Teeth Whitening vs. Veneers: who is the Best?

two women are sitting side by side on a stool with line running in the middle, Looking at the camera, one woman has a teeth-whitening kit in hand and the other woman holds veneers mold

Having an attractive, white smile can do wonders for your self-confidence and appearance. When it comes to whitening and enhancing your teeth, two of the most popular cosmetic dentistry treatments teeth whitening vs dental veneers. But what exactly is the difference between these two options and which one will give you the brightest, most beautiful smile?

This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth comparison of teeth whitening and veneers. By understanding the procedures, costs, longevity and effectiveness of each method, you’ll be better equipped to determine which is the right choice for transforming your smile.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Teeth whitening is more affordable but the results are temporary. Veneers are more expensive yet provide permanent whitening.
  • Whitening can cause tooth sensitivity while veneers generally do not.
  • In addition to whitening, veneers can also improve the shape and appearance of teeth.

what is Teeth Whitening?

Teeth whitening is a process that lightens and removes stains and discolouration from the enamel of teeth. Whitening products contain chemicals such as carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide that penetrate deep into the microscopic pores of the enamel and alter the colour pigments.

Over time, foods, drinks, medications, tobacco and ageing can all cause teeth staining that dulls and yellows your natural enamel colour. Teeth whitening helps reverse this discolouration by chemically oxidizing the stains until teeth appear shades lighter. However, it does not restore your natural enamel colour or whiten artificial teeth.

There are three main types of teeth whitening methods:

In-Office Whitening


This professional whitening is performed at the dentist’s office and provides the most dramatic results in the shortest time. During a 60-90 minute visit, % higher concentration hydrogen peroxide gel, 25-35%, is applied to the teeth. The doctor also uses special curing light or laser light to accelerate and enhance the whitening process. At-home touch-ups may be required to maintain the results.

At-Home Whitening Kits

After taking impressions of your teeth, the dentist will create customized trays that fit your teeth precisely to hold the whitening gel against the enamel. A lower dose of hydrogen peroxide solution, 10-22%, is given to use with the trays for 1-4 hours per day, for up to 2 weeks until satisfaction with the shade.

Over-the-Counter Products


Whitening strips that adhere directly to the teeth or paint-on whitening gels that use lower concentrations of peroxide can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. Apply for 30 minutes 1-2 times per day as directed on the packaging to see gradual lightening over time.

All forms of whitening work by penetrating through the enamel to the dentin layer, allowing the peroxide to break up the deep-set stains into smaller, less visible molecules. Used consistently over time, professional and at-home whitening can make teeth up to eight shades lighter.

What are Dental Veneers?

Veneers according to the Medicalnewtoday are thin shells made from dental ceramics that are bonded to the front surface of teeth. Usually 0.5-1 millimetre thick, they are specially fabricated to match the shape, size and color of your natural teeth. The veneer covers the visible portion of the tooth to instantly improve its appearance in various ways:

  • Whiten and brighten the tooth significantly
  • Mask chips, gaps, worn enamel or uneven tooth surfaces
  • Correct minor misalignment, spacing or smile flaws

Veneers provide a minimally invasive alternative to crowns for smile transformations. Only a small amount of enamel needs to be removed to attach and blend the veneer seamlessly with adjacent teeth. The underlying tooth structure remains intact, making veneers a reversible treatment. They feel smooth and natural like your regular teeth.

Porcelain and composite resin are the two materials used to create veneers, each with their own advantages:

Porcelain – Very durable with a luminous, light-reflecting finish. More stain resistant. Can appear too opaque.

Composite Resin – More translucent for a natural look. Stain more easily. Fracture risk over time. Cheaper than porcelain.

Custom veneers are fabricated in a dental laboratory to match your natural teeth precisely in form and function. The craftsmanship, material and time involved impact the cost of veneers.

Teeth Whitening vs. Veneers: What Problems Can They Fix?

Both professional teeth whitening and dental veneers can dramatically improve the appearance of stained, discolored, chipped or otherwise aesthetically unpleasant teeth. Some specific problems that whitening and veneers can fix include:

  • Dark yellow or brown stains from coffee, tea, wine, smoking, medications or simply aging
  • Worn, uneven or oddly shaped tooth enamel
  • Small gaps, overlaps or crookedness between teeth
  • Fluorosis staining, white spots or tetracycline discoloration
  • Filling edges that have become visible over time
  • Broken, cracked or fractured teeth

Veneers offer more comprehensive smile-enhancing abilities beyond just whitening. By covering the entire front surface, veneers can mask more significant chips, gaps, fractures, and warped or malformed tooth conditions. However, they are not a solution when there is extensive decay or trauma below the enamel requiring a crown.

The Teeth Whitening Procedure

Professional teeth whitening performed in the dental office generally involves having custom-made whitening trays fabricated. The process goes as follows:

  1. Impressions and models are taken of your teeth to create the custom trays that fit your teeth precisely. This ensures the whitening gel makes contact everywhere.
  2. The dentist provides bleaching solution of 10-22% carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. This lower dose gel minimizes sensitivity compared to in-office formulas.
  3. The fitted trays are worn 1-4 hours per day, or overnight while sleeping, for up to 2 weeks.
  4. As the trays are used consistently over time, the whitening gel oxidizes the stains in the teeth enamel, gradually lightening your teeth color.
  5. Periodic touch-up sessions may be needed every 6-12 months to maintain the maximum whitening effect.

