On a dismally gray day, nothing says happy louder than a nice, white, set of teeth. Not the glow-in-the-dark white sported by those in LA, or the painted on white I see in commercials. We’re talking the three-shades lighter than normal that are perfectly happy.
After fifteen years of being my own personal Proctor and Gamble focus group, I consider myself something of a teeth whitening authority. If you don’t believe my credentials, ask Rog. When Rog and I were dating, an odd, thirteen years ago, he had the gall to debate my ability to be an objective, third party expert on all things comparative.
“Take water for example,” he said. “You have this stupid preference for Fiji water, and claim you can tell the difference.” Fiji was, and still is, one of the more expensive brands on the market, this, being the reason Rog thought that I had to have it. “You believe if it’s more money, it’s better.”
“No,” I replied. “It simply lacks that gross aftertaste of most bottled waters.”
“Right,” he returned. “Let’s take a test to prove it.”
He left my apartment at the top of Noe Valley, drove down into the Mission district and purchased twenty or so different brands of water. He set the kitchen up like one of those ketchup stands, pouring and a few inches in each glass. To make ultra-sure I wasn’t cheating, he then blindfolded me.
One by one, he lifted the glasses to my hand and had me identify the water.
“Aquafina” I said after taking a sip of one. I’d know the Riverside, California bottled water anywhere, primarily because I’ve been to some sorry parts of Riverside, and am pretty sure I’ve got by the bottling plant, too close to a sewage treatment and water run-off facility for my tastes.
“Dasina,” I said after taking a sip of another. When Pepsi finally bent to public outry, and placed “public water sources” on the label for each, the implication was a resevoire. But can we define resevoire please? This could be my little pond on my property, that sometimes serves as the resevoire for duck pooping, deer-drinking, frog-hopping, Sarah and family-swimming hole. Gerrooosss.
“To be clear,” I told Rog, when he gave a shout of frustration, “the number 2 bottler in the world gets this water from common tap water.” If I want to use tap water, I’ll take the filter off my home filter and get it direct, I said (this being back in San Fran).
We continued going through the exercise, though his face was a mask of disappointment as I continued to nail the water. To no-one’s surprise but his own, I picked up the Fiji water with a look of superiority, and drank the whole thing.
This, my friends and readers, is my lone qualification to now get to the heart of this blog: Teeth whiteners.
Experience number one was with a laser procedure that cost me $1,200 in San Francisco. I was single, twenty-seven, and still thinking I had some left-over badness from braces as a teen. The process meant my gums were covered with wax, my mouth stretched so far back I could have kissed my earlobes, goggles were placed on my eyes and bad music covered my ears. Two hours later, I emerged a new woman. No eating chocolate, coffee or wine for 2 weeks, the doc said (I abided by not imbibing the latter two during that time, only eating chocolate with my “back teeth”) and went on my way.
The results were amazing. I had a nice, white teeth. Even my brother complimented me, telling me I was “smiling bigger.” True. My teeth remained bright for about a decade.
Then came the real shocker. I couldn’t do it again. In the decade since I’d had my teeth done, lasers had all but been phased out. I’m sill not clear on why, however. Perhaps the advent of do-it-yourself whiteners had killed the market, like Victoria Secret’s push-up bras hurt the market for those pills from Sweden guaranteed to increase your breast size two times (don’t ask. it’s true. and they are still available).
Nonetheless, when Rog’s teeth surpassed mine in color, something had to be done.
My first foray into home based teeth whitening included the toothpaste. Tried Crest, Aquafresh, and Tom’s Natural. No visible difference. It could have been due to the fact my teeth were already somewhat white.
I discarded the idea for a few more years, then went for the big guns, the Rembrandt set of toothpaste and self-adhesive strips. This seemed to do the trick during the 2 weeks, and I noticed. However, the sets were $32 bucks, and it felt like I was suddenly a man, copping to a haircut every other week. I didn’t want to pay that kind of money.
The smart answer would have been to cut out chocolate, but no. And since I don’t drink coffee, tea, red wine (or any wine), or smoke, I wasn’t willing to get crazy. Thus, I continued my search.
Next up were the whitening strips. I tried Crest Whitening Strips. Those darn product managers at Crest did a good job on me, for I’m nothing if not a brand-loyalty shopper. The whitening strips had dropped dramatically in price (Walmart has good deals-see above), but I’m sure Amazon does as well. In any case, the downside of these strips is that they dissolve and get messy. I hated pulling out the strips, getting goo on my hands, then brushing, then rinsing…blahblah. I found myself not using the strips regularly, only on self-inflicted deadlines, like a wedding, a meeting or getting ready for bikini season.
The journey for tooth enlightening led me to molding. Rog went cheap, and got some molds that get hot, dunked in water or something, then pressed in to the mouth. I must not have a big mouth, for these molds were made for Garganta. After I’d attempted to cut down, shape and hone a set that actually fit, I felt like an ancient stone carver had nothing down on me.
