How much does in-office whitening cost? / How many sessions will be needed?
The top half of this page discusses how much dentists charge for performing teeth whitening treatments. The lower half of this page discusses why you may likely require more than a single treatment.
How much do professional whitening treatments cost?
Here is a ballpark cost estimate for what a dentist might charge for a single tooth-bleaching session (professional, in-office or laser whitening, they're all the same procedure). In some cases, more than one treatment may be needed to produce the results you're after. (See below.)
< Small rural city or town. - Largest metropolitan areas. >
1) Even within the same vicinity, you can expect different dental offices to quote a different fee for this procedure, possibly substantially so.
Some offices will provide a "boutique" or "spa" experience, while others will have a more traditional delivery. Some offices will be involved with systems that are advertised heavily. As you can imagine, all of these factors will, ultimately, affect the procedure's pricing.
We will state that, while we do think that different dentists have different capabilities, we're less inclined to have faith in any one particular product or brand.
2) Some dentists may suggest that in-office sessions should be followed up with the use of an at-home whitener. If so, you can expect that there will be an additional cost for this additional treatment.
3) Those dentists who incorporate a bleaching light or laser into the procedure will have higher equipment costs than those who don't. And these dentists may need to charge a relatively higher fee for their treatments. While using one of these may impress patients, not all research confirms that a bleaching light enhances the whitening process.
Can you expect to get results?
There is no question, in the vast majority of cases, after just a single in-office treatment, a person should expect to see some lightening effect. However, the overall level of whitening produced shouldn't be expected to be significantly better than using a dentist-dispensed at-home system.
How many whitening sessions will a person need?
Dental literature reports that the average number of in-office bleaching treatments needed to "make patients happy" is three. And even though results were seen after each individual visit, it typically took between two to six appointments to reach a case's "maximum whiteness."
When determining if the professional approach is the best one for you, you should take into consideration that more than one session may be needed. These extra appointments will require further time and cost commitment on your part.
The results you see in your dentist's office may not be the same results you see at home.
The dehydration effect.
One reason follow-up whitening appointments may be needed is due to what is termed the "dehydration effect."
When teeth are kept dry for an extended period of time (even as little as 30 to 60 minutes) they can become desiccated. As this dehydration effect takes place, the color of the teeth involved tends to become lighter.
(While most people are unaware of this phenomenon, dentists certainly have a familiarity with it. This is why, when a dentist places a white filling, they will choose the color of filling material before they begin the actual treatment process.
This type of tooth-lightening fades.
Once a desiccated tooth is exposed to moisture again (saliva), the tooth will begin to rehydrate. As this process takes place the tooth will return to its normal, somewhat darker shade. This rehydration process can take several days, possibly as many as three or more.
Why this false effect takes place during in-office treatments.
When professional teeth whitening treatments are performed, the dentist takes great effort to isolate the teeth that will be treated so the caustic whitener used during the bleaching process is kept away from soft oral tissues. This isolation, however, allows the teeth being treated to become desiccated.
You might expect that the application of a bleaching gel would provide a moisture source for the teeth but this is not always the case. Some professional teeth whitening gels are non-hydrous compounds. Even though the bleaching gel looks "wet" the tooth still becomes desiccated during the bleaching process.
The results you see immediately after a whitening session may fade.
This means that some of the whitening effect that is seen immediately after an in-office treatment has been completed may not be a true color change. It may be a temporary effect solely due to the fact that the teeth have become dehydrated. This component of the apparent color change of the teeth will relapse over the next few days.
In-office whitening treatments work, but you may need more than one.
Now, under no circumstances are we implying that professional teeth whitening treatments, even with non-hydrated bleaching gels, do not work. That's not the case. The peroxide compounds used with in-office teeth whitening absolutely have the ability to make color changes with teeth.
Instead, our point is that in this type of instance the dramatic color change noticed immediately after the bleaching treatment has been performed is possibly not as profound as you (or your dentist) might like to think. We would say that a true "before and after" shade comparison can only be made if the "after" evaluation is made, some days after your whitening treatment was performed.
More treatments mean added expenses.
At that point, you may decide that further treatment is needed. If so, other visits can be scheduled, although you'll have the added burden of further costs. As an alternative, and possibly as a cost-saving measure, you might consider a combined bleaching approach where professional treatment is followed up with an at-home system. This is a well known technique and is frequently utilized.