Okay, go to the mirror, grimace like an angry chimp, and take a look at your teeth. Back now? Good. Do you like what you see? I'd been mildly troubled since, oh, about sixth grade by tooth staining. I finally did something about it, inspired in part by a friend who hated her varicose and spider veins and got 'em treated recently. Yes, beauty may involve some temporary discomfort, but it can be worth it. (Unless you're Michael Douglas—click the link at Awful Plastic Surgery to see his latest seeping wounds and share the horror. This is exactly why vain older men should stay far, far away from much younger, much more beautiful women.)
So anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Yesterday I went to a dentist's office to get my teeth bleached with the Brite Smile technique. (For the record, I deplore the "brite" spelling.) I've been contemplating it ever since my days as a dental editor, when I edited a paper on the then-new method, and I sure have drunk a lot of diet Coke (caramel color, anyone?) since then. It turns out I had pesky two-toned tooth staining—some yellowish surface discoloration, plus some more internal grayish coloring. The yellowish portions improved by eight shades, the grayish areas by four shades. My teeth are not freakishly, fluorescently white like Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but they are now a respectable ivory.
"How does it work, Orange?" you are undoubtedly asking. It was much easier than I expected. The technician took a Polaroid of my baseline tooth color and matched the shades to some standardized tooth-shade samples. Lip retractor in place, the tech put some cotton rolls in there and a rubber thingie to bite on and keep the tooth edges apart. She applied a protective substance of some sort to the gums, lips, and (!) tip of my nose. Then she swabbed a bleach onto the front surfaces of my teeth, and turned on the Magic Blue Light. At the 20- and 40-minute marks, the tech swabbed more bleach on. TV remote in hand, I listened (couldn't see past the arm of the blue light) to the local news for an hour (the pope, apparently, has passed on). No dripping goo, no gag reflex, no nasty taste, no pain.
After the hour was up, the tech removed all the doohickeys from my mouth. In the moment before I rinsed with some minty mouthwash, it tasted a bit yucky.Then the tech took another photo, and she and the dentist compared my tooth color to the shade samples. Success!
The tech warned me that a startling intensity of tooth sensitivity was to be expected that day, and advised me to take Tylenol #3 with codeine. That sensitivity only hit me six or seven times, for a couple seconds at a time, but it was a real sumbitch. So I took the narcotic, and had myself a little nap.
The post–Brite Smile regimen also involves eating only white foods (yes, really!) for 24 hours, so I had bananas, a baked potato, bread, applesauce, sour cream, milk, Rice Krispies, and Monterey jack cheese.
"But what does it cost, Orange?" you ask. Well, I had a cents-off coupon (for 10,000 cents off), so I paid $400. It was all so easy, I'd totally do it again in a few years after diet Coke has wreaked havoc again.