Laser Teeth Whitening: How It Works & Costs

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Overview: Laser Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is a simple, conservative way to improve the appearance of a smile and reduce tooth discoloration. Whiter teeth can make one look younger and, as most people agree, more attractive. The options for teeth whitening today are almost endless, and one of the more popular professional options is laser teeth whitening.

What is Laser Teeth Whitening?

Laser teeth whitening treatment is a cosmetic dentistry procedure that adds the use of a laser to in-office teeth whitening. Many people confuse other types of teeth whitening procedures performed in the dental office with laser teeth whitening. 

Many in-office teeth whitening products, like ZOOM! and Sapphire, use a light, not a laser. They may appear to have similar steps as you undergo the procedure, but they function differently. 

In true laser teeth whitening, the laser is required to activate the chemicals in the whitening gel, producing faster and more effective results. In whitening techniques using lights, including those products you can use at home, the light only functions to produce heat. When whitening gel containing peroxide chemicals heats up, it works faster.

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Laser Teeth Whitening vs. Traditional Methods

Compared to traditional teeth whitening treatment that uses either over-the-counter products or professional products used at home, laser teeth whitening differs in several ways. A dental professional must perform laser whitening because it uses a much higher concentration of the active ingredient. This high strength gel can cause chemical burns on the soft tissues of the mouth, so professional oversight is mandatory.

The procedure length of laser teeth whitening is relatively short. Most appointments take only about an hour. The dentist will monitor the whitening process continuously throughout the procedure. As teeth whitening increases in popularity, so do the options for professional teeth whitening. 

Lasers are a commonly used dental instrument for various procedures, and whitening may involve the use of different types of lasers. These include argon, KTP, diode, and Nd:YAG lasers.

Because there is so much variety in the types of lasers used, the settings used with each laser, and the type and concentration of whitening gels, making one concise statement about the effectiveness of laser teeth whitening is impossible. 

In order to make that claim, there must be more research and some standardization. For this reason, we cannot say with certainty that it produces better results than other forms of in-office whitening.

Pros of Laser Teeth Whitening

When a properly trained and certified dentist performs laser teeth whitening, there are several advantages.

  • 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. 

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Cons of Laser Teeth Whitening

Laser teeth whitening has certain disadvantages when compared to other whitening methods.

  • 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.
  • There is no guarantee of results with laser teeth whitening. It typically does perform better than other whitening methods, but some people have deep stains that do not whiten easily.

Cost of Laser Teeth Whitening

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. Depending on your location, the cost can range from $400 to $1,500. 

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

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.

What’s the Takeaway?

Laser teeth whitening is faster, but not necessarily better than other teeth whitening methods. Those in a hurry or wish to avoid the hassle of performing the tasks of whitening at home are the most likely to spring for the extra cost of in-office laser teeth whitening.

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