Over-the-counter methods like whitening strips do not use custom trays. The disposable strips are coated with a thin layer of 5-7% hydrogen peroxide gel that directly contacts the tooth surface. Strips are worn for 30 minutes 1-2 times per day until desired results are seen, typically over 2 weeks. More frequent applications may increase sensitivity.

For any whitening method, following the manufacturer’s instructions is important to avoid overuse complications while seeing optimal lightening of your smile. Patience is required when waiting for the gradual color change over daily repeat treatments.

The Dental Veneer Procedure

Getting porcelain or composite veneers is a multi-step process that involves more office visits:

  1. Teeth are prepared through a minor reshaping method called reduction to create room for the veneer shells. About 0.3-0.7 mm of enamel is removed from the front and sides of the tooth.
  2. The dentist takes impressions of the prepped teeth to capture an exact model for the lab technician. Temporary veneers may be placed to protect teeth in the interim.
  3. Dental lab technicians fabricate the custom veneers from porcelain or composite resin based on the tooth models. This can take 1-2 weeks to manufacture.
  4. At the bonding appointment, the temporary veneers are removed and the permanent veneers are tried on for fit and color match. They are then bonded securely to the prepared teeth with light-cured resin cement.

Prepping the teeth is necessary so the veneers can fit seamlessly without looking bulky or artificial against adjacent teeth. Numbing shots are used to make the reduction procedure comfortable. When done properly, they look and feel remarkably like natural teeth.

How Long Do Veneers and Whitening Last?


A major point of distinction between veneers and whitening is the longevity and permanence of the results:

  • Teeth whitening lasts anywhere from 6 months to 3 years before fading occurs. It is not a permanent solution and touch-ups or re-whitening are eventually needed. Results vary based on individual habits.
  • Dental veneers can last 10-20 years or much longer before replacement is needed. This makes veneers a semi-permanent solution for a beautiful smile.

The whitening chemicals only alter the stain molecules in the enamel, so stains can redevelop over time. Smoking, coffee, tea and wine consumption will hasten the return of discoloration. Veneers maintain their freshly whitened appearance for decades since staining only occurs at the margins. With proper oral hygiene, the results can be remarkably long-lasting.

However, veneers are still susceptible to chipping, cracking or fracture over years of function which may require repair or replacement. Accidents or trauma to the mouth can also damage veneers.

Comparing the Costs: Veneers vs teeth Whitening

Another significant difference between veneers and professional whitening is the upfront cost, insurance coverage and long-term investment:

  • Whitening costs range from $100-$500 per treatment session. Over-the-counter options cost even less. Whitening is usually considered a cosmetic procedure so insurance does not provide coverage in most cases.
  • Veneers cost approximately $900-$2,500 per tooth when done with porcelain material. Composite veneers start at $250 per tooth but do not last as long. Many insurance plans cover veneers partially since they qualify as a restorative procedure when teeth are misshapen. Financing can help with the upfront expenses of veneers.

While veneers represent a larger initial investment, they provide a longer lasting solution over time compared to repeated periodic whitening treatments. Individual factors also impact the total cost calculation.

Which Treatment is Right For You?

When deciding between professional teeth whitening and dental veneers, there are several factors to take into consideration:

Whitening may be better if:

  • Budget is limited or insurance won’t cover any treatment costs
  • Teeth have minor to moderate staining issues
  • You are unwilling or unable to commit to veneers
  • You don’t mind having touch-up whitening periodically

Veneers may be better if:

  • Teeth have severe staining or discoloration issues
  • You want the permanence of veneers over temporary whitening
  • Teeth are chipped, uneven, or have gaps/spaces
  • You don’t mind paying more for long-lasting veneers

Assessing your individual tooth condition, budget, goals and motivations will help determine whether whitening or veneers are the most suitable treatment option. A smile evaluation and consult with an experienced cosmetic dentist can provide further guidance. They will make recommendations based on your needs, desires and constraints.

Here are some final considerations when choosing between teeth whitening vs veneers:

  • Veneers involve altering the teeth while whitening does not. However, enamel removal for veneers is minimal.
  • Whitening will require periodic touch-ups over time. Veneers have a one-time cost without repeated treatments needed.
  • Whitening causes sensitivity temporarily. Veneers do not but require numbing during placement.
  • Veneers can improve teeth shape, symmetry or gaps unlike whitening.
  • Veneers last 5-10 times longer than whitening treatments.
  • Whitening reaches lower costs than veneers, making it more financially accessible.

Thoroughly discuss all relevant factors with your dentist during consultations to make the optimal choice

Related Article:Professional Teeth Whitening Cost: Worth It?


Both professional teeth whitening and dental veneers provide ways to enhance your smile appearance and self-confidence. Teeth whitening offers a more affordable and non-invasive option to remove stains and discoloration, but the results are temporary and not permanent. Veneers cost more yet provide long-lasting whitening and smile transformation with dramatic, beautiful results.

Carefully consider the procedures, costs, longevity and benefits of whitening compared to veneers. Evaluate your specific cosmetic needs and desires, as well as your financial situation, to decide whether teeth whitening vs veneers is the right choice for achieving your perfect smile. With realistic expectations of each treatment, you will get beautiful, noticeable results whether you choose professional whitening or dental veneers.

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