What Causes Tooth Discoloration?

Tooth discoloration can happen for a number of reasons, including;

  • Strongly colored foods or drinks, such as coffee, tea, red wine or berries.

  • Poor oral hygiene.  

  • Tobacco use. 

  • Certain medications or health conditions. 

  • Age. 

Luckily, professional teeth whitening can help to brighten your teeth in many cases.


Types of Professional Whitening Procedures

There are different kinds of teeth whitening treatments that your dentist may recommend. Professional options fall into two categories:
  • In-office whitening. During an in-office professional whitening treatment, your dental professional will carefully apply a strong bleaching gel to your teeth. The gel may be painted onto your teeth or put in trays that are placed over your teeth, and in some cases, a special light will be used to accelerate the whitening effect of the gel. 
  • Custom at-home trays.  Similar to in-office treatments, custom trays are designed to be filled with whitening gel and worn over your teeth. The dentist will give you the trays and gel to take away so that you can whiten your teeth in the comfort of your own home. However, you’ll typically be given a milder whitening gel, so the results might not be as fast or dramatic as a professional in-office treatment.


What Makes Professional Whitening Different?

You can bring the sparkle back to your smile with prescription gels, over-the-counter products, and professional whitening treatments. All of these whitening methods contain a variety of peroxide compounds, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). But professional teeth whitening procedures typically cost more for a number of reasons:

  • Stronger whitening agents. Professional in-office whitening treatments use much stronger levels of bleaching agents than at-home or over-the-counter whitening products. That does make it more expensive, but it means that you can achieve much more dramatic results from your whitening.

  • Faster results. Not only does the stronger bleaching agent produce whiter results, it does so in a much shorter time frame than an at-home whitening product. Rather than waiting weeks to see your new smile, you’ll see the results immediately afterwards. 

  • Dental supervision. Having the expert eye of your dentist makes for a safer and more effective treatment. They can perform a dental examination first to ensure that your gums and teeth are healthy enough for the treatment, and check for any crowns and veneers that will not be whitened. They can also take steps to protect you from the possible side effects. For example, the strong bleaching agent can cause sensitivity and gum irritation, but your dentist can apply a special gel to protect your soft tissues. While this professional supervision adds to the cost of treatment, benefits like these can make it very worthwhile.

It is essential to know that teeth discoloration may be caused by a specific underlying disease or condition that requires dental therapy. So, visit your dentist for a consultation before choosing a method to brighten your smile.


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Overnight Whitening Pen

A teeth whitening pen with an enamel safe whitening serum formula designed for no tooth sensitivity.

Who is Professional Whitening For?

The good news is that professional teeth whitening is right for most people with permanent teeth and good oral health. If you do not experience gum sensitivity or receding gums, then you may be less sensitive to chemicals in whitening procedures. In addition, professional teeth whitening works well for people with stubborn, yellowish stains, but may not always whiten brownish and grayish stains. Whitening treatments are a great option for people who haven't had previous work done to their front teeth; tooth-colored fillings, crowns, and caps cannot be whitened like the rest of your teeth. You can always consult with your dentist to find out if you are a good candidate and discuss the full range of teeth whitening options available to you.


Alternative Teeth Whitening Options

If you can't get professional teeth whitening treatment, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternative treatments that can help you improve your smile:

  • Professional cleaning. Regular dental cleaning helps reduce and may even remove staining on your teeth.
  • Veneers or bonding. This is a great option if you have had restorative work to the front teeth. Veneers or bonding can help you get the dazzling smile you want.
  • Over-the-counter whitening products. Whitening toothpaste, kits, whitening pens, and LED devices are affordable options that can help with minor discoloration.


How Much Does Professional Teeth Whitening Cost?

In-office professional teeth whitening can cost anything in the range of $500-$1000, with laser teeth whitening costing slightly more on average than simple bleaching. This is significantly more expensive than take-away bleaching kits provided by a dentist for home use, which typically fall in the range of $150-$400. As teeth whitening is considered a cosmetic treatment, it is not likely to be covered by insurance providers.


What Factors Influence the Cost of Professional Teeth Whitening?

The actual cost of professional teeth whitening depends on a number of factors, such as: 

  • Severity. If you have severe staining, it will take more effort – and possibly multiple sessions – to whiten your teeth and achieve your desired results. This will likely increase the cost overall. 

  • Oral health. Your dentist may need to address other oral health concerns before you can safely and effectively have your teeth whitened. For example, you may need desensitizing agents if you have very sensitive teeth, or a scaling procedure if you have plaque and tartar build-up. 

  • Provider. The experience and skill level of the dentist will influence what they charge for their services.

  • Whitening system. Your dentist may prefer to use a specific brand of whitening system or a particular technology, the cost of which can affect the price you pay. 

  • Location. If you live in an expensive city or region, professional teeth whitening and dental treatment in general will likely cost more.


Is Professional Whitening Worth it for You?

After visiting your dentist and getting the all-clear for teeth whitening, you can begin choosing a method to brighten your smile. This all depends on your budget and preference. If you're looking to flash a smile soon, professional in-office whitening is a great option. For more sensitive teeth, though, your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted whitening tray to use in the comfort of your home. In addition, there are lots of affordable and convenient over-the-counter whitening products that can help you get to the bright smile you deserve!


This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay