Choosing a teeth-whitening treatment is an important decision. After all, you’re entrusting the vibrancy of your smile to a procedure or product. There are a ton of options available, but if you want one of the most innovative options out there, you’ll need to look into professional LED whitening.
Completed entirely in your dentist’s office, it takes about an hour or less. But it’s not the right choice for everyone. This guide will review everything you need to know before making an appointment.
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How Does Professional LED Whitening Work?
Professional teeth whitening has been around since the late 1980s, but like all medical and dental treatments, there have been plenty of advancements over the decades. As LED lights have gone mainstream, we’ve found lots of new applications for them — one of which is enhancing the results of tooth whitening.
The LED light on its own doesn’t brighten smiles nor emit heat. Rather, it may help break down and activate the whitening gel, and some research shows it can increase whitening rate and effectiveness. Plus, this treatment avoids the harmful UV rays of other lights commonly used in professional whitening treatments.
Is Professional LED Whitening Right for You?
Professional LED whitening is ideal for people who have little free time and want to quickly treat years of stains. If your teeth are discolored from years of coffee drinking or smoking, a professional LED whitening session can remove decades of stain in as little as an hour.
An ideal candidate has no oral health issues like cavities or gum disease. Your dentist will do a brief exam to ensure your mouth is in good shape before approving you for professional LED whitening.
LED whitening can remove most stains, but not all. Some stains, like those from certain medications, are deep in the tooth and may take more than one visit or a special whitening treatment to remove.
Just remember that teeth whitening only works on natural teeth, so if you have veneers, crowns, or bridges, they won’t get any lighter. If you need dental work, your dentist might recommend whitening your teeth first so that they can match the shade of your restorations to your new, bright smile.
Pros and Cons of Professional LED Whitening
Like any other treatment, professional LED whitening has pros and cons. Here are some key points to consider before making your decision.
- Uses professional-grade whitening gel.
- Can remove years of stains in just one visit.
- With care, results can last 12–24 months.
- No messy trays, pens, or strips.
- Can whiten teeth up to eight shades in around one hour.
- A dentist oversees the entire treatment.
- In-office LED whitening is expensive, running from $300 to $1,500 per session.
- Slight risk of enamel damage from repeated whitening.
- Must be administered by a dentist.
- Stronger whitening gel can make your teeth and gums temporarily sensitive or irritated.
- The LED light can dehydrate the enamel more than whitening gel does on its own, leading to temporary white spots.
How Much Does Professional LED Whitening Cost?
Professional LED whitening is a luxurious act of self-care. Setting aside the time to visit your dentist for an in-office whitening treatment can make your teeth look years younger and boost your self-esteem. But it’s not cheap.
Depending on where you live and the brand of whitening your dentist uses, a session of professional LED whitening ranges from $300 to $1,500. After your visit, your dentist might provide a touch-up set of custom trays. The refill syringes — which you’ll need a few times a year — typically cost $20–$50, depending on the brand and gel strength. If you don’t have a regular dentist, don’t be afraid to call around to compare prices for LED whitening. Just remember that cheaper isn’t always better.
Does Insurance Cover It?
In most cases, no. While there might be exceptions on occasion, don’t count on your insurance company covering the cost of whitening. If you have an HSA or FSA account, you might be able to apply those funds to treatment. Just call your account administrator to verify the rules.
Is Financing Available?
Many dental offices offer financing, whether it’s an in-office payment plan or through a third-party company like CareCredit or LendingClub. Some financing companies require a credit check, so be sure to read the fine print before you apply. Plus, many plans have interest, which means you’ll pay more in the long run.
How Do I Get Professional LED Whitening?
Professional LED whitening is only available from a dentist. If you don’t have one, search online for local offices in your area. In-office whitening is popular, so finding a dentist who offers it shouldn’t be hard.
If it’s been a while since your last visit, your dentist may recommend a cleaning immediately before your whitening procedure, since clean teeth are more receptive to whitening. They may also perform a comprehensive exam to check for cavities or gum disease.
What to Expect During Professional LED Whitening Treatment
Your dentist will use a cheek retractor to hold your lips and cheeks out of the way during your procedure. This keeps the whitening gel away from your soft tissues and makes it easier to reach your back teeth. They will then paint a light-cured liquid rubber dam over your gum tissue to prevent the gel from irritating them.
