interested in whiter teeth but cringe at the cost.

But teeth whitening doesn’t have to be expensive; there are ways to get whiter, brighter teeth no matter your budget — ranging from low-cost over-the-counter options to high-end services offered by dentists.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth-whitening products contain varying amounts of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, the ingredients that whiten teeth.

Bleaching products can be purchased over-the-counter or from the dentist, or may be administered by the dentist as an in-office treatment. Over-the-counter bleaching products can include whitening strips or gels painted directly on teeth or delivered in trays. Products available through dentists include gels delivered in custom-made trays, either intended for at-home use or applied as an in-office treatment.

Though at-home options don’t provide the immediate and noticeable effect that professional services do, they can make a difference at a more affordable rate.

In-Office Whitening

Cost: around $650

Professional in-office teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dental procedure in the world.

Though this option is the most expensive, the results are usually instant, visible and long-lasting when compared to lower-cost at-home whitening methods. Plus, in-office whitening only requires one trip to the dentist — the applied bleaching gel will remain on your teeth for between 15 and 30 minutes.

Home-use whitening products use low-dose bleaching agents. In-office whitening offered by dentists takes place under controlled conditions, and allow for the safe use of a relatively high concentration of bleaching gel.

Though many dental insurances don’t cover cosmetic whitening, some dentists offer pre-paid payment plans to break up the cost.

Professional Whitening Kits

Cost: $300–$400

Dentists can also set you up with a customized at-home whitening kit. This option is less expensive than in-office bleaching but is more effective than over-the-counter whitening products.

Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth and send them to the lab to make the teeth-whitening trays. Expect to receive your trays between one and two weeks after impressions are taken. Typically, you’ll wear the whitening trays for about an hour a day for two weeks.

The initial shade of your teeth should be recorded in your dental chart for comparison when whitening has been completed, so you can see just how white your teeth are (or how yellow they might have once been!)

Over-the-Counter Teeth-Whitening Trays

Cost: under $100

Similar to in-office whitening kits, over-the-counter whitening trays involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a whitening gel. The tray is generally worn between one and two hours a day, between one and four weeks, depending on the product.

Over-the-counter whitening kits don’t have the in-office advantage of being molded to fit your mouth, in addition to containing weaker concentrations of bleaching agents. However, for a fraction of the cost of in-office kits, over-the-counter trays may be a fitting alternative.


Cost: $10–$60

At-home whitening strips are typically meant to be worn an hour a day for two weeks. Some strips even allow you to drink water while you wear them, adding an element of convenience to the affordable price. Like other over-the-counter whitening products, strips generally contain less than 10% of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide.


Cost: $5–$60

Some whitening gels are less than $10 and require time commitments as minimal as five minutes. Over-the-counter gels are typically applied with a small brush.

Initial results are seen in a few days, and final results are sustained for about four months. Whitening tends to be less dramatic and shorter-lasting than in-office whitening procedures or kits.

Whitening Toothpaste and Rinses

Cost: $4–$7

Whitening toothpaste and rinses generally cost the same as any regular store-bought toothpaste or rinse. These products can supplement or replace your regular toothpaste or rinse.

It may take between six and 12 weeks to see results. If you go this route, you’ll have to brush with the toothpaste as normal, and swish the whitening rinse in your mouth for 60 seconds, twice a day before brushing your teeth.

Some experts say that whitening toothpaste and rinses may not be as effective as other over-the-counter whitening products, as they are only in contact with the teeth for less than two minutes at a time, twice a day. Whitening toothpaste and rinses also contain much weaker concentrations of whitening agents than in-office procedures.

Consult your dentist before trying any whitening products, as misuse or overuse of over-the-counter products can result in weakening enamel or tooth sensitivity.


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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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