10 Teeth Whitening Methods and What They Cost

You can’t have a dazzling smile without pearly white teeth. But what is the average cost of teeth-whitening procedures? The price of whitening your teeth varies widely depending on the method. DIY at-home products can cost as low as $5, while professional whitening treatments at the dentist’s office can cost as much as $1,000 per visit.

Not every whitening method is good for your enamel or oral cavity, though, and some can actually harm your mouth. We’ve rounded up a list of safe, effective whitening methods, including their average costs.

Over-the-Counter Whitening

These take-home teeth whitening kits and products are the most inexpensive, convenient ways to restore the luster of your pearly whites. You can purchase these cost-effective bleaching and cleaning products at your local supermarket, drug store, or online.

Keep in mind that the cost of these whitening products varies based on the item’s size and if you buy a name-brand or generic product.

1. Teeth Whitening Strips

Typically Costs: $30-$70 for 10-20 strips

How it works: Flexible plastic strips are coated a thin layer of hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide, and other bleaching agents. Apply the adhesive strips to your teeth daily for the recommended period for best results.

How Long it Takes: 5-30 minutes daily for 1-2 weeks depending on the strength of the whitening gel. Some potent treatments show changes within a single day, while milder whitening strips take up to 2 weeks to complete.

Risks: Uneven bleaching that results in blotchy white spots across the enamel. Irritation of soft gum tissue or corrosion of enamel if overused.

Upkeep: Repeat treatments every 6-12 months.

2. Paint-on Varnishes

Typically Costs: $10-$20 per unit

How it works: Whitening gel is painted directly onto the dental surface using an applicator brush or pen. Contains peroxide bleaching agents that forms a hardening film on the teeth to remove surface stains. Dissolves automatically.

How Long it Takes: Apply 1-2 times daily for 1-2 weeks.

Risks: Tricky to apply effectively. Can easily be rinsed away accidentally too soon, causing uneven bleaching that results in light and dark patches across the enamel. Irritation of soft gum tissue.

Upkeep: Use every 4-6 months.

3. LED Whitening Kits

Typically Costs: $50-$300

How it works: Kits include a special coating gel to prepare the teeth. Then, a blue LED light shines inside the mouth to activate the gel.

How Long it Takes: Use 20-30 minutes daily for 2-4 weeks.

Risks: UV light even in mild doses can cause severe irritation of the gums, oral skin burns, and irreparable enamel damage to sensitive teeth.

Upkeep: Every 6 months.

4. Whitening Toothpastes

Typically Costs: $5-$15 per tube

How it works: Apply directly to the teeth and scrub with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Most whitening toothpastes use abrasives like baking soda to polish the surface and bleaches to undo tooth discoloration.

How Long it Takes: Brush 2-3 times daily for 3-6 weeks for visible changes.

Risks: Potent products with extra peroxide can irritate gum tissue. High-abrasive pastes can wear down the enamel.

Upkeep: ontinue using on a daily basis or a few times every week to prevent stains from returning.

5. Whitening Rinses

Typically Costs: $7-20 per bottle

How it works: As with any mouthwash, this rinse loosens food particles between teeth if swished for 60 seconds before brushing. Also contain fluoride and hydrogen peroxide to gently bleach teeth.

How Long it Takes: 3-6 weeks of daily use for visible changes to occur.

Risks: Rinses containing alcohol can burn your mouth and damage the good bacteria in your oral microbiome.

Upkeep: Continue using on a daily basis or a few times every week to prevent stains from returning.

6. Whitening Chewing Gum

Typically Costs: $3-5 per pack

How it works: Chewing gum after meals cleans teeth by stimulating saliva flow. This helps remove the food particles and sticky residue that linger and stain teeth. Whitening gum typically contains extra abrasives to scour the dental surfaces. Should be paired with other cleaning and whitening practices; negligible effects on its own.

How Long it Takes: 6-8 weeks for even minor changes in shade.

