I’ve never been much into the teeth-whitening trend, having an absolutely perfect smile myself. (LOL, just kidding. I’m too lazy.) But then a friend visited me in New York recently, and it was all she could talk about. So, I started thinking about how much teeth-whitening costs. And let’s face it, people are judged by their teeth, as weird as that may sound.

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 onto your upper and lower front teeth for five to 30 minutes per day, depending on the variety, 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’d better bring me some more back.”

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The global teeth-whitening market is expected to grow to a whopping $9.6 billion by 2027, according to a study conducted by Data Bridge Market Research. 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, many dentists are giving these over-the-counter products their approval. 

To give us an insight into the world of cosmetic teeth whitening, I spoke with James Eisdorfer, a dentist with the Eisdorfer Dental Group in New York City.

“The biggest concern I have with over-the-counter teeth-whitening treatments is the abrasion factor,” Dr. 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,” Dr. Eisdorfer 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 from my in-office treatment, however, show 99.9 percent of people don’t experience any sensitivity.”

Professional Teeth Whitening 

If you were wondering, 89 percent of cosmetic dentists perform teeth whitening in their office, according to a 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?

How much does teeth whitening cost? | Before and after teeth whitening, courtesy of Eisdorfer Dental Group
Before and after teeth whitening, courtesy of Eisdorfer Dental Group

The survey also shows, however, 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 fewer people are bleaching their teeth, but who are we kidding? It’s more likely that it’s happening because of the rise of less-expensive at-home whitening products.

The Cost of the Great American Smile

Here are some numbers I put together to give you an idea of some of the other costs of pearly whites:

  • A tube of toothpaste costs between $1 and $5.
  • You’ll spend $1 for a regular toothbrush, and up to $100 for an electric toothbrush.
  • Dental floss will run you between $1 to $3.
  • Each topical fluoride treatment will set you back $20 to $50.
  • Cleanings cost $119 without dental insurance.
  • Synthetic veneers bonded to your teeth claim to make your smile as bright as the midday sun. A popular brand like Lumineers will range in price from $800 to $2,000 per tooth.
  • Porcelain veneers are much more involved than a set of Lumineers. Your teeth are actually ground down so that the veneer can be placed on your tooth. One tooth can cost $925 to $2,500, according to Your Dentistry Guide.
  • On average, braces cost $5,350, according to Authority Dental.
  • Invisalign is an innovative product that takes the social pain out of straightening your teeth by using clear teeth straighteners. The company’s website says the cost is typically what you’d pay for braces.

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 strips are killing the DIY teeth-whitening game, in part because they cost less. They’re approved by the American Dental Association and have generally favorable reviews from all who have tried them.

The strips also have a four-star rating from more than 3,000 Amazon reviews. People seem to be in love with their newly shiny teeth. And at $31.99 on Amazon for 14 treatments, these strips aren’t too tough 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. A 14-pack costs $27.99 and the results reportedly occur much more quickly.

Plus, you can often save a bit with coupon-clipping tools like Rakutan and Groupon.

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Going All Natural

And what about those natural, organic methods? Oil pulling — 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’s environment more alkaline so bacteria are less likely to grow.

Or you can try hydrogen peroxide, a 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. Other tooth-polishing remedies include apple cider vinegar, crunchy vegetables and fruits (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,” Dr. Eisdorfer says. “Teeth-whitening strips 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,” Eisdorfer adds. “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 age 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,” Dr. Eisdorfer adds.

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.

The Bottom Line 

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 Dr. 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.

Additional reporting by Michelle Jackson.

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