Teeth whitening is the popular kid at the dentist's office. Because insurance rarely (if ever) covers the cost of teeth whitening, more patients are opening their wallets to get the benefits of a professional whitening. That's why it is a multi-billion dollar industry and growing.
Even though it's extremely popular, it doesn't mean that it's easy on the wallet. If you started to research the price for professional cleanings you know that it's going to cost you a few hundred dollars for one session of whitening. And the real punch in the gut is that you'll need multiple sessions over the course of the year to maintain your desired shade.
So if you want to whiten your teeth in NYC, what should you expect to pay and what IS a fair price to pay? Here's a quick guide of whitening around NYC to help make your decision easier.
Teeth whitening price broken down by type
In this guide we are focusing on professional teeth whitening - whitening processes that are led by licensed dentists, rather than over-the-counter or at-home solutions that you might find on social media.
In general, there are two types of professional whitening you might encounter:
- In-Office whitening
- Custom-made trays
When most patients think of in-office whitening, the first thing that comes to mind is Philips Zoom Whitening. Well-known for using lights and lasers to "activate" the whitening agent, the demand for Zoom whitening has ballooned recently. But it's not the only in-office option. There is also Pola White, Kor, and Opalescence which all offer in-office whitening treatments.
Custom-made trays are made from a mold or 3D scan of your teeth. They will look similar to clear retainers but the material is extremely flexible. You'll place a whitening agent gel in the trays and wear them at home. One "session" will require multiple syringes of the gel to help you reach your goal.
In-office and custom-made trays will change the shade of your natural teeth. In-office requires one to three hours sitting in the chair, the results are more instantaneous but there is a high risk of tooth sensitivity. Additionally, because some of the whitening effect comes from your tooth being dehydrated during the in-office process, you will notice the shade begins fading immediately after you leave the office.
Custom-trays take a few weeks for you to reach your desired shade but are much more comfortable for your teeth and can be customized to help you avoid tooth sensitivity.
When it comes to the cost of whitening, here's what you can expect to pay at a licensed dentist in NYC:
- In-Office whitening - $400 - $600 per session (depending on dentist)
- Custom-made trays - $200 - $450 per refill (depending on dentist)
Of course, we could plug that with the $199 Wally membership you get unlimited at-home custom whitening trays as well as unlimited cleanings, but we won't toot our own horn here 📣
Teeth whitening dentist cost - why it's so high
By now you might be wondering, 'why on earth is whitening so friggin' expensive?' There's a few factors that are pushing up the cost of teeth whitening. The cost of the whitening supplies isn't the main culprit, it's actually some other pressures that come from the business model of the traditional dentist office.
- Opportunity cost. First, the dentist is trying to make money any time they see you in the chair. Whether it's 30 minutes to take impressions of your teeth to make whitening trays, or three hours to do a Zoom whitening. Your dentist wants to make sure that every time a butt is in the seat they are bringing in money. If you're in the chair for whitening it means your dentist can't do profitable restorative work (e.g. fillings, crowns). That's part of why they raise the price of your whitening.
- Cover losses from other treatments. Most dentists accept some form of insurance. Unfortunately, insurance companies have a ton of power and use this power to drive down the price they have to pay the dentist (aka low reimbursement rates). The result is dentists don't make enough money on things like cleanings, exams, and x-rays to cover the cost of providing these services. So they increase the price of elective treatments that insurance doesn't pay for to help cover the gap in their finances.
- Take advantage of the popularity. Whitening is popular, which means tons of demand. The laws of supply and demand mean that dentists can charge more for services that are in higher demand. And dentists, being small business owners looking to increase profits, take advantage of this to increase the revenues they can bring to their practice.
When all these factors come together it means whitening prices that require shelling out hundreds or even more than a thousand dollars a year to keep your teeth as white as you'd like.
Cost to get teeth whitened affordably
Where does this leave you to find whitening that won't leave your wallet hurting?
You can find Groupon deals for whitening that's less than $100. But beware, sometimes those deals are used as lead generation promotions and once you get into the office you might get hit with a hard upsell for other treatment you don't want (or worse, don't need) before the office honors the whitening deal.
The most important factor to consider is if the whitening near you is good for your teeth, and worth the price that you'll pay. If you want to dig into more on how to evaluate it, check out our piece on how you evaluate if teeth whitening near you is good, and if it will work for your smile and your budget.