Smile Like You Paid for It! The Cost of Teeth Whitening
Eisdorf Dental Group
I’ve never been much into the teeth-whitening trend, having absolutely perfect pearly whites myself. (LOL, just kidding. I’m too lazy.) But when a friend visited me in New York recently and it was all she could talk about, I started thinking about how much money people must spend on their smiles. And let’s face it, people are judged by their teeth, as weird as it sounds.
Said friend, Jessica, had one major purchase that she just couldn’t leave the country without: Crest teeth-whitening strips (you can get them in Ireland, but they’ll cost you a small fortune). They’re easy to use — just take a plastic film and stick it on to your upper and lower front teeth for five to 30 minutes a day, depending on the make, and voilà! Whiter teeth after repeated use.
“They are the most amazing thing ever,” Jessica says. “They hurt a little bit at first, but the pain goes away quickly.”
“To be fair, I fell asleep with them in for three hours, so that’s probably why it hurt me more,” she adds. “But they really work! I have a friend traveling to the U.S. again soon — she better bring me some more back.”
The global teeth-whitening market is expected to grow to a whopping $7.4 billion by 2024, according to a study conducted by Hexa. The dental hygiene and cosmetics markets have been growing in recent years, too.
The same study reports that 99.2 percent of respondents believe a good smile is paramount to social growth. That spending doesn’t seem so silly now, huh? In fact, a lot of dentists are giving many of these over-the-counter products their approval and go-ahead. That explains the growth that we’ll likely see in the coming years.
What to Watch Out For
To give us an insight into the world of cosmetic teeth whitening, I spoke with James Eisdorfer, DDS, a dentist at the Eisdorfer Dental Group in Manhattan.
“The biggest concern I have with over-the-counter teeth-whitening treatments is the abrasion factor,” Eisdorfer says.
“I had a patient once whose teeth were completely worn down due to excessive brushing and whitening from a $19.95 home kit.”
“What happens is the outer layer of your tooth is abraded off and therefore looks white then and there, but a week later it’s yellow again,” he adds.
“So you whiten some more, but that’s just another layer of your teeth, and eventually all the enamel is gone. You need your enamel, so the bleach doesn’t get too far into contact with your teeth. Sensitivity is a big issue when whitening your teeth often. Numbers show from my in-office treatment, 99.9 percent of people don’t experience any sensitivity.”
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost? At-Home vs. Professional Options
If you were wondering, 89 percent of cosmetic dentists perform teeth whitening in their office, according to a 2017 survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Those surveyed said their patients spent an average of $5,000 each in 2017 alone. That’s a 9 percent increase from spending in 2015. People really want that blinding smile, huh?
However, the survey also shows that in-office teeth whitening is down by almost 40 percent since 2015. Meanwhile, prices for the procedure have stayed almost exactly the same. This might suggest that we as a society have decided to stop bleaching our teeth, but who are we kidding? It’s more likely that it’s happening because of the rise of home whitening strips and remedies that save us money, like the Crest that I mentioned before.
Lowering the Cost of Teeth Whitening: The Most Popular DIY Methods
Whitening strips seem to be the most popular form of teeth whitening and are anticipated to have the most growth over the next few years, Hexa research shows. But which ones are the best?
Well, if the fact that my friend Jessica came all the way from Ireland for them is any indication, Crest teeth-whitening strips are killing the game. They’re approved by the American Dental Association and have generally favorable reviews from all who have tried them, according to a study conducted by Reviews.com.
The strips also have a four-star rating from over 3,000 Amazon reviews. People are in love with their new shiny teeth. And at $27.99 on Amazon for 14 treatments, it’s not too hard on the bank balance either.
Go Smile’s Super White gel whitener comes in a close second, showing results of three shades whiter within only one week — the quickest on Reviews.com’s list. They run a little pricier at $57.90 for a 14-pack, but the results reportedly occur much more quickly.
Plus, you can often save a bit extra with coupon-clipping tools like Ebates and Groupon.
And what about those natural, organic methods? Oil pulling, consisting of sloshing coconut oil around your mouth for as long as you can stand it, sounds gross. But it seems to be effective in ridding your teeth of grubby plaque.
Brushing your teeth with baking soda also helps. It’s a mild abrasive and makes your mouth alkaline so bacteria are less likely to grow.
Or you can get your hands on some hydrogen peroxide, the natural bleaching agent that also kills bacteria that live in your mouth. You can use it as a mouthwash or mix it with baking soda to create a toothpaste. People also use other remedies to polish up their pearly whites, such as apple cider vinegar, crunchy fruit and raw vegetables (particularly strawberry and pineapple), and activated charcoal.
There are no studies to prove most of these remedies effective, but you’ll never know until you try! A bit of fruit is certainly cheaper than those whitening strips, in any case.
What Does the Expert Say?
“I’m an advocate of whitening strips,” Eisdorfer says. “They are very cost effective. The problem is, most people don’t have the time or inclination to do it every night or twice a day. Everybody wants immediate results. But it can be a solid month with Crest strips until you see a difference, and most people don’t want to wait, so they choose the more instant, in-office treatment.”
“Bleaching works well for younger generations, specifically people aged 17 to 30,” he adds.
“If you’re going to a wedding or have a special occasion coming up, your teeth can always be whiter. At that age, the treatment can last up to two years with regular upkeep.”
But as you get older, the enamel wears down naturally and the yellow layer that exists underneath comes through. As a result, bleaching doesn’t last as long once you go above 30.
“Patients sometimes ask for crazy things,” Eisdorfer says. “One physician bleached his teeth so much between in-office and at-home remedies, his teeth glowed at night!”
“But our view is that you can never be too bright. One lady wanted veneers, the lightest we had, and even though we told her it wouldn’t look natural at all, we gave it to her. You just have to listen to the patient, and she was extremely happy!”
One of Eisdorfer’s patients spent $180,000 to $200,000 in the space of two years on a full mouth rehabilitation. “Each tooth had to be functionally changed individually. It was amazing!”
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Teeth Whitening
So now you know what definitely works and what might work, and how much it costs to get that blinding, dazzling, natural, and terrifying smile. Think Ross in that episode of Friends, but slightly more realistic. (No one uses blacklights anymore — you’ll be safe.)
As Eisdorfer says, just be careful not to overdo it, or you’ll end up getting in-office treatments anyway, even if that’s what you tried to avoid in the first place.