Getting your teeth whitened is quite popular in the US and some other parts of the global West but it can also be quite pricey. Depending on which of the various types of professional teeth whitening procedures you choose to (or have to) go with, the costs can range anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few dozen thousand dollars.

Fortunately, dental insurance plans are a thing. Unfortunately, dental insurance doesn’t always work with cosmetic dentistry procedures such as a teeth whitening treatment and restoration. So, what does this mean for you and your finances? How much is teeth whitening at dentist with insurance and is the procedure even covered in your case? Let’s find out below.

Are There Insurance Providers that Cover Teeth Whitening?

Having stains on a tooth is always frustrating but procedures such as dental veneers or bonding can help fix that. What’s less great, however, is that things such as dental bonding or veneers are all considered cosmetic procedures, even when they are done for chipped teeth and not just for tooth whitening.

And, as you’d expect, most insurance providers don’t really cover elective cosmetic procedures as insurance providers are for-profit companies and paying for someone’s cosmetic procedure isn’t in their interest.

Still, if you search hard enough and if you’re a bit lucky, you can find that there are some providers that do cover teeth whitening procedures. These tend to change over time as insurance providers do shift policies over time. As of writing this, however, providers such as Guardian Direct, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental, Ameritas, and a few others do cover teeth whitening.

Even though that’s good news, however, you should note that those cases too come with their technicalities. For one, no dental insurance will cover 100% of your teeth whitening costs. And for another – these insurances almost always have a waiting period of at least a few months – often over half a year – until their coverage gets into effect. So, do be mindful of the small print.

How Much is Teeth Whitening at Dentist With Insurance and Without One?

How Much is Teeth Whitening at Dentist With Insurance and Without One?

Assuming you’ve got dental insurance that covers in-office teeth whitening – how much does teeth whitening cost in that case? Usually, dental insurance will cover about 30% to 50% of the total cost of the procedure – sometimes a smaller percentage immediately and the rest after a while – although some lucrative plans such as the Delta Dental Pro Individual Premium Plan can cover up to 80% of the procedure.

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So, the exact cost you’re going to have to pay will be a percentage of the total cost of the procedure, depending on what type of plan you’ve got – usually about half.

Another extra detail is that some insurance plans can also lower the overall cost of the treatment as insurance providers are able to negotiate lower prices better than individual clients can. That said, such instances aren’t always the case and can’t be relied upon. So, the simple thing to assume is that if your dental insurance happens to cover teeth whitening, it will usually cover about 50% of whatever procedure you’ve chosen.

Most providers won’t cover such cosmetic procedures, however, so you’ll usually have to pay the whole cost of the treatment out-of-pocket. So, let’s see how that works, what your options are, and how can you lower the costs without insurance.

Alternative Ways to Lower the Costs of Teeth Whitening If Your Insurance Doesn’t Cover It

When talking about the various teeth whitening procedures out there, we can generally divide them into two categories – 1) the expensive, safe, fast-acting, and highly-effective procedures done in the dentist office and 2) the more affordable and cost-effective things you can do yourself at home.

The former can include things such as laser teeth whitening, dental bonding, implants, dental veneers, and professional dentist whitening kits that tend to cost between several hundred and over a thousand dollars but are safe, reliable, and very effective. The average cost of teeth whitening via such methods can be quite costly even with insurance, let alone without it.

Bonding and veneers, in particular, are very expensive. Veneers – thin porcelain coverings placed on top of your teeth – can cost up to $2,500 per tooth or north of $40,000 for your whole mouth. This, understandably, is something not all patients can afford. Regular professional dentist whitening kits are more affordable than that, of course, but they are still pricier than whitening products you can buy yourself over the counter and use at home.

So, let’s look into some ways to lower all these costs even if you don’t have insurance. The two basic ways for that are to look for solutions outside of the dentist’s office or to just talk with your dentist about ways you can lower the costs. We’ve divided the main things you should consider into 8 points below:

1. At-home teeth whitening kits

At-home teeth whitening kits

Take-home kits for tooth whitening can be bought over the counter and are usually quite affordable. They work on a similar principle as professional dentist kits but aren’t as pricey. Unfortunately, they also aren’t as good.

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This doesn’t mean that they can’t work, however – they will usually just take longer and they may not be suitable for everybody. Whereas a dentist will use a customized tray kit that’s perfectly suited for your teeth and previous dental work, take-home trays aren’t as refined and can be problematic for people with tooth and enamel sensitivity, issues with their gums, or that have had previous major dental work done (crowns, bridges, etc.)

For that reason, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that you always contact your dentist before you try an in-home solution. Yes, that initial consultation will cost a bit extra and the dentist will likely recommend their own whitening kits instead. However, keep in mind that at-home teeth whitening kits include about 10% to 20% hydrogen peroxide which means that using them is basically equivalent to bleaching your teeth. So, it’s important to be careful.

2. Whitening toothpaste

While obviously not as fast-acting and effective as laser whitening or veneers, a good whitening toothpaste can be a good solution if you’re not in a hurry and if you don’t have any intrinsic stains on your teeth. The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic stains is important to note here, however – intrinsic stains are ones that happen over time with age and with some internal dental conditions and extrinsic stains are the ones we do to ourselves with stuff such as coffee, smoking, food, and so on.

Why is this important? Because treating intrinsic stains with whitening toothpaste is more or less impossible, at least not to any significant degree. If your issues stem from extrinsic stains, however, a good whitening toothpaste could be all you need even if it takes a while to have a significant effect.

3. Whitening strips and gels

Something like a whitening gel can also work well over time for extrinsic tooth stains. These can be used together with a whitening toothpaste or instead of it. Do contact your dentist beforehand, however, as whitening gels and strips can be damaging to you if you have teeth sensitivity.

4. Teeth whitening mouthwash

As was the case with whitening gels, strips, and toothpaste, a good whitening mouthwash can also contribute to your combat with extrinsic tooth stains. It likely won’t be enough on its own, however, and it will take some time.

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5. Dental cleaning

Dental cleaning

Very often when we’re worried about tooth discoloration, we don’t need to look into veneers, implants, or other major procedures on our natural teeth. Instead, the discoloration is often just due to plaque buildup on the surface of teeth – something that’s very easily dealt with via a quick and affordable dental cleaning procedure.

6. Check at a local dental school

If you do want a more serious in-office procedure, an easy way to get a lower price even if you don’t have insurance is to visit a local dental school. These places often offer various dental procedures at discount prices as they need clients for their students to practice on. This can sound daunting at first – no one wants to be a test dummy – but most teeth whitening procedures are fairly easy to do and very low-risk even when done by a student.

7. Ask your dentist for any special promotions, coupons, long-term financing plans, etc.

Dentists in the US are very used to working with clients that may need payment plans or other payment options. So, most dentists will be able to offer you alternatives – all you need to do is ask them beforehand.

8. Reduce the causes of extrinsic stains

Last but not least, prevention is the best and most affordable thing we can do if we want to have sparkling white teeth. Coffee and smoking may be fun but they simply result in way too much tooth discoloration and it’s not really worth it to pay thousands of dollars for teeth whitening and then continue drinking coffee.

In Conclusion

As you can see, teeth whitening is a wide, varied, and somewhat complicated field. There are a lot of Dos and Don’ts here, as well as wildly varying prices for these whitening procedures. If you’re lucky, your dental insurance may cover ~50% of the costs but that often won’t be the case and you’d need to look for other alternatives.

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