Getting Your Teeth Professionally Whitened - Is it Worth the Cost?

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By Nichole Devolites

For years, I tried to understand how those with gleaming white teeth could still drink coffee and tea religiously and never seem to get an inkling of a shade of yellow - even on one tooth. I’d ask (those that I knew anyway) how they’d keep their smile so bright, and their advice was usually to brush and floss after every meal and/or the use of Crest White Strips religiously. (In a very tiny percentage of instances, the friend had well-constructed veneers).

Aside from the latter, I became obsessed with brushing and pretty rigid about using the strips per direction of the box. While my gums were healthier and my teeth looked slightly whiter, none of it was actually working the way I wanted, and it was frustrating (plus, I’m not always in a place to brush and floss after every meal… or I’m snacking throughout the day in place of).

On my last dental cleaning visit in November, my dentist and friend, the well-known Dr. Alex M. Naini (her client Rolodex is impressive and she’s met Oprah!), owner of Aesthetic Dental Spa, suggested I go the professional teeth whitening route for best results - especially since my wedding was coming up and I wanted my smile to shine brightly!

I made my appointment and went in a few weeks later.

The In-Office Process

A week before I was due to come in, Dr. Naini advised that I should take a couple of Aleve an hour before the appointment, as there was a possibility “zingers” (those tiny firework-like bursts of pulsating pain within your tooth) could pop up in a few of my teeth during the process. Having had no prior issues with white strips, it would be unlikely, but better to be safe than sorry.

Once in the chair, they put specialized glasses on me and quickly cleaned my teeth before they began.

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The process itself is very simple. They keep your mouth open with a gentle device (and a ton of gauze), and apply the bleach to your teeth with a nail polish-sized brush. Once done, they put the Philips Zoom LED Lamp Treatment machine directly onto your teeth for 15 minutes to activate the bleach and dissolve the discoloration. This bleach brushing and light treatment is repeated 4-5 times. For me, the process was painless and in fact, I fell asleep during it (it was a long day at work).

When we were done, we took moulds of my teeth for my at-home kit, they provided me tooth sensitivity gel and a list of foods and drinks I couldn’t consume for the next 48 hours (clear/white liquids and foods were all I was allowed - it goes for seasonings and marinades as well! If it’s not followed, you’re at risk for permanent staining), and I was done!

Extending This Process at Home

My personal Zoom kit

My personal Zoom kit

I wish I could say I walked out of the office with gleaming white teeth on the first pass, but as Dr. Naini cautioned, everyone is different in how their teeth respond to the first session. While my teeth were a bit whiter, it’s not where I wanted them to be, so I chose to purchase the in-home whitening kit to keep going (all said and done, I paid about $1300).

The kit comes with your trays (they look like Invisalign retainers) and three syringes of solution. Each syringe holds about five days’ worth, which is more than enough to last you a year.

The trays are pretty simple to use. No more than a drop in each individual tooth mould in the tray, leave the trays in for 15 minutes (or longer) twice a day, and you can go back to eating/drinking whatever you want. Once you get to the level of white you want, do it three more days and then you can stop. Some like to do a “refresher” once a month. Make sure to rinse after pulling out the trays (and cleaning them).

What to Keep in Mind

Everyone’s teeth are different! Mine are so stubborn that I did the trays for another week before finally feeling like I got a decent shade of white (check out the before and after photos, below). Some will do 1-2 more days beyond their professional whitening, and their teeth will be blinding white. The point is, keep going until you’re happy! Yes, it’s the much more expensive route but is certainly longer-lasting and well worth it if you have the means.

Before and After Photos: On the left was me in Alaksa in August of 2018 . On the right was me on December 23, 2018 after a full seven days of at-home applications!

If you live in the D.C. metro area or are able to travel, consider booking an appointment with Dr. Alex Naini by clicking here.