People strive to reap the benefits of whiter teeth. But not everyone can afford the cost of professional whitening procedures. If you’re one of those people who want a better smile, you might want to know all about the options available to you.
In this post, we’ll get your questions answered on insurance, teeth whitening options, and more. So if you're considering whitening your teeth, keep reading to learn more about the (many) options available, and whether dental insurance can help you out.
Does My Insurance Cover Teeth Whitening?
The short answer is: usually not, but it depends. Most dental insurance plans don’t cover teeth whitening, as it’s considered an elective or cosmetic procedure. This essentially means that it's not something “necessary for people’s health,” like a filling or a root canal would be.
However, some plans may offer what’s called cosmetic coverage depending on the plan (and your individual situation). It’s important to check with your provider to see what type of coverage they offer for teeth whitening procedures before making the jump.
If you have a dental plan that includes cosmetic coverage, your provider may cover and reimburse some of the cost of whitening your teeth. This type of coverage is more common in some employer-sponsored plans, so it's worth looking into.
What Exactly Constitutes Cosmetic Dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry is any dental procedure that isn’t medically necessary and isn’t performed to prevent or treat a medical condition. Examples include teeth whitening, veneers, crowns and bridges, inlays and onlays, orthodontics like braces or Invisalign®, gum reshaping (also called gingivectomy) and bonding of the teeth.
All these procedures are designed to improve the appearance of your smile and can make a huge difference in how you feel – but, unfortunately, they aren’t typically covered by insurance.
That said, in 2023, more insurance providers are beginning to offer dedicated cosmetic coverage for procedures like the ones mentioned above. If your insurance company still doesn’t, keep an eye out!
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost With Dental Insurance?
The cost of teeth whitening procedures can vary depending on the type of procedure you choose and the plan you have. Generally speaking, professional-grade whitening treatments tend to be more expensive than over-the-counter solutions. If your dental insurance covers some or all of the cost, be sure to check out any limitations or restrictions that apply to your coverage.
For example, Delta Dental’s PPRO Individual Premium Plan costs $64.92 per month and reimburses 80% of the cost of teeth whitening - but here’s the catch: there’s a 6 month waiting period. These costs may differ depending on your age, plan, and eligibility.
How Much Does Teeth Whitening Cost Without Insurance?
If your dental insurance doesn't cover teeth whitening, the procedure can cost anywhere from $50 to $500. The exact cost will depend on the type of whitening procedure you choose and the dentist's fees.
The two most popular types of professional in-office whitening are Zoom whitening and laser teeth whitening, which both cost between $300 and $1,800 depending on the number of sessions and the teeth whitening duration.
Is There Supplemental Dental Insurance for Teeth Whitening?
If your dental insurance plan doesn’t cover the teeth whitening cost, you may be able to purchase supplemental dental insurance that will help you with the expense.
Supplemental dental plans are designed to provide additional coverage for procedures that are not covered under regular plans. These plans typically have lower premiums and deductibles than comprehensive policies and can offer some financial relief when it comes to hefty out-of-pocket costs like teeth whitening.
Many providers offer this type of insurance to help you fill in the gaps - literally and figuratively. Popular recommended providers include Aetna, Delta Dental, and MetLife. Don’t forget to read all of the fine print before signing up for a supplemental plan so you know what you’re getting into!
Teeth Whitening Options Without Insurance
If you don't have dental insurance or if your plan doesn't cover teeth whitening (and you’re not interested in purchasing supplemental insurance), there are still some affordable options available. In addition, many dentists offer discounted rates for those without insurance. Certain dental offices may even offer payment plans, allowing you to pay in installments.
DIY Whitening Methods
There are plenty of DIY at-home teeth whitening kits available at most drugstores and online from reputable brands such as Crest and Colgate. These teeth whitening kits usually include a whitening gel and trays that fit over your teeth, allowing you to apply the product directly to your enamel. Keep in mind that these methods can take longer than professional treatments and may not be as effective.
