It Took Only 45 Minutes to Whiten Away Nearly 30 Years of Stains on My Teeth

Why the hell didn't I do this sooner?
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Why the hell didn't I do this sooner?

If any of this reads incoherently, it's probably because I just got home from celebrating Caitlin's birthday and I'm a little tipsy. What did I drink, you ask? (I mean, I'm assuming at least one of you asked.) Well, not red wine, that's for sure! I just got my teeth whitened a couple weeks ago, and I'm not about to take a chance staining the beautiful color Dr. Marc Lazare achieved with an in-office treatment called Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed.

Oh, who am I kidding? I might have not drunk red white tonight (though I did have something called a Bloody Street Fight, which sounds badass but is actually just a rosé spritzer and therefore not at all badass), but even though Dr. Lazare told me I had to eat only white food for 24 hours following the treatment — we're talking egg whites, white rice, white bread without the crust, etc. — I mindlessly purchased an iced coffee the morning after. When Dan saw it on my desk, he gave me a very scoldypants look and warned me not to take the chance, even though I would be essentially bypassing my front teeth by drinking it through a straw.

"If I can get through the day without coffee, so can you," he said. See, Dan had gotten his teeth whitened at the same time I did and thus was under the same oppressive set of food and drink restrictions. Right after he said that, he went downstairs to Rite-Aid to buy caffeine tablets; when he was out of sight, I took two sips of the iced coffee and then couldn't bring myself to tempt fate any further. I tossed it remorsefully.

And no, Dan didn't share his caffeine tablets with me, nor did he take them himself. After he dropped the white tablets in his bottle of water, they turned said water orange, thus disqualifying them from consumption.

It was a rough day.

But y'all, it was worth it. I'd even argue that the tooth sensitivity — sporadic jolts of pain, especially in one of my lower front teeth — that I felt for an hour or so after the treatment was worth it, because I never thought I could truly reverse the staining that had intensified over the years. But the treatment went above and beyond my expectations.

So here's the deal with Philips Zoom WhiteSpeed: "When combined with the pH booster in the whitening gel, WhiteSpeed's advanced blue LED light-activated technology greatly accelerates the whitening process," according to Philips. And by "greatly accelerate," they mean up to eight shades in 45 minutes. 

And so, for three sets of 15 minutes, I did this:

It's like a rave in your mouth.

It's like a rave in your mouth.

Perhaps the best part of this treatment being only 45 minutes — as opposed to longer and multiple sessions — is that you don't have to deal with the resulting sensitivity as long or as often. I felt a little nerve pain during my second and third rounds of 15 minutes, as well as for about an hour after, but that was partly because, first of all, I didn't do the pre-treatment sensitivity protocol recommended to some patients, and secondly, Dr. Lazare was kind enough to do a superficial cleaning before we started; even a superficial tartar scraping can irritate the area. However, some people get through the treatment with no pain at all. (Lucky jerks.)

Fortunately, Dr. Lazare also sent me home with a mouth guard pre-gooed-up with sensitivity-soothing gel. Wearing it for just a half hour stopped the stings and let me sleep through the night without interruption.

But before I went home, Dr. Lazare showed me where I started shade-wise on his creepy three-dimensional tooth chart — he literally held up real-looking individual teeth to my teeth to determine the progress we made — and where I ended up. And it was kind of a mindfuck. I went into the office thinking my teeth were really yellow; after all, I've been drinking two cups of coffee nearly every day for over a decade, not to mention the way teeth naturally skew yellow over a lifetime. But it turns out my tooth color fell into the less-stained half of the chart; perhaps even the top third.

That was a source of relief until I actually saw my before-and-after photos. Holy crap, my teeth looked even yellower than I realized! I found solace in the fact that they apparently could have been much worse, though, as well as the fact that they were no longer that yellow.

Before on top, after on the bottom. My lips are shinier and less lipstick'd in the second picture because Dr. Lazare applied a vitamin E oil to them to make them more comfortable during the treatment.

Before on top, after on the bottom. My lips are shinier and less lipstick'd in the second picture because Dr. Lazare applied a vitamin E oil to them to make them more comfortable during the treatment.

In fact, even though my new shade looks very natural to me — I can still spot some not-quite-whiteness, but nothing that bothers me — Dr. Lazare explained that we had actually gotten my shade into the unnaturally white range. If you say so, doc! I'm happy with the results regardless of how they're categorized. 

For the first couple of days, I did a lot of awkward smiling at myself in the mirror just to really let the new shade sink in. I also put colleagues on the spot in the Time Inc elevators to ask them if I was blinding them with my supernatural teeth, and I'm sure they enjoyed that very much. 

I feel way more confident wearing warmer red lipsticks now that my teeth aren't... uh... also warm?

I feel way more confident wearing warmer red lipsticks now that my teeth aren't... uh... also warm?

I'm truly astounded by the difference. I want to V8-bop myself on the head for waiting until I was nearly 38 years old to do this. (But I probably won't drink any V8 any time soon because I think that might be a tooth-stainer.) 

The price varies from dentist to dentist, but you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the treatment. And it's a few hundred dollars well spent if your tooth color genuinely bothers you.

And hey, if you want to see me looking ridiculous in the dentist's chair while trying to use sign language to communicate with my coworkers, go ahead and check out the Facebook Live we did during my first 15 minutes of the treatment.

  • Have you ever gotten your teeth professionally whitened? Have you wanted to? 
  • What would you rather spend a few hundred dollars on: this, another professional beauty treatment, or products?
  • Have you ever fallen asleep with whitening strips on your teeth? Two of my coworkers have!