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Teeth Whitening Costs - The Full Breakdown

Dec 9, 2012
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Last Updated 12/9/2012 - There's a simple equation when it comes to selecting a teeth-whitening product: Time x Results = Price. But, no matter how much money you want to spend, chances are excellent you can find a teeth-whitening product to fall within your budget.

TOP OF THE LINE - In-Office Teeth Whitening

If money is no object, you can spend 30-60 minutes in a dentist's office (and between $400 and $1000) to have your teeth whitened up to 10 full shades, sometimes more.

Generally speaking, the non-light activated chairside systems are the most effective in-office systems. There are many on the market such as KoR Deep Bleaching, Opalescence Boost, Pola Office +, Beyond Dental, and LumiBrite. The KoR Deep Bleaching treatment features a take-home kit followed by an office visit as part of its regular protocol. A new bleach formula - Hydremide® Peroxide - has reduced the number of office visits (two were formerly required)–and lowered the costs of the procedure for dentists. Additionally, KoR features a non-acid based whitening gel, so when used with the system’s take-home desensitizer, far fewer people experience sensitivity while whitening. KoR also tackles the kind of intrinsic staining (tetracycline and genetic) which other methods can't handle. KoR regularly receives good reviews and was rated a Top 100 Product for both 2009 and 2010 by Dentistry Today. Opalescence Boost is another powerful in-office teeth whitening system with a super-strong (38%) peroxide formula delivered under a dentist's care; it's also rated a top product for 2010 by Dentistry Today and regularly gets good reviews on our site.

You probably already know the names of the major light-activated players for In-Office - also called "Laser" Whitening; Zoom!, BriteSmile, Beyond Dental Whitening, and Sapphire. What makes these kinds of in-office treatments so expensive? Primarily, it's the dentist's and hygienist's time and overhead. The light activated whiteners use medical-strength bleach formulas, which can irritate and damage gums and teeth, so careful pre-examination, close supervision and professionally applied protection is required. Also, the investment made in purchasing these systems - including the activation lamps - from their respective manufacturers is relatively high - so the costs get passed to the patient. FYI, the use of activating lights is under heavy debate.

$250 AND UNDER - Professional Take-Home Kits. Good Value for Good Results

If you're a regular reader here at, you know we're big fans of the Take-Home Whitening Kits that dentists sometimes prescribe for their whitening patients. These kits are a tremendous value - ranging from $150 - $250, including dental visits, and can offer the same kind of results–up to 10 shades of whitening in anywhere from 8 to 12 days. Why are these less expensive than in-office procedures? Simple, you're not under constant supervision from the dentist because the bleach formulation is safe enough to use on your own.

Take-Home Whitening Kits Products feature custom-made mouth trays and a strong bleaching solution - although the solutions are weaker than those used under the direct supervision of a dentist. The custom-made trays fit snugly to your teeth and hold the bleach in place assuring maximum tooth-to-bleach contact. The bleach strength can be selected with your needs in mind; some kits offer dentists a choice of formulas so they can tailor the bleaching experience to the individual patient. And, because you're under a dentist's care, the length of time you're exposed to the bleach (both the amount of time each day and the amount of days in total) can also be tailored to your individual needs - guaranteeing maximum bleaching with minimum sensitivity. Many notable dental whitening brands offer take-home whitening kits - including LumiBrite, KoR, Opalescence take-home gels, and Beyond II Complete. We should mention that Opalescence has gotten many positive reviews on our site.

AN EXTRA VALUE TIP as noted in our "Free Teeth Whitening" article; some dentists offer free Take-Home Whitening Kits to new patients, so if you're on the lookout for a new dentist - that's a great way to improve your oral health and your looks at the same time.

$100 AND UNDER - Over-the-Counter Kits & Strips

If you want to spend less than $100, there are STILL dozens of options open to you - many of which will deliver excellent results IF you follow the directions carefully and are in good oral health.

Coming in at around $100 or below, choose from Crest Whitestrips 3D Whitestrips Professional, and GoSmile 4-Day Speed Whitening System,and SuperSmile Professional Whitening System. These are all highly reputable companies with strong track records - who promise "professional" results at home. Again, one can experience multiple shade improvements with these systems, but you must carefully follow the directions and not have overly sensitive gums.

What separates these systems from the more expensive players are, generally: no dental visits, weaker bleach formulations and fewer "custom" kit features (less effective than custom trays).

$50 AND UNDER - More Players, More Kits, Less Reliability

You'll have the most choices if you're looking for a whitening kit that comes in under $50–and some of your choices are obvious, reliable and worth trying. Crest Whitestrips offer a number of different formulas, including those for Sensitive Teeth. Rembrandt also offers both whitening strips and a 2-Hour Kit that comes in under $50. Aquafresh offers a reliable name and mouth trays, while Dr. Collins, and a few others bring you at-home whitening with boil-and-bite mouth trays - even if they're not well known.

Under perfect test conditions, I'm sure any of these kits will whiten teeth noticeably - but remember the formula: Time x Results = Price. How well these kits perform depends largely on how well you follow the directions - and whether or not you're a good candidate for teeth whitening to begin with. They're inexpensive because there's nothing "custom" about them - and you're using bleach formulations proven to be safest for the greatest number of people - unsupervised by dentists.

GOOD IDEAS UNDER $20 - Pens, Rinses, and Touch-Ups

Chances are. if the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) of a non-sale whitening item falls below $20, you're probably looking at something designed for maintenance or only moderate shade change–or as a total rip-off.

There ARE kits available in this price range: Plus White, Natural White, Listerine and a few others - and if you're looking for only minor shade changes and you're in excellent oral health, you might try them.

Touch-up or maintenance products help keep surface stains from developing on a newly-whitened smile, and include Whitening Pens from GoSmile and Hollywood Smiles, Ampoules from GoSmile, and Whitening Rinses from any number of players, including Crest, Rembrandt, Listerine and others. Do they work - yes; depending on how well and frequently you use them and if you're a good candidate for general whitening. Don't expect a visible difference though - the bleach concentrations in maintenance products won't change the color of your teeth. That's why they're less expensive than stronger whitening methods.

UNDER $10 - Everybody Whitens

Whitening Toothpastes are the big teeth whitening draw under $10–as well as even more pre-whitening and after-whitening rinses from all the big manufacturers. See our article on Whitening Toothpastes for more information on how they work. Overall, they are fine to use - as long as you're not expecting big changes.

As far as the rinse category goes, I guess the jury's still out on those - look for more about them, both pre-whitening and after-whitening, in an upcoming article from

Depending on how white you want your smile to be and how much time you're willing to put into a whitening process, you can find a teeth whitening method that works for you. Remember the formula: Price x Time = Results.

But. whether it's a top of the line procedure or an on-sale drugstore find, if you're ready - there's a whiter smile in your future.

Reviewed by Dr. Alan Zweig
Dr. Alan Zweig runs a private dental practice in Beverly Hills, CA. With over 30 years of experience in cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Alan Zweig is a teeth whitening veteran. He’s been trusted by major celebrities, business leaders, and patients from over six different continents.

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