I just had my teeth whitened. It might be slightly vain but while we're in Thailand and have access to significantly cheaper dental care I thought I'd go for it. Barring a Ross from Friends style outcome it seems unlikely I'll regret my teeth being too white. Years of tea and coffee drinking have certainly left them a little worse for wear.
After a discussion with a dentist I had to choose between at home or in office treatment. The at home treatments typically last for either two weeks or a month. The effects are more gradual but you have far less risk of increased sensitivity. They make a mold of your teeth and send you home with whitening gel. You put the whitening gel in the mold and put it on your teeth for, ideally, five or more hours a day. That basically means overnight while you sleep. This poses some challenges for us. The whitening gel needs to be refridgerated and its not long until we begin our journey into Laos. Continuous access to refridgeration is unlikely.
The alternative was in office treatment. They perform a treatment on you then send you home with that same mold and gel. This time though you only need to keep it up for one week. That seemed like it would work far better for us given our current lifestyle.
Once we had narrowed it down to in office treatments there were two more options. "Zoom" or "Lasersmile". Both involve you sitting in the dentist's chair wearing a rig that simultaneously holds your mouth open and protects any exposed soft tissue ie any part of your head that isn't your teeth. Gauze or similar is packed around the rig, bear in mind that this is inside your mouth. Then they apply a gel. This gel is far more potent than the at home version. Finally they hit it with a special light referred to as a laser. Zoom uses a much larger light gismo and thus requires you to wear a much larger protective rig. The need to have even more plastic, rubber and gauze packed into my mouth combined with stories on the net from people whose Zoom treatments sounded rather unpleasant persuaded me that Lasersmile would be the way to go. Its effects are less instant than Zoom but that's fine with me.
The dentist took a mold of my teeth, cleaned them then began packing my head with all manner of things. I laid back and tried to sleep. On the upside, with your mouth more or less locked in the desired position there was no need to consciously hold your mouth open. My involvement was limited to ensuring that I kept a firm grip on a piece of plastic between my teeth that was there to shield my tongue from the laser. No pressure.
The gel tingled but was not painful. The laser was an odd experience. For some reason I didn't foresee it being hot. If it is indeed some sort of high energy light source then it seems only natural that it would be hot. I pondered this while it was in my mouth. A number of times it felt on the brink of badly burning one of my non-teeth areas however the instant the laser was switched off the sensation of having been burned went away. All very odd.
After some lasering I was left to mull things over for 15 minutes. This was to allow the gel to do its work. There were occasional small tingly pains in my teeth but nothing severe. The dentist or her assistant occasionally snuck a suction device around the aparatus I was wearing to prevent me from drowning in saliva.
Then it was more lasering. More heat. More counting the seconds until the damn thing would go away.
15 more minutes to wait. Surely this is the last time. I couldn't turn my head far enough to see the clock so wasn't sure how much time had passed. My appointment was for an hour and a half so I reckoned that, with any luck, this would be the last repetition.
Towards the end of that 15 minutes I made the mistake of breathing in through my mouth. The feeling of the cool dentist's office air against my teeth was like having someone hammer icicles into my skull. It was the same sensation as when you accidently bite into icecream but magnified many times. Except now there was no icecream. I couldn't even close my mouth. The pain probably only lasted for around 30 seconds during which time I did my best to tear the arms off the dentist chair.
Finally it was time to remove all this wretched stuff from my mouth. Fine with me. It all came out followed by a leisurely chat from the dentist who casually explained that I may have some sensitivity. Sensitivity indeed. After describing how to use the at home kit we used it to apply some greatly appreciated de-sensitisation gel. Then I headed for home.
In the hours since then there has been the occasional round of pain. I'm still only breathing through my nose and I passed on the glass of ice water at dinner. Hot food was fine. I pre-purchased some Sensodyne toothpaste after that was recommended by someone on the Internet. It could possibly be a placebo but that stuff has been miraculous. If you're getting whitening done buy some before you go. Use it immediately afterwards. Lots of it. Stand in the dentist's car park and fill your mouth with it.
Now at home I have a soft tray to put gel in overnight plus whitening gel, desensitising gel, whitening toothpaste and desensitising toothpaste. Its quite the balancing act. Am I glad I did it? I suppose. The results already look pretty significant. Do I plan on repeating this in the future for even whiter teeth? No. No I don't.