Over 50% of Americans use dental insurance, but it does not tend to cover any sort of cosmetic procedures, including teeth whitening procedures.

What Does Dental Insurance Typically Cover?

Dental insurance has a typical yearly maximum amounting approximately between $1,000 to $3,000 for covered procedures. The umbrella of dental coverage includes procedures strictly related to health and wellness: routine cleanings and X-rays, root canals, fluoride treatments, fillings, and the like. Some forms of dental coverage only cover a portion of these procedures.

Key Takeaways

  • Most dental insurance policies do not cover any cosmetic treatments.
  • There are three types of coverage generally covered by dental insurance: preventive, basic care, and major work.
  • Often dental plans cover one annual visit for cleanings, as well as sealants, and x-rays.

When it comes to dental insurance, most plans focus on preventative and basic care, and not all procedures are covered by dental insurance. For example, even putting on a crown may not be fully covered by a dental plan.

There are usually three categories within dental coverage: preventative (annual cleanings), basic (fillings, extractions, and root canals), and major dental work.

Dental Insurance Does Not Cover Cosmetic Procedures

Most dental insurance policies do not cover any costs for cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening, tooth shaping, veneers, and gum contouring. Because these procedures are intended to simply improve the look of your teeth, they are not considered medically necessary and must be paid for entirely by the patient.

Some dental practices offer payment plans to help patients afford cosmetic work like veneers, whitening treatments, and in some cases, even braces.

What Constitutes Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry includes procedures that exist for the main purpose of improving the appearance of the patient's teeth and smile.

Whitening treatments, veneers, bonding and straightening procedures, such as Invisalign, are included in this group. These procedures, while widely known and quite popular, tend to not be covered by insurance and require the patient to cover the entire cost.

The Bottom Line

According to DentalPlans.com, teeth whitening and other cosmetic treatments can run between $450 and $600 per treatment. The median price of in-office teeth whitening procedures in the United States is approximately $399, and it increases or decreases depending on location and office pricing.

Since insurance is not involved, there isn't a usual and customary fee, which is why the pricing varies from office to office.

Because of the high price for cosmetic procedures, patients must research other payment options. While many cosmetic dental or orthodontic offices are familiar with offering their patients different payment plans, patients can also opt to charge their procedures to zero-interest or low-interest health care credit cards, such as CareCredit.