This led me to the hallowed doors of my dentist.
Dentist-molded: @$250 bucks. Dentists also make the trays for hockey players like my husband. So of course, they can do trays for teethwhitening. Most dentists now also sell sets of peroxide whitening, a box of 4 syringes (used to pour into the trays) is $25. Each syringe lasts about 3 treatments. So, for $25 bucks, one gets 12 treatments, give or take.
This is a far superior cost-return solution than any other. The singular downside is the tray needs to stay on 30 minutes, and is used once a day. Initially, my teeth became sensitive to the solution, but it’s gone away. Also, I tend to get lazy about the tray. 30 minutes is an eternity in my world, and I can’t talk on the phone with trays in my mouth, even custom-made ones. This begat, my latest find:
For the teeth whitening novice, two types of “pens” exist. The first type of whitening pen is an actual type of ‘paint’ that gets painted on. It was made famous on World’s top model, when that white, spikey-haired gay man whips out a pen and says “open wide girl, your teeth are yellow,” and then paints her teeth white. It would be my personal Maslow table that led me to watch the one moment of the one episode that I’ve ever seen, before or since. God knew I was searching for an answer, and he gave it to me.
I looked on line. I purchased. I used. and then, I threw away. For twenty-five bucks (I succumbed for the two-for-one marketing ploy), the paint was little more than a temporary write-on. It didn’t really work. It tasted awful, and I was worried I’d get some asbestos-side effect like blindness by putting a paint on the enamel of my teeth. Call me a nut, for I’m good with peroxide, which to extend the metaphor, is probably like paint thinner. And that leads me to the second type of pen.
The peroxide pen. This was my latest purchase, just last week. And friends, I’m sold. Here’s why. Unlike the self-applied dissolve strips mentioned above, the goo emitted from this pen is as benign as it can be, and not half as annoying. Because I’m a marketing freak (and you have read this far, and have a right to know) it’s the Listerine Whitening pen. It works like a lipstick, wherein the bottom of the pen turns, cranking out some clear goo at the top. I’m typically driving somewhere when I whip out my pen, turn the nob and run it along my teeth. Its nice, top edges are perfect for getting in the cracks and crevices between my teeth and along the gum line. The two best parts of this include the price: which was $12.99 at the local supermarket (QFC) and the fact I can apply it three times a day. Again, I do it while I’m driving, since one can’t eat or drink for 30 minutes after application. This ensures I don’t eat bad, stain-producing foods.
And to be clear, (disclaimer coming) I don’t get any money from these endorsements, nor am I a Listerine bigot. It was the only pen on the supermarket aisle. Perhaps others exist. If I were a thorough focus group, I’d know this, but I don’t! (and since no professional reviewer am I, it eliminates any obligation I might feel to give you alternatives. sorry)
Now, do even more alternatives exist? YES. Rog swears by the Listerine whitening girggle. Specifically, this is a Pre-Whitening Rinse, that has lightened his teeth by at least five shades that I can tell. Here’s the deal with it–he uses it in the morning and night, BEFORE brushing his teeth, per the directions. Yet, when I tried it, it was like acid on my gums. Yes, acid. It wasn’t that it physically hurt my gums, it disintegrated them. Truly. I could literally feel the top layer of my gums skimming off like the top layer of grunge on a bog. Rog’s gums then, must be the teflon-caoted kind, because his gums had no ill affects. Go figure.
Now, for people who don’t want to mess with trays, strips, pens, mouthwashes or toothpaste, you can do the permanent route. Get your teeth filed in points like a dragon and have veneers attached. Depending on the quality and doctor, you’ll be paying a grand on up per tooth. Some are thick veneers, and the more expensive ones, that are look more natural, are 2-3 grand per tooth. The results are instantaneous. Wedding in Vegas tomorrow? No problem. The downside, as I’ve witnessed with some friends and associates, is that veneers are nearly as susceptible to stain-causing elements as natural teeth.
Then guess what. Veneers can’t really be whitened. The only choice at that point, is to get the veneers replaced, or, as one friend did, knock out the entire set of teeth, and have an entire bridge screwed in to the bone. Sometimes it’s hard for me to look at him, knowing he’s ripped through three sets of teeth, real and not, and now has long screws keeping in his pearly whites. I’m a visual girl, and he’s like dracrula. And some point, his choppers are going to drop in the soup at our dinner table, and it will be all she wrote.
The good news is that you have lots of options. Since I’ve “mostly kicked” my chocolate habit, my teeth might stay a bit whiter longer. But I keep the pen handy in my purse. Love that thing.
PS: Today, our water is from a well, two hundred feet in the ground that comes down from a mountain. It comes out tasting pretty good, though we have a filter that removes some of the metal taste that has a nasty side effect of damaging the neurological health of small children. Thus, I still have my nice, thirty-day supply of Fiji water in the garage, though I have been known to slurp a Smart Water no and then.