If you really want to get creative, there are also a few home remedies, such as brushing with baking soda or using hydrogen peroxide. Unfortunately, these methods can be abrasive and may damage your teeth if used too often.
Teeth Whitening Strips
Similar to teeth whitening kits are whitening strips, which are available over the counter. These thin adhesive strips contain hydrogen peroxide and other active ingredients, which helps to bleach your teeth. The results can be seen in as little as a few days and usually last for two weeks or more.
While these products won’t produce the same dramatic results as professional treatments, they can help to brighten your smile over time. Or, if you’re attending a special event, such as a wedding or a reunion, they can help to get your teeth looking their best in the short term.
Custom Whitening Trays
Another option is to get custom whitening trays from your dentist. These are similar to the ones you can buy over the counter, but they’re made specifically for your mouth and fit more comfortably. These trays can be worn for extended periods of time, allowing the bleaching agent to slowly penetrate the enamel and lighten your teeth.
Your dentist will provide instructions on how often and how long you should wear the trays in order to achieve optimal results.
Teeth Whitening Toothpaste And Pens
Teeth whitening toothpaste and pens are a great way to gradually lighten your teeth. Typically containing mild bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, they can help remove surface stains and brighten your smile after multiple uses.
If your plan provides coverage for them, you could be reimbursed up to a certain amount each year or get a discount when purchasing these items in bulk. Again, it’s important to check with your provider to find out what type of coverage they offer and how much you can save on whitening toothpaste and pens.
At The Dentist: Out-Of-Pocket Whitening Services
As mentioned, most dentists offer out-of-pocket options for teeth whitening that provide the same great results you’d expect with insurance coverage at a sizeable discount.
These dental procedures include:
- Pumice scaling. This involves using a pumice stone to remove surface stains from your teeth and is the most common type of whitening performed by dentists.
- Professional bleaching. This procedure uses hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide to lighten the shade of your teeth, and can be done in-office or at home with custom trays made for you by your dentist.
- Laser whitening. Laser whitening works similarly to professional bleaching, but it uses a special light to accelerate the process and can be done in just one office visit.
Note that, because they're performed by a professional, these procedures tend to be more expensive than over-the-counter whitening products. But, if you’re looking for a more dramatic and lasting transformation, they can be well worth the investment.
What Does Dental Insurance Typically Cover?
Dental insurance plans differ greatly in terms of what they cover. Some may provide coverage for teeth whitening, while others may not. To find out if your plan covers the procedure, you'll need to check your policy's summary of benefits or contact your insurer directly.
In general, most dental insurance plans will cover basic preventive care services such as cleanings and exams as well as emergency dental procedures. Some may also provide coverage for certain restorative services, such as fillings and crowns, tooth extractions, and necessary repair work. Overall, cosmetic dentistry procedures such as teeth whitening are usually not covered by dental insurance plans.
Which Dental Insurance Plans Cover Teeth Whitening?
Depending on your country, there are a few insurance providers that offer coverage for teeth whitening in some way.
In The United States: Cosmetic Dental Insurance Plans
- Delta Dental: The Delta Dental PPO plan covers 80% of the teeth whitening cost after a waiting period of six months.
- Guardian Direct Diamond: With the Guardian Direct Diamond plan, you can get 50% reimbursement for any teeth whitening cost after a waiting period of six months.
- Ameritas PrimeStar Access plan: If your teeth whitening service is in-network, they’ll cover 20% of the costs, and 10% of the costs for that outside your provider network.
In The United Kingdom: Cosmetic Dental Insurance Plans
Unfortunately, dental insurance plans in the UK almost never include coverage for teeth whitening.
First, public dental care (through the NHS) is extremely strict on how it categorizes what is “medically necessary” and what isn’t. Teeth whitening doesn't fall under the categories of medically necessary treatments, so it's not covered.
