Whether you're reentering the dating world after a long hiatus or just finally admitting that your coffee and cigarette routine has caught up with you, you want whiter teeth. You don't want to go the Chiclets route--where your teeth look more like Chiclets than enamel--but on the other hand, that yellowish hue has dulled your smile.
Once you start considering teeth whitening options, you'll begin to notice people's teeth in a way you never have before. Teeth come naturally in lots of different colors, from white to yellow to gray, with stains in a variety of colors as well.
Here is information on options for brightening your smile and how much the teeth whitening process will lighten your wallet:
- Laser Tooth Whitening: If you're going to be on Oprah tomorrow and need to whiten your teeth today, then you don't have the luxury of taking the slow route. The laser tooth whitening is the best option for you. Laser tooth whitening is the fastest technique available and among the most expensive. A professional strength bleaching gel is painted onto the teeth and a laser is used to activate the gel. The procedure takes about one to two hours. The success of the procedure depends on the natural color of your teeth as well as the degree of stain, but you can expect your teeth to lighten five to ten shades. Some studies suggest that professional teeth whitening methods or systems lightened teeth equally well regardless of whether or not a light source was used to activate the bleaching gel. Costs range from $500 to $1500.
- Trays: This is one of the more popular treatments. Your dentist creates a "tray" or night guard that is custom-fitted for your teeth. At home, you place a bleaching solution in the tray that is worn for a specified period of time (depending upon the potency of the bleaching solution) ranging from one hour to overnight. The theory here is that the tray helps to keep the bleaching solution in close contact with your teeth. Prices range from $400-$1000 total. This is still classified as dental whitening yet most of the work is done in your home.
- At-Home Teeth Whiteners and Whitening Kits: Whitening your teeth at home by using a bleaching kit is much less expensive than having them whitened at the dentist's office. The method is similar to the professional procedure although the strength of the whitening agent is more dilute than that the dentist provides. Professional-use whitening agents have a peroxide content of anywhere from 15-50% while at-home kits range from 3-10%. The at-home whitening kits offer two different delivery systems, and prices range from $25 - $40 per kit.
- Whitening strips: Whitening strips are very thin pieces of plastic that have been coated on one side with a whitening agent. The strips come in two different shapes--one for the upper teeth and one for the lower teeth. The strips are positioned and then pressed into the teeth.
- Paint-on: These kits require the user to paint on a peroxide whitening gel using a small brush. Teeth are first dried off, either air-dried or via a washcloth, and then the whitening agent or gel is painted on.
- Veneers: Your dentist makes veneers out of porcelain laminate custom fitted to your teeth. The veneers are then bonded to your teeth permanently. The cost is anywhere from $600-$1200 per tooth so a smile of pearly whites adds up fast. This is an option for teeth that are broken or otherwise badly damaged.
- Dental Restorations: Whitening treatments typically do not whiten porcelain dental restorations, which have been matched to your teeth's previous color. Thus crowns or bridges may need to be replaced, which is a significant investment both in terms of time and money.
Keep in mind that after whitening, you may experience heightened tooth sensitivity that is usually temporary. You may also experience gum irritation due to poorly fitted trays or contact with bleaching solution. These side effects usually subside once the whitening process is completed.