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Best Ways to Whiten Your Teeth 

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Are your teeth as white as you’d like them to be? If not, consider booking an appointment with your dentist ASAP to get your smile in shape. Sure, you could choose a whitening product from a store shelf, and probably brighten your teeth by a shade or two. But a professional whitening treatment is safer, more effective, and customized for your smile.  

Professional teeth whitening vs. at-home options 

One of the primary differences between professional and at-home (over the counter/OTC) teeth whitening treatments like whitening strips and pastes, is in the strength of the whitening agents. Professional treatments often use higher concentrations of bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These stronger agents can only be safely administered by a dental professional. This higher concentration allows for faster and more noticeable results compared to OTC products, which typically have lower concentrations of bleaching agents for safety reasons. OTC treatments require more prolonged and consistent use to achieve similar results to professional treatments. 

The advantages of professional teeth whitening extend beyond the strength of the whitening agents. Professional treatments are tailored to individual needs. During a professional whitening session, a dentist will assess the health of your teeth and gums, ensuring that the treatment is suitable and safe. This personalized approach not only enhances the effectiveness of the treatment but also reduces the risk of side effects like gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which can happen with OTC products due to their one-size-fits-all nature. 

Another significant aspect to consider is the precision of application. Dentists use custom-made trays or carefully apply the whitening agent to ensure even coverage and avoid contact with gums or other soft tissues. In contrast, OTC kits, which often come with generic trays or strips, may lead to uneven whitening, and can sometimes cause irritation or damage to gums and other soft tissues in the mouth due to improper application. 

How much does teeth whitening cost?  

The cost of teeth whitening varies widely depending on the type of treatment chosen: professional treatments administered by a dentist ($300-$800), dentist-prescribed at-home kits ($100-$400), or OTC products ($20-$100).  

Professional teeth whitening treatments, performed in a dental office, typically represent the highest cost option. The average cost for this type of treatment can range from $300 to $800. These treatments are often preferred for their immediate and dramatic results, usually achieved in one or two visits, due to a dentist’s expertise and the use of advanced whitening technologies. 

Dentist-prescribed at-home whitening kits are a middle-ground option in terms of cost. These kits, which include custom-made trays and a professional-grade whitening gel, typically range from $100 to $400. The price depends on the concentration of the whitening agent and the customization of the trays. These kits offer the benefit of professional oversight and are tailored to your needs, and so can provide better results than OTC products. 

Over-the-counter teeth whitening products are the most affordable and accessible option. The average cost for these products, which include whitening strips, gels, toothpastes, and rinses, can range from $20 to $100. The wide range in prices reflects the variety of products available and their differing strengths and formulations. While OTC products are the least expensive, they are also generally the least effective of the three options, particularly for significant or long-lasting whitening results. They are best suited for minor discoloration. 

How does teeth whitening work? 

In office: Your dentist applies a peroxide gel to your teeth and then activates the solution via a high-intensity light. This takes about an hour and depending on the condition of your teeth, the sensitivity of your gums, and your desired results, you may need more than one appointment to complete the treatment. The average cost is $450-$600.  

At home: Your dentist will custom-fit a set of “whitening trays” (flexible molds which you’ll place over your teeth) or will provide you with a kit that contains the trays and a peroxide gel. The whitening product used is typically weaker than the one utilized in the dentist’s office but more powerful than an over-the-counter product. Typically, you’ll wear the trays for 4-8 hours daily over the course of ten days. Average cost is $400-$500.  

OTC: The products you can purchase over the counter will be weaker than ones intended for professional use, as exposure to high-strength peroxide can damage your gums (your dentist will protect your gums with a shield or gel when doing a whitening treatment). Check with your hygienist for product recommendations and how long you should wait after the cleaning before using a whitening treatment.   

Ask your dentist for advice before trying at home whitening products if you’ve had restorative treatments such as bonding, veneers, crowns, fillings in the front of your teeth, or if your teeth are badly stained. Do-it-yourself whitening treatments can damage previous dental work or create unevenly colored teeth. Your dentist may also advise you not to whiten your teeth if you have gum disease, fragile dental enamel, especially sensitive teeth, or specific medical conditions. Additionally, some types of staining cannot be removed by external bleaching. 

Know that using things like activated charcoal or lemon juice and baking soda to create your own DIY teeth whitening concoctions is not a good idea. These substances, and similar ones, are too abrasive and can damage the enamel, leading to increased tooth sensitivity and cavities.  

Does dental insurance pay for teeth whitening? 

Dental insurance rarely covers cosmetic treatments. But dental savings plans, an established alternative to traditional dental insurance, typically provide an average discount of 20% off professional whitening treatments – along with other cosmetic treatments such as overlays and dental implants – from a nationwide network of dentists. 

Plan members report saving an average* of 50% on their dental care needs, including preventive dental care and restorative treatments. And, unlike insurance, there’s no annual maximum spending limits, deductibles or delays before you qualify for discounts on the most expensive dental procedures. 

Ready to make your smile the best it can be, at a price you can afford? Give us a call at 1-833-735-0399, As noted above, dental savings plans can typically reduce the cost of teeth whitening by about 20%, check individual plans for details. And use our calculator below for a quick look at how much you can save on virtually all of your dental care.  

*Discount Health Program consumer and provider surveys indicate average savings of 50%. Savings may vary by provider, location, and plan. 

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