Even though Mr. Everyday Dollar is frugal he still likes to look his best. This means getting a stylish hair cut, dressing well (cost consciously), and keeping his teeth as sparkly white as possible.
While some of you may yell and scream that these are exactly the things that waste everyday dollars and that I argue against, this time I am arguing for. Why? Simple: they help to boost our self-esteem and confidence. Are these are two very important things in reaching our personal and professional goals. My motto? Look good, feel good, do good.
Teeth whitening is not a modern invention. People have been doing it since the 8th century B.C., when they slathered urine and goat milk on their teeth to get a few shades whiter. Lucky for us now, we have slightly more modern products to combat the effects of coffee, tea and red wine – my favorite things, no doubt – but a nightmare for your teeth.
What’s being used today is something called carbamide peroxide. By applying this oxidizing agent directly to the teeth, the compound breaks down, oxygen enters the enamel of the tooth and bleaches the colored substances.
By using a custom plastic teeth tray along with carbamide peroxide, we can expect up to an 11 shade difference! There are other options, for instance some people use strips, but I’ve personally found them much less effective. The problem is that they utilize a much lower concentration of the oxidizing agent, so only a shade or two difference can be expected.
To get started making our teeth nice and white, here’s what we need.
1. Get a teeth whitening tray
I was fortunate enough to have my dentist provide me a custom molded whitening tray at no cost. This is the most important part of our teeth whitening system. The tray should be well-fitted because it needs to retain the bleaching gel without leaking and to ensure the gel is evenly distributed against the whole tooth.
I’d recommend you inquire at your dentist about a custom tray made from your teeth impressions. Although it will likely be a bit expensive, the trays last for a lifetime and will be worth the investment.
The less expensive option is to do-it-yourself and buy something like these moldable thermofitting trays. These are inexpensive, and while I don’t have any experience with them, some of the product commenters say they are suitable.
2. Get teeth whitening gel
Here’s where the real savings come in. I used to purchase the carbamide peroxide syringes from my dentist until I discovered they could be purchased online for much cheaper.
I use the eight packs of Opalescence 35% Gel, which lasts me two years. It’s the highest percentage gel you can get, however a word of warning: some people experience tooth sensitivity and irritation of the mouth tissues and gums with this percentage.
Some of this discomfort could be traced to an ill-fitting tray – why you should invest in a custom one – and the symptoms typically disappear in a day or two, but it could also be due to sensitivity of the individual.
With that in mind, I’d suggest starting out with a lower percentage gel and working your way up, so try the Opalescence 20% Gel first.
3. Whiten those teeth
Once you have the tray and gel we are ready to get that Hollywood smile! You’ll want to remove the cap from the syringe of gel and express the contents evenly into the deepest portion of the tray, towards the facial side. I find that about one-third of the syringe is necessary for each application.
Then you’ll want to seat the tray completely over your teeth and press gently against the faces of your teeth to make sure the gel is evenly distributed across the teeth. I remove any excess gel that flows beyond the tray’s edge with my finger and then rinse my mouth a couple times.
You want to wear the tray for 30-50 minutes per day and you’ll get about three applications per syringe, for a total of three days of wear. After you remove the tray, brush and rinse the gel from your teeth and tray and let the tray air dry.
Once you reach your desired whitening level for the initial whitening, typically within seven to ten days, the whitening should last several years.
Of course, by eating acidic foods, smoking, drinking coffee and red wine, your teeth will gradually darken. After the initial treatment, I’d recommend doing a touchup every three to six months. I use a new syringe at the start of every quarter: January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, October 1st.
Happy teeth whitening!
A final note: Mr. Everyday Dollar is not a dentist and highly recommends you consult your dentist prior to using a teeth whitening system such as the one described. Also, prolonged exposure to bleaching agents may damage tooth enamel which you can never get back!