Laser teeth whitening is one of the best known and most heavily marketed dental bleaching methods. Proponents claim that it’s quick, painless and that nothing else can get your teeth quite as bright.
This guide will walk you through some of the benefits and drawbacks of using laser whitening to get a better smile so you can decide if it’s the right choice for you.
How Much Does Laser Teeth Whitening Cost
Teeth whitening procedures are generally not covered by an insurance plan, so you should be prepared to pay for it yourself.
Laser teeth whitening is one of the more expensive ways to whiten your teeth. Depending on the extent of discoloration and the individual costs of your dentist, you should expect to pay at least $1000 dollars per procedure.
As far as time and maintenance costs, a laser appointment is pretty quick – ranging from 15 minutes to 2 hours in some cases – but you will have to make multiple appointments before you really start to see a difference.
It is also important that you take the time out of your daily schedule to properly brush, floss and care for your teeth to maintain their whiteness.
Laser Teeth Whitening Pros and Cons
The decision to get your teeth whitened by a laser procedure is not one you should make lightly. While it does have some amazing benefits, there are a few notable drawbacks to consider, too. Here are the main pros and cons of the laser whitening procedure.
Laser Teeth Whitening Pros
- It is one of the quickest ways to get noticeably whiter teeth – effects should be visible within a few hours after the first appointment.
- It removes hard stains that other whitening treatments may not be able to.
- Some types of laser teeth whitening treatments can be used to lighten just one or a few very stained teeth.
- Laser teeth whitening is an easy, non-invasive procedure. There are no needles involved and usually no pain.
- It is an extremely accessible procedure – most professional dentists should be able to provide some form of laser teeth whitening.
- The results of laser whitening can last for a long time, from between 6 months up to two years if you are properly caring for your teeth.
- The procedure is generally quick, less than an hour in most cases.
- Laser whitening in a dental office is done by professionals.
Laser Teeth Whitening Cons
- Laser whitening is one of the more expensive methods of teeth whitening.
- You will generally need to have two or more follow-up sessions for lasting results (with top up sessions every year or two).
- Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity or irritation after a laser whitening procedure. These effects should go away with time and proper management.
- Laser whitening treatments done outside of a dental office, such as kiosks in malls, will usually not be performed by dental health care professionals and thus you most likely will not receive the same level of pre and post procedure care.
Laser Teeth Whitening Side Effects
While laser teeth whitening is not an invasive procedure, there are a few potential side effects. Not every patient will experience these side effects, and some may experience them differently than others. It helps to be aware of them before the procedure, so you know what to expect.
Laser whitening involves using a strong bleaching solution which could cause a sensitive reaction. For about a day or two following your laser teeth whitening procedure, your teeth may feel more sensitive than usual.
This may result in a little pain with cold or hot foods, or more widespread pain. For most patients, this pain or sensitivity will be minor and should go away within a couple of days.
However, if you have sensitive teeth already, or have had previous damage to your teeth, you may be more susceptible to sensitivity after the laser whitening procedure.
You should speak with your dentist beforehand about what measures you can take to prevent this. Shorter whitening sessions, for example, could help. Alternatively you may wish to use a dental whitening solution that is more suited to sensitive teeth or one that comes with a desensitizing product.
Just like with your teeth, you might experience a little sensitivity in your gums after a laser whitening procedure. This is totally normal and is just your gums reacting to the whitening agents, but it can be annoying for a day or two.
You may have some irritation in your lips, inner cheeks and other soft tissue in your mouth, too. If you notice any bleeding in your gums or soft tissues, talk to your dentist right away.
Damage from Excessive Whitening
It is possible to over-whiten your teeth. Too much exposure to whitening agents can actually cause permanent damage, so it is important not to overdo it. Teeth that have been excessively whitened will become brittle, discolored or even translucent.
The damage done by over-whitening cannot be undone, so you should be careful. Always be sure to carefully follow your dentist's or, if using a home kit, the manufacturer's instructions. Never whiten for longer or use more gel than is recommended.
If you notice any of the signs starting to appear, you should stop having whitening procedures.
Laser Teeth Whitening vs. Zoom
Zoom teeth whitening is another method that works similar to laser teeth whitening but uses a unique ultraviolet light that quickly sinks whitening gel deep into tooth enamel. A lot of people choose Zoom over ordinary laser whitening because of its expedience.
Both options will give you a whiter smile. But Zoom is a little faster, more expensive and more intense than laser teeth whitening treatments. It is not recommended for people with tooth sensitivity.
How Does Laser Teeth Whitening Work?
Laser teeth whitening is not a one-time, walk-in procedure. There are some steps involved in the process.
Before setting up an appointment for laser teeth whitening, you will go through a screening with your dentist to make sure you don’t have any major tooth or gum sensitivity that will be exasperated by the procedure.
It is also recommended that pregnant women, children and young adults do not have laser whitening. Your dentist will advise you against it in the screening.
After a pre-treatment routine cleaning your dentist will ask you to lean back in the chair and use a plastic or rubber guard to hold your mouth open.
A gel will be applied to your gums to protect them from the whitening agent. This gel hardens as it dries, so it may feel a little funny.
Your dentist will then apply the whitening gel to the front of your teeth and use a handheld laser to activate it with heat. The gel may foam as it works.
After that, your dentist will wait a few minutes, suction off the whitening gel and then reapply it to start again. They may go through this process up to three times during this appointment.
The whitening procedure will likely have to be repeated on multiple occasions to get the full results you want.
After the first appointment, you will consult with your dentist and schedule a follow-up appointment to have it all done again. Be sure to take good care of your teeth in the meantime.
How Long Does Laser Teeth Whitening Last?
In short, not forever. How long your teeth will stay white after a laser procedure will vary from person to person, but you can expect to enjoy your whitened teeth for around six months to a year. Laser whitening can be redone as needed, but you should be cautious about over-whitening your teeth so be sure to check with your dentist.