While many of us may wish for movie star-bright white teeth, the reality is most of us have teeth that have yellowed with age.
Yours could also be graying or browning. Or, worse yet, you could be completely wearing away your teeth's enamel, exposing the golden, sensitive dentin underneath.
Even if your teeth are shade B1, the lightest natural shade for teeth, you may still feel the need for whitening — especially as we are inundated with beautiful actors and actresses strutting their larger-than-life, unearthly white teeth across our enormous high-definition TVs and movie screens.
“I've found that almost every person that walks into the door thinks their teeth are not white, whether they are or not,” said Dr. Michael K. Kirk, a dentist at Grand Dental Studio, 1057 NW Grand Blvd.
“It's all about your perception. Obviously, if you have that perception that your smile's not bright, then it's going to affect your self-confidence and your personality, the way you smile, your general approach to life.”
Whether to go pro
For years, I dreamt of bright, gleaming white teeth, especially after about 10 years of orthodontic torture in my formative years. Yes, my teeth were straight, but I hated wearing white shirts because they emphasized my cafe au lait chops. Red lipstick? Forget it — my teeth looked the color of Big Bird.
I'd tried store-bought white strips with rotten luck. They're not cheap. It was hard to find a good time to wear them. The fissures in my teeth allowed the whitening gel to assault the nerves in the dentin. The “zingers” lasted for days, and most times, half the box of strips went unused for these reasons.
So, when Dr. Kirk offered to let me try Lumibrite, an in-office professional whitening procedure, I was excited, yet hesitant. How would my sensitive teeth handle being exposed to chemicals for an hour under an ultraviolet light?
In home comparison
For comparison, Kirk offered to treat my friend Ebony Dallas, a 33-year-old artist and graphic designer at OPUBCO Communications, with take-home whitening trays. She, too, was concerned about teeth sensitivity and finding time to wear the trays for two weeks.
First a mold was taken of her teeth, from which fitted trays were made. The doctor gave Dallas a tube of whitening gel and told her to wear the trays with gel for three minutes each day. After the three minutes, she was to leave the gel on her teeth for 30 minutes, then rinse. She was to repeat this process every day for two weeks.
Some may not have the fortitude for this kind of routine, but Dallas did. She started noticing some dark spots on her teeth disappearing. Every day, she noticed her teeth getting whiter.
Dallas said she had no sensitivity with her take-home whitening trays. She found them fairly easy to wear as she was instructed. It's best to be careful when pursuing at-home treatment: Gum sensitivity or damage can result if gel from at-home trays leaks onto the gums.