Dentistry
Cosmetic
Product Reviews
Updated on November 28, 2022

Laser Teeth Whitening: How It Works & Costs

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What is Laser Teeth Whitening?

Laser teeth whitening is a cosmetic laser dentistry procedure. It should be performed at a dental clinic by a licensed professional.

The procedure involves applying a concentrated whitening gel and a laser to heat it. This activates the chemicals in the gel, which whitens your teeth quickly.

Laser Teeth Whitening vs. Other In-Office Whitening Procedures

Most in-office teeth whitening products, like ZOOM! and Sapphire, use light from a blue LED, not a laser. Both techniques may appear to have similar steps, but they function differently.

In whitening techniques using LEDs, blue light activates the bleaching gel. This includes those products you can use at home.

With laser teeth whitening, the same is true, but the light is much narrower and produces more heat. Since one tooth can be treated at a time, the result is a faster overall whitening effect.

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Laser Teeth Whitening Procedure Steps

Laser teeth whitening is completed in a dental office, and the procedure consists of a few simple steps:

  1. Your dentist will place a plastic or rubber guard in your mouth to keep it open
  2. They will apply a protective layer over your gums to shield them from the bleaching gel and prevent gum irritation and burning
  3. Once the protective layer forms, your dentist will carefully apply the whitening gel to your teeth
  4. They'll use a pen-like laser to activate the gel
  5. The gel will foam, which means it's working to remove stains from your teeth
  6. The gel is left on your teeth for a few minutes. Then your dentist will remove it with a small vacuum The dentist will repeat these steps up to three or four times until your teeth reach the desired shade
  7. Your dentist will rinse your mouth and remove the protective layer over your gums

Laser Teeth Whitening Aftercare

After your laser teeth whitening session, drink only clear liquids for at least two hours. Avoid eating acidic and dark-pigmented foods. Avoid drinking coffee, tea, and soda for at least 24 hours.

Side Effects of Laser Teeth Whitening

Laser teeth whitening is a safe and effective procedure. However, it can cause minor and short-lived side effects, including:

  • Temporary discomfort
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Minor gum irritation

It's rare for these side effects to be severe, but it is possible in some people. Avoid eating and drinking anything overly hot or cold for a few days after the procedure to prevent these adverse effects.

Potential Complications

There’s a slight risk that the heat generated by the laser could damage the pulp of the tooth or other tissues. However, professional care and laser settings are intended to prevent this. Allergic reactions, though rare, are also possible.

You may not be recommended teeth whitening treatment if you have amalgam fillings. The whitening gel could trigger a release of mercury from the fillings.

There isn’t any evidence suggesting that laser teeth whitening is either safe or unsafe for pregnant women. However, it may be best to hold off on teeth whitening treatments until the baby is born.

Pregnancy can increase tooth sensitivity due to erosion from frequent vomiting. Undergoing a laser teeth whitening treatment in this state can damage the teeth.

How Much Does Laser Teeth Whitening Cost?

According to the American Dental Association Survey of Dental Fees 2020, the cost of in-office teeth whitening ranges from $262 to $1,180. The average fee is $594.

A reasonable price for laser teeth whitening is more likely to fall within the $600 to $800 range. This is consistent with the cost of the supplies needed for the procedure and an hour or more of the dentist’s time.

To the surprise of some, the cost is usually a little higher in rural areas where there is less competition among dentists. More competitive pricing may be offered for procedures not covered under dental insurance in a city or suburb with a dentist on every corner.

The cost of laser teeth whitening is tough to pin down. Because it is a cosmetic procedure and not covered by dental insurance companies, there is no “standard” fee.

Pros and Cons of Laser Teeth Whitening

Pros

  • Noticeable results develop within a single laser teeth whitening session.
  • The dentist does all the work in the office, so the patient does not have to use any materials or techniques at home.
  • The whitening results are faster than those achieved by take-home products.
  • Having a dentist perform the procedure reduces the risk of complications like soft tissue burns or damage to the nerves inside the teeth. 

Cons

  • Laser teeth whitening is typically the most expensive form of teeth whitening available.
  • It requires an in-person visit with the dentist for an hour or more.
  • As with all teeth whitening, the results do not last forever. People who drink coffee, tea, or red wine and/or use tobacco will experience a relapse in their whitening results and need to repeat the process periodically.
  • There is no guarantee of results with laser teeth whitening. It may have better results than other whitening methods, but some people have deep stains that do not whiten easily.

Laser Teeth Whitening Alternatives

There are less expensive at-home solutions if you do not want to invest in laser teeth whitening.

Other popular teeth whitening methods include:

Laser Teeth Whitening vs. At-Home Teeth Whitening

At-home teeth whitening treatments can be more convenient than laser whitening treatments. Most reputable at-home teeth whitening brands are available online, allowing you to order and use them without leaving the comfort of your home.

That said, at-home teeth whitening treatments can take several uses before you can see results. This can be a disadvantage when you compare it to laser treatments, which can give you visible results after just one session.

A dentist must perform laser whitening because it uses a much higher concentration of bleaching agents. This high-strength gel can cause chemical burns on the mouth's soft tissues, so a dentist's oversight is mandatory.

On the other hand, some at-home whitening products are bought over the counter, while others are only available through prescription. But these at-home products are safe to use without a dentist's oversight.

Summary

Laser teeth whitening is a cosmetic dental procedure that a licensed professional should perform at a dental clinic. It uses a much higher bleaching agent concentration than at-home teeth whitening products, which can cause minor and short-lived side effects.

These side effects include:

  • Temporary discomfort
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Minor gum irritation

Laser teeth whitening is faster but not necessarily better than other teeth whitening methods. If you’re in a hurry or wish to avoid the hassle of handling whitening at home, in-office laser whitening may be worth the extra cost.

9 Sources Cited
Last updated on November 28, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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