With the teeth whitening industry booming in the billions (nearing $8 billion between 2021 and 2026, according to market research group Arizton), consumers’ options for brightening their smile are abundant. Oral care aisles at department stores are packed with options — toothpastes, strips, trays, kits and gels. Dentists’ offices have been promoting brighter smiles as well — which are covered toward the end of this article.
Here we break down the cost of teeth whitening, starting from the least expensive to the most expensive. Also included are general comments about the effectiveness of each type of product. Effectiveness varies from person to person, depending on how stained your teeth are, as well as the types of stains. Always visit your dentist before undertaking any type of tooth whitening process, to rule out oral health issues.
Here we compare two types of commercial toothpastes — regular brands that are commonly found in grocery stores and drugstores and luxury brands that are found in department stores and through online boutiques. According to Consumer Reports, toothpastes with carbamide peroxide worked slightly better than toothpastes with hydrogen peroxide.
The major drugstore brands of toothpaste — Colgate, Crest, Sensodyne to name a few — offer versions of their brands that include whitening agents. These tend to be the least expensive, especially if you buy them in three- or four-packs. There are also some specialty brands, like Tom’s of Maine, Burt’s Bees and JASON that are positioned as natural, organic and sustainable because they either use no artificial ingredients and/or do not test products on animals. Organics tend to cost a little more than “regular” brands.
Costs: $3 to $10 per 4-ounce tube, or $1.50 to $5 per month (assuming a standard tube of toothpaste lasts 2 months if used twice daily by one person)
Effectiveness: Whitening toothpastes brighten your teeth one or two shades if you use them as directed, including avoiding foods and beverages that are known to stain your teeth.
Higher-end brands of oral care products — vVARDIS, for example — also contain safe whitening agents, plus some may protect against demineralization and cavities. Many of them are also organic, natural and cruelty-free, and they contain natural flavors — read the fine print to differentiate between the luxury brand and their “regular” counterparts. vVARDIS, for example, does not use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth — it uses natural minerals that remove stains. There are even some uber-luxury lines with prices as high as $100 for a single tube!
Costs: $15 to $100 per 2- to 4-ounce tube
Effectiveness: Luxury brands of whitening toothpastes vary based on their whitening agents. Generally, if you use them as directed, you’ll notice whiter teeth within a couple of weeks.
Slightly more effective than whitening toothpaste are whitening strips. They might contain the same or slightly more whitening agents — usually peroxide — and they’re left on for a longer time, usually about 30 minutes. Whitening strips contain low enough levels of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide that they are safe to use; however, experts recommend avoiding products that contain chlorine dioxide, which will destroy tooth enamel.
Whitening strips are widely available anywhere that oral care products are sold — drugstores, department stores, and groceries. The instructions for most whitening strips advise not to brush teeth before applying the strips. Remove the strip from the backing and slide it onto your teeth, aligning with the gum line and folding the rest over your teeth. Follow the instructions for the length of time — usually 5 to 45 minutes, depending on your teeth color and whitening goals.
Many of the whitening strips are intended for weekly use, although some are safe enough to use once a day, so you can use a whitening toothpaste on “off” days. Crest 3D White Strips
Costs: Whitening strips average around $2.25 per treatment (2 strips per treatment for top and bottom teeth)
Effectiveness: Whitening strips if used as directed can whiten teeth as much as 12 levels, according to packaging claims; however, individual results vary based on your natural teeth color, whether you are a tobacco user, and a host of other factors. Whitening strips’ effects last a week to a month and must be repeated in order to maintain results.
Teeth Whitening Gel
This type of whitener is painted or brushed onto the teeth and left on for approximately 30 minutes, depending on your teeth and the manufacturer’s instructions. Some brands use a hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, while others use natural minerals that gently remove stains and polish teeth.
Cost: $25 to $200
Effectiveness: If properly used, one can expect between 2 to 10 shades lighter within the first two weeks.
If you don’t want to use trays, you can find some premium brands that use teeth whitening gels that are “painted” or brushed onto teeth.
Teeth Whitening Kits
Teeth whitening kits come in two formats: professional and over-the-counter. Professional teeth whitening kits are available only through a dentist’s office, while their OTC counterparts are available at drugstores and department stores.
Professional teeth whitening kits usually contain a higher concentration of the whitening agent — usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide — so they tend to cost more than drugstore varieties. They also use a clear tray that’s been custom fit to your teeth. OTC whitening kits come with standard trays and are not custom fit to your teeth.
To use, fill the tray with the whitening gel or bleach and press the tray over the top and bottom teeth. Typical instructions say to leave the trays on for 2 to 4 hours; resist temptation to leave them on longer, as this can increase teeth sensitivity.
You can purchase teeth whitening kits over the counter or from a dentist’s office. The dentist-provided kits tend to have higher strength whitening than ones that you can buy online or at your local drugstore.
Costs: OTC whitening kits start around $100, while professional kits range from $100 to $400 (according to GuardianDirect)
Effectiveness: Because the kits contain higher concentrations of whitening agents and they’re left on for longer periods, these tend to be more effective than whitening toothpastes and strips.
In-Office Professional Whitening
Professional whitening takes place in a dentist’s office and it is the most expensive method for brightening a smile. Bankrate estimates that in-office teeth whitening averages $650 and can easily pass $1,000 depending on your location, the procedure your dentist uses, and how many treatments you require.
In-office teeth whitening typically uses some form of peroxide bleach and a curing light to activate the peroxide. The dentist uses tools to hold your mouth open and expose your teeth so they remain dry throughout the procedure, which can take 1 to 2 hours. They might polish them first, then apply the whitener, and finally cure them with a special light. Because of the high concentration of bleach, some people experience tooth sensitivity during the procedure, and “zaps” of sensitivity afterward. A good dentist will review the procedure with you and disclose all the risks. You’ll also need to avoid certain foods and beverages for 1 to 2 days post-whitening.
Costs: $650 to $1,000
Effectiveness: By all reports, this tends to be the most effective way to whiten teeth, whitening the most levels in the shortest amount of time.
Avoid chlorine dioxide: https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/teeth_whitening_fads and https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2013.629?proof=t
How strips work: https://crest.com/en-us/oral-health/why-crest/whitestrips/crest-whitestrips-instructions-safe-easy-teeth-whitening
Professional whitening costs
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