My Teeth Whitening Stash

I mentioned my home teeth whitening set-up back in July, and I’ve been asked about it ever since. At long last, all my rich teeth secrets!

Gonna start with a disclaimer: I’m not a dental health professional, just a historian who will do the equivalent of shoving my body into a light socket in order to learn about beauty stuff. At the end of my jaw and braces journey, my surgeon and orthodontist were happy to send me off for teeth whitening to complete the smile transformation. Then the pandemic hit, and while I’m open to just about any beauty treatment, taking off my mask in NYC at the height of a pandemic to whiten my teeth wasn’t on the menu. So I hunted around and got myself a home teeth whitening set-up.

Before diving in with my whitening routine, I went to my dentist for a checkup and had x-rays done to make sure I didn’t have any cavities. I’ve heard of people having nerve zaps from whitening (!!!), and this might be related to cavities or other weaknesses in the tooth enamel allowing the LED light to overheat the tooth pulp. I got the all clear and off I went to blast through the layers of grime from braces and cold brew.

For roughly the cost of one whitening session at a pro whitening spot, I managed to acquire a whole stash of whitening tools that I’m nowhere near using up. An initially cheaper option would be Crest Whitestrips, which my awesomely low-key dentist suggested, but I wanted the big guns to get my teeth stupendously white very fast. I think my stash ends up being cheaper over time due to the number of treatments in each gel tube. One great thing about home whitening is that if my gums get irritated, I don’t have to plow through with treatments just because they’re already paid and booked (whereas I’d probably suffer through a three-session whitening treatment at a studio just to avoid having to come back or forfeit the fee).

Here’s what I’ve got:

Mouth Opener

This thing opens up your lips so you can paint the whitening gel directly on teeth without lips and gums getting in the way. I don’t think I’d get such good results without this contraption.

44% Carbamide Peroxide

This is The Stuff. 44% is some real deal whitening gel, and it noticeably whitens my teeth in one session.

So you’ve got your lips held open like you’re a sex doll, and then you paint tiny beads of this gel on with the brush below. You only need a tiny bit; in fact, it’s better to keep the gel just on the teeth and not overdo it or your gums will yell.

I start by painting my yellower teeth first to give them more time in the gel, in hopes of someday having uniformly white teeth. For me, that means doing the sides on the top arch, sides on the bottom arch, bottom center, and then top center.

Once the gel is painted on, I insert the custom mouthguards from the kit (there are instructions for how to heat them and shape them to your arches), bite my teeth together, and remove the lip opener. At that point, the mouthguards are helping to hold the gel right on the teeth.

Teeth Whitening Pen

This pen is dead useful for neatly painting the gel on each tooth. Some instructions talk about just smashing some gel into the mouthguards and turning on the light, but that’s wasteful of the gel (it’s oozing all over) and tough on gums. If you have another brush that would work on your teeth, just use that, this one isn’t special and you don’t need the weaker 35% gel inside.

LED Teeth Whitening Light

This thing is a beast. I put this on high for 20 minutes and poke around at my computer while blasting my teeth into the next galaxy. The light activates the gel (despite the clear mouthguards being in the way) and everything gets super bubbly. I end up drooling, so I’ve taken to wearing a bib from my jaw surgery days to avoid a massive shirt wet spot.

Optional: Soothing Sensitivity Gel

If you have sensitive gums or your gums are angry about the frequency of your whitening, this gel is fantastic. I’ve only had to use it a few times because I’m too lazy about maintaining a whitening schedule to irritate my gums a lot.

I prefer to whiten at least 12 hours before being seen by anyone other than my husband; the whitened teeth look kind of radioactive and scary initially, but chill out overnight.

Side benefit: my teeth get super clean and slinky feeling!

Side drawback: I’m smiling a lot more because I feel ok about my teeth, which is causing—gasp!—wrinkles!

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