Sparkling, perfect white teeth are a prominent part of the media we consume on a daily basis. Whether you’re flipping through the pages of a magazine or watching your favorite show, the pearly whites on celebs have the ability to bring out the green eyed monster in everyone. Luckily, getting celebrity-approved chompers is a lot easier than you think. In fact, the virtually painless service can have you camera-ready in less than two hours.

Look, I won’t lie. My teeth have always been pretty white. Prior to having them professionally whitened, people often asked me if that was my trick. Nope. According to my new favorite dentist, Sivan Finkel, there are a few reasons why my teeth were already super white. The fact that I don’t smoke cigarettes is a big one, I also don’t consume coffee or soda. Another factor? Good old genetics. Thanks mom and dad!

Even with an already super white smile I was happy to get my teeth professionally whitened. Who doesn’t want an even brighter smile? As Spa Week’s resident guinea pig I’m down to try anything no matter how many people look at me with confusion and say, “but you don’t need it?” If I haven’t tried a service or treatment and the opportunity presents itself, you can bet I’ll be there with bells on. Plus, Leah couldn’t sub in for me because she’s afraid of the dentist and has a major gag reflex. So off I went to make my teeth shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

White Smile in Two Hours

The Dental Parlour was founded in 1971 by Dr. Myron Finkel. His son, Sivan Finkel, was also bitten by the dentistry bug, eventually joining the practice in 2011. Located on the ground floor of a 1920s townhouse, their office is chic, cozy, and comforting. I was instantly charmed with the waiting room’s homey fireplace, comfortable leather chairs, and interesting artifacts. A regular dentist’s office this is not.

When I was introduced to Sivan I was in awe of  his gorgeous, friendly smile. It was very clear that my teeth were in good hands. Once we started talking it was also clear that Sivan’s passion for dentistry runs deep. “I’m a nerd about this stuff, I could talk forever,” he told me. Honestly, I could listen forever. Sivan has a gift for making the science of dentistry interesting and engaging.

When I inquired about following in his