,November 4, 2020
Kal Visuals, Unsplash
Is it possible to get a white smile — naturally? Over the course of a year, we test out some natural and professional teeth whitening methods.
Is it possible to whiten your teeth naturally? Avoiding coffee and red wine is, dare I say it, a boring and bleak way to keep your choppers pearly white. But getting teeth professionally whitened can be an expensive and often daunting process. We test out a few natural teeth whitening practices and see how they stack up against their clinical counterparts.
Activated charcoal is really having a moment. But what is it? Activated charcoal is a fine-grain powder made from wood, coconut shells and other natural substances that have been oxidised under extreme heat. When added to toothpaste, the activated charcoal claims to bind to stains, tartar and bacteria and absorb surface stains. I used an activated charcoal toothpaste twice a day for one month. Thankfully, the taste wasn’t one of chargrilled sausages; instead it was a delicious minty flavour due to the added peppermint essential oil. Did it whiten my smile? No, but it certainly was an experience having a mouth full of stunning black goo.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that is said to have originated over 3000 years ago. It involves swishing a tablespoon of melted coconut oil or sesame oil around your mouth every morning for 20 minutes. It’s said to not only cleanse your teeth and gums of bacteria but also whiten your teeth. With a little more time on my hands, I added oil pulling to my morning routine for one month. At first, it was hard to keep the oil in my mouth for a full 20 minutes. I kept at and after two weeks I was enjoying the ritual. Wake up, tongue scrape (another Ayurvedic practice I have been incorporating for over 10 years), fill my mouth with oil and start swishing. I used those 20 minutes to read outside in the morning sun or do some gentle stretches. After a month, I inspected my teeth. My gums felt healthier and flossing at night seemed easier. As for the pearly white teeth I was after? Not quite, but I loved the 20 minutes of “me” time in the morning.
Teeth whitening from the comfort of your own home? Yes, please. Caitlin Wilkie, a qualified dental practitioner with over 10 years’ experience in the dental industry, arrived at my house. Her new business, ACCU White, has been thriving in Byron Bay and, as we exchanged hellos, I could see why. Wilkie, flashing me a big white smile, was bubbly, kind and welcoming — all important things when you invite a dental practitioner into your home. As she turned my lounge room into a dental studio, she asked if I’d like the reclining chair (which she had brought and topped with a soft cushion) to face the television or record player. I chose the record player and settled into the chair, thinking how wonderful it was to be in my own home. Wilkie, who had asked me to start using a sensitive toothpaste two weeks before the treatment, handed me some protective glasses to wear over my eyes. She began explaining the procedure and placed a strange-looking apparatus in my mouth that held my lips wide and my mouth open. She coated my lips with a conditioner before painting a protective gel substance onto my gums and adding wads of cloth into my mouth and cheeks. Then it was time for the whitening gel to be painted onto my top and bottom teeth. She explained there would be four rounds, and if I felt some tingles or zaps on my teeth I was to let her know immediately. As she connected the machine to my mouth and turned on the blue light, she confided that dental practitioners are able to access a stronger whitening solution than over-the-counter cosmetic products. In the fourth round, I felt a few zaps on sensitive areas of my teeth but nothing unbearable. Once the treatment was finished and my mouth cleaned, it was time for the great reveal … Wow! My teeth were sparkling white — at least 10 shades whiter — and still very natural-looking.
Dr Gamer Verdian greeted me with a friendly smile as he welcomed me inside his popular clinic, Dental Lounge, in the heart of Sydney. He led me into a large room and I took a seat. Stunning views of Sydney’s Botanic Gardens filled the room and there was a television paused on Netflix in the corner. I thought to myself, “This is the fanciest dental practice I have ever been in.” Dr Verdian gave my teeth a check-up, clean and X-ray with the help of his dental nurse Karina. Then he explained that the whitening gel, which works by breaking down deep stains on the tooth surface, can lift teeth up to 14 shades lighter in one hour. He added that the gel is safe to use in the human mouth and does not damage or alter tooth structure, which I felt comforted knowing. He began preparing my gums as I enjoyed a Netflix series wearing a stylish pair of protective glasses. Next, Dr Verdian carefully painted the gel over every tooth that was visible in my smile. He explained that I might feel some temporary sensitivity, and if so to let him know. I sat back and relaxed as the machine was hooked to my mouth. In the third round, I started to feel some sensitivity, and after the fourth round, I was ready to stop. I was cleaned up, then Dr Verdian passed me the mirror. I took a look and spotted gleaming pearly white teeth smiling back at me! I was very happy with the result, which Dr Verdian said could last anywhere between six months and five years, even longer if I used the whitening touch-up kit – which he posted out to me — every few months or so. It’s been four months and my teeth are still beautifully white.
Lena Smits, the co-founder and director of PureSmile, held the door for me as I walked into her cosmetic clinic in the heart of Sydney. As we chatted about the signature cosmetic teeth whitening treatment I’d be having, Smits explained that the PureSmile products are carefully researched and tested. She began the treatment by conditioning my lips and protecting my gums. Then she started clicking a PureSmile pen to release whitening gel and brushed it onto my teeth. She handed me some protective glasses and placed an LED light over my mouth, telling me she’d be back when it beeps. She checked that I was comfortable, flashed me a warm smile and walked out the door. I lay there in the dark, taking a moment to do some deep belly breaths. The machine beeped after 15 minutes and Smits returned to wipe off the gel and reapply. She left me and I relaxed, enjoying the moment of quiet. My usually sensitive teeth handled the whitening gel with ease, most likely due to its being less strong than the gel used by dental practitioners. When the final “beep” went off, Smits returned to the room with a mirror. I sat up and, as I caught my reflection in the mirror, I was impressed by the natural white choppers smiling back at me.
For more information, visit @accuwhite on Instagram, accuwhite.com.au, dentallounge.com.au and puresmile.com.au.