Next, your dentist will apply the whitening gel, give you special protective glasses to wear, and start the LED light. After about 15 minutes, they’ll wash off the whitening gel, then reapply it. Depending on the severity of your stains, your dentist might repeat this process up to three times.
Afterward, your dentist might give you a set of custom whitening trays to use at home so you can keep your teeth gleaming.
How Long Does the Procedure Take?
Professional LED whitening usually takes about an hour. But when you include set up, clean up, and the time to wash off the gel and reapply, it may take an hour and a half. The active whitening time, however, is approximately 45 minutes or three 15-minute sessions for most whitening systems.
Whitening opens microscopic pores in your teeth, making them more susceptible to staining right after treatment. Eating or drinking during this time can stain your teeth faster, so avoid food and any drinks except water for at least an hour (preferably longer) after your appointment.
All procedures have some side effects, and whitening is no different. The most common are sensitivity, pain, white spots, and gum irritation. Fortunately, these side effects are temporary and usually improve in a few days.
Another side effect that might cause lasting sensitivity is thinning enamel. This rarely happens after one treatment — rather, it’s a cumulative effect of repeated whitening.
How Long Does It Take to See Results With Professional LED Whitening?
Most people see full results in one visit. The highly concentrated gel, combined with an LED light, can remove years of stains in less than an hour.
Immediately after a professional whitening session, some people notice their teeth have white spots or look unnaturally white. That’s because teeth get dehydrated during the whitening session and the white spots usually disappear in about 24 hours.
How Long Will My Results Last?
The longevity of your results depends on a few factors. If you are careful to limit food and drinks that cause stains, like tomato sauce, coffee, berries, or wine, your result may last up to two years.
Smoking also stains your teeth. If you smoke, you should consider quitting, not only for your white smile, but for your overall health.
How Do I Maintain My Results?
If you notice your teeth look dull after a few months, there are many options for touching up your smile. If your professional whitening session came with custom trays, you could pop your trays in for a quick touch-up. Or, you can pick up whitening pens or whitening strips from a local drugstore or online.
Before committing to a particular maintenance routine, ask your dentist which method they recommend.
Professional LED whitening is a fast, powerful way to whiten your teeth. You can remove years of discoloration in as little as one hour and the results can last a long time. It might be a little pricey, but with financing options, it could be more affordable than you think.
Treating yourself to a professional LED whitening session can make you feel younger and boost your self-confidence, and you can’t put a price on that.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes professional LED whitening unique?
LED light causes a chemical reaction with the whitening gel, which helps open the pores of the enamel and reach deeper into the tooth. In an office setting, you benefit from the expertise, oversight, and customization available from in-person care.
How much does professional LED whitening cost?
Depending on where you live and the brand of whitening your dentist uses, a session of professional LED whitening ranges from $300 to $1,500.
How long will it take to see results?
Professional LED whitening can achieve results in as little as one hour, but you might not see your final shade for one day or so.
What if I don’t have a dentist?
Many dentists offer professional whitening, so a quick online search for dentists in your area is a great place to start. Be sure to check out their website and read reviews to make sure the office is a good fit for you and your whitening goals.
Are there any side effects?
You may experience tooth sensitivity or gum irritation. Both are common and usually disappear in a few days.
Who is an ideal candidate for professional LED whitening?
An ideal candidate has healthy teeth and gums. Remember that veneers and crowns don’t lighten, so if you have any dental restorations, you may need to have them replaced.
Does insurance cover professional LED whitening?
No, not usually. Whitening is a cosmetic procedure, so insurance doesn’t cover it.
Are there any financing options?
Many dentists either offer payment plans or accept third-party financing. Some require credit checks, so be sure to read to the fine print.
How long will my results last?
Professional LED whitening results can last anywhere between 12 and 24 months, depending on your lifestyle — like how often you consume staining food and beverages, how often you smoke, and if you maintain a consistent oral hygiene routine.
How do I maintain my results?
Your dentist may include a set of custom whitening trays in your professional whitening package, which you can use for occasional touch-ups to your smile. If not, ask your dentist which method of at-home whitening is best for you between professional visits.