Risks: Products containing sugar can lead to cavities. Highly abrasive gum can wear down tooth enamel.

Upkeep: Chew daily for ongoing cleaning effects.

Dentist-Prescribed Whitening

Many dental offices sell teeth whitening products that are more potent or personalized than the over-the-counter solutions you’ll find in drugstores. Unlike in-office treatments that are performed on site, these are DIY treatments you perform at home after obtaining the home whitening kit from the dentist.

7. Custom Whitening Trays

Typically Costs: $150-$500 for custom trays

How it works: Unlike one-size-fits-all trays sold in stores, your dentist creates a personalized tray based on a mold of your teeth. This ensures a closer, uniform fit for an even application of the whitening solution.

How Long it Takes: 1-3 hours daily for 10-14 days.

Risks: Some gels can harm your teeth if they contain chlorine dioxide or high concentration of peroxide or cause oral discomfort. Gum irritation can occur due to chemicals. At-home application may be performed incorrectly since a professional isn’t present to administer.

Upkeep: Repeat every 6-12 months.

8. Prescription Bleaching Gel

Typically Costs: $20-$40 per portion

How it works: Prescription-strength products have a much higher percentage of peroxide in them than over-the-counter ones do — potentially 10 times as much. This take-home whitening gel can be applied directly to the teeth like a varnish or with a custom-fitted tray.

How Long it Takes: 1-3 hours daily for 10-14 days.

Risks: The high amount of peroxide can damage the enamel or burn the gums.

Upkeep: Repeat every 6-12 months.

In-Office Whitening

You can schedule a professional teeth whitening at a dental office, where the treatment will be supervised by a professional and monitored closely.

Here you have stronger teeth-whitening options than what you can find in the store. It’s great if you need a rapid whitening process for immediately brighter teeth, as a single in-office treatment can provide same-day whitening results. Professional whitening can undo years of teeth staining from red wine, coffee, or food.

This is also a good option if you have sensitive gums or weak enamel and require careful, specialized application.

9. In-Office Bleaching

Typically Costs: $300-$500 for a single session

How it works: Uses prescription-strength whitening gels like the take-home products but are administered in the office using special tools such as a protective gum coating. Application may be paired with heat to accelerate or intensify the whitening.

How Long it Takes: 1-3 office visits for 1-2 hours each.

Risks: Lower risk to the teeth and gums due to preventative measures but may still cause soreness or aching in sensitive teeth.

Upkeep: No more than once a year.

10. Laser Whitening

Typically Costs: $500-$1,000 per session

How it works: An intense ultraviolet light works in combination with a gel to quickly break up the stains lodged in the enamel causing tooth discoloration.

How Long it Takes: 60-90 minutes in a single visit.

Risks: UV treatment is the riskiest method of whitening teeth. The powerful light can burn the skin on the gums, lips, and tongue or cause bleeding.

Upkeep: No more than once a year.

Does Insurance Cover Teeth Whitening?

Dental insurance typically covers only procedures deemed “medically necessary” but not cosmetic ones. That means your insurance company might not pay for anything that improves the appearance of your teeth but not their underlying condition. Unfortunately, teeth whitening is considered an elective cosmetic procedure and not a necessary one, whether it’s a professional teeth whitening or a home treatment.

You can still choose to have your teeth whitened but will have to pay out of pocket for the kit or procedure. That’s why it’s wise to shop around and find a method that fits your needs and budget, as the cost to have your teeth whitened can vary drastically.

Let Us Help Whiten Your Smile

If you live in New York City and want whiter teeth, Rejuvenation Dentistry can help. We offer convenient in-office teeth-whitening treatment services. Our holistic dental philosophy considers the wellbeing if your entire mouth. Your oral health depends on its microbiology, which should be cultivated— not harmed.

Contact us to schedule an appointment to let us help you gain a whiter smile.

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 40 years of clinical practice experience.

He studied neuroscience at Colgate University and attended dental school at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry where he now serves as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care.