Second, almost all private dental insurance plans in the UK have a clause that explicitly excludes teeth whitening from coverage - so even if your plan covers other cosmetic procedures like veneers or crowns, you won't be able to use it for teeth whitening.
In light of this, many dentists offer specific discounts for patients who are paying out-of-pocket for teeth whitening. There's no harm in asking your dentist about any special offers they may have available - the worst they can say is no!
In Closing: Dental Insurance & The Benefits Of White Teeth
So, does dental insurance cover teeth whitening? The answer is that it depends on the type of plan you have and your specific needs. Specific plans that may offer coverage for professional treatments, while others may only cover over-the-counter products like whitening strips.
The best way to find out what types of treatments are covered under your policy is to contact your provider. No matter which option you choose, there are many benefits of whiter teeth - the most desirable being to help to boost your confidence. With the right plan and a little research, you can find an affordable way to brighten your smile.
Curious to learn more about teeth whitening and dental insurance? Here are some related questions you may find helpful.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Implants?
Dental insurance can cover some or all of the cost of implants as long as they are deemed medically necessary. There are many reasons to get implants, such as replacing a missing tooth or helping to stabilize dentures. Without insurance, however, implants can be quite expensive, from $1500 to $3000 for a single implant.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Veneers?
Since veneers are a cosmetic procedure and are usually considered elective, your dental insurance is unlikely to cover veneers. Without insurance, you can expect them to cost between $925 and $2,500 per tooth.
But the good news is that some insurance companies may provide coverage for veneer cost if they believe that the cost will be offset by an improvement in oral health or function. If your teeth are severely damaged or decayed, veneers may be recommended.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Crowns?
Dental insurance often covers most or all of the cost of crowns if they are deemed medically necessary. Crowns are used when a tooth is severely damaged, decayed, or infected and can’t be repaired with other treatments such as fillings. Without insurance coverage, crowns can cost anywhere from $500 to $3000 per tooth.
Note that even with insurance, you may still be responsible for any remaining balance after your deductible is met.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Teeth Bonding?
Teeth bonding cost is typically covered by most dental insurance plans. It is both a cosmetic and restorative procedure but is usually considered elective, meaning it isn’t medically necessary. Bonding can be used to improve the appearance of a tooth by filling in gaps or chips, repairing discoloration, and correcting misalignment. The cost of bonding typically ranges from $100 to $600 per tooth.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Braces?
Yes, dental insurance typically covers braces for both adults and children. The amount of coverage will vary depending on the type of orthodontic treatment you need and your plan’s benefits. You can expect most plans to cover up to 50% of the cost of traditional metal braces or clear aligners and/or offer a lifetime coverage limit of $1000 - $3000 on average.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Cavities?
Most dental insurance plans cover the cost of filling cavities. But, it’s worth remembering that not all plans are created equal, and some may have restrictions or limits on how much they will pay for a particular procedure.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Cosmetic Procedures?
Cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening or veneers are rarely covered by dental insurance. Of course, depending on your plan, you might be able to get a discount on these treatments if you choose to have them done at an in-network dentist. Or, if you’re covered, you can get imbursed for a large percentage of the procedure.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Zoom Whitening?
As mentioned, cosmetic treatments such as Zoom whitening won’t likely be covered by your insurance. However, if you have a special event coming up or are looking for a dramatic result, this could be a worthwhile venture. This professional treatment can lighten your teeth up to eight shades in just one session.
Does A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Cover Teeth Whitening?
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an account set up through your employer that allows you to use pretax dollars for eligible medical and dental expenses. For many dental procedures, it's a great way to both save money and get the care you need.
Unfortunately the FSA does not cover teeth whitening as an eligible expense. This is due to Publication 502, a document released by the Internal Revenue Service that outlines what is considered a medical or dental expense for FSA purposes. Teeth whitening is explicitly excluded from the list of eligible expenses, so it cannot be paid for with pretax dollars.