I HAVE BIG QUESTIONS. Like why would any sane person choose to get their teeth whitened in the middle of an outlet mall? The only reason I can dream up: To escape the guy harassing me to try that Dead Sea salt hand scrub. (You know the one.) Still, seems sketchy. So I decide to ask a real pro—Dr. Craig Longenecker, who practices in an idyllic log cabin-turned-office in Monkton—about the latest (and safest) options for brightening my pearly whites.
“It all comes down to time, cost and controlling sensitivity,” says Longenecker, who dismisses the whitening kiosk fad by saying, “I don’t know what they’re using, but you need to be a licensed, trained professional to access the [medical grade] materials dentists use.” Note: Some states have already banned the pop-ups.
The Rolls Royce of whitening is an in-office session, where a dentist paints a protective rubber dam on your gums, then applies 25 to 30 percent peroxide solution to your teeth—sometimes using a UVB light to “accelerate” the process (though experts disagree whether the light works).
“It’s a lot of chair time, which accounts for the price tag [of $500 to $800],” says Longenecker, who offers Philips Zoom office whitening but regularly steers patients toward take-home kits instead.
The major benefit of an in-office bleach job: instant gratification. You can walk out (in under 90 minutes) with dramatically whitener teeth—up to eight shades—provided you don’t have any fillings or veneers in the front of your grill. (Bleaching won’t help in either case.) What bites? The single session can dehydrate teeth and carries the highest risk for sensitivity. (“It hurts like a mofo,” wrote one unhappy bridezilla on a national wedding blog.)
Drugstore strips are cheaper ($18 to $50) but also wimpier (3 to 10 percent peroxide). That means you need patience—and possibly multiple boxes to get desired results. Plus, the strips only whiten front teeth and won’t fully cover your snaggletooth. (No judging, I have one. Her name is Jewel.)
MY CHOICE: I opt for custom-fitted trays, which Longenecker crafts by taking a mold with blueberry-yogurt-looking paste that turns white when it’s hard. A few days later, he sends me home with a perfect replica of my smile—and a 10-pack of syringes (“we call them dispensers,” he emphasizes) filled with Opalescence 20 percent whitening gel enhanced with desensitizing potassium nitrate—which I’ll wear for one hour a day.
Despite the dimpled dentist’s excellent instructions, I flub the first night—putting in way too much “goo,” which, well, burns like a mofo and leaves me with inflamed gums and a few white spots. Longenecker suggests I wait a few days then start over—and voila!—two weeks later my choppers are six shades lighter with no major ouchies. Oh, and I’ve kicked my “must eat cereal before bed” habit. Bonus!
THE BEST PART: Professional whitening trays average $500, but Longenecker charges just $200, which he donates entirely to Smiles For Life, a global nonprofit that raises money for kids in need. His current charity,
My Neighbor’s Foundation, helps underprivileged Hereford Zone kids participate in school activities. Previously, he designated Casey Cares, where he still sits on the board. “Over the last eight years we’ve raised more than $60k,” says Longenecker, beaming. A good dentist—and a good guy? Too bad he’s married. hereforddentalhealth.com