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Dental Insurance - Will It Cover Teeth Whitening Procedures?

By Susan Braden

Teeth Whitening: Is It Covered By Dental Insurance

These treatments are increasing in popularity as a quick, simple way to brighten a smile. When it comes to insurance, however, the subject becomes a little hazy. While there are several different whitening methods available, dental insurance companies tend to reject claims for cosmetic procedures. Traditional insurance is not always your last resort, however – a discount plan may provide the coverage you need.

The mildest method is whitening toothpaste, which usually contains a mild chemical agent as well as gentle polishing abrasives to work on the surface level. Even when used consistently, the difference in tooth color may be minimal. Insurance does not apply in this situation.

Over-the-counter whitening commonly refers to strips with a thin layer of gel on one side that you place across each row of teeth and leave in for a period of time. Usually sold in two-week packages, the system is generally more effective than long-term whitening toothpaste. Insurance will not apply in this situation either.

The next step up is tray-based bleaching supervised by your dentist. For this process, your dentist creates a custom-fit tray and supplies the whitening agent for you to use at home. This agent is slightly stronger than over-the-counter versions and is applied for longer periods of time over the course of about four weeks. Insurance generally will not cover this method.

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The most expensive method is administered by your dentist in-office, and may be eligible for some coverage if you have a dental discount plan. This process is similar to the at-home tray-based method, except that the bleaching solution is stronger and the process is quicker. The tray also protects your gums, and the gel is usually applied directly to your teeth. A dentist can monitor the results for discoloration and sensitivity.

These bleaching treatments are not recommended for everyone. Some common issues:

  • Patients with sensitive teeth could experience a painful reaction.
  • The tooth pulp, or nerve chamber, on children under 16 is larger than an adult’s and could become irritated.
  • Some patients are allergic to the ingredient peroxide.
  • Those with worn enamel or exposed roots will notice places where the peroxide did not penetrate.
  • Decayed matter in cavities absorbs the bleach, pulling it to the inside of the tooth and causing sensitivity.
  • Bonding, crowns and veneers do not whiten, so the bleach agent will only affect the surrounding teeth.

There is a very slim chance of convincing your insurance company that whitening your teeth is necessary and not merely cosmetic. While most dental insurance companies do not cover cosmetic work, an affordable dental plan might.

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