Going to the dentist for a common procedure may not be fun for some people. However, if you’re getting your teeth whitened, the appointment could brighten your smile and your mood.

Here’s some information to help you understand the process and how it compares to at-home whitening products.

How in-office teeth whitening works

Professional teeth whitening is a simple process. It typically starts with your dentist making custom whitening trays for your mouth. Then, a powerful bleaching solution is added to the trays before they’re firmly fitted over your teeth. In some cases, heat, light or a combination of the 2 may be used to quicken and intensify the whitening process.1

In-office teeth whitening vs. at-home teeth whitening

There are many at-home teeth whitening options available, including mouth rinses, toothpastes and gel strips. Here are some important factors to consider when comparing professional teeth whitening and at-home teeth whitening:

  • Strength—Both types use peroxide-based bleaching agents, but in-office teeth whitening can offer a much higher percentage of peroxide (15–43%) than at-home options (3–20%). The higher the percentage of peroxide, the better the results.2
  • Price—The cost of in-office teeth whitening can range from $500 to $1,000. At-home whitening strips and gels can cost between $10–$55, and at-home tray-based whitening systems range from $150 to $600.
  • Time—In-office treatments usually take several 30–60 minute visits, while some can be done in a single 2-hour appointment. At-home whitening strips may need to be applied twice a day for 10–14 days, and at-home whitening trays may need to be used 1 to several hours a day for up to 4 weeks.

The advantages of working with your dentist

Your dentist may be your best partner in teeth whitening. First, they know your gums and teeth better than anyone and can recommend the best whitening procedure for you. Second, if you have cavities or another dental disease, they can treat it before the whitening process begins. Last, if you experience any side effects, like sensitive teeth or irritated gums, they can recommend the best remedies.3

Humana has dental plans that help pay for teeth whitening

If you’re interested in professional teeth whitening, we have plans in certain states that offer a $100/year allowance for in-office treatments. To see plans and prices in your area, check out our Humana dental insurance page.

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  1. “Whiten Teeth at Home or in the Dentist's Office?,” WebMD, last accessed March 13, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/teeth-whitening-at-home-dentist#.
  2. “Teeth Whitening and Bleaching,” WebMD, last accessed March 13, 2023, https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/teeth-whitening-and-bleaching#1.
  3. “Getting whiter teeth,” American Dental Association, last accessed March 13, 2023, https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(17)30095-8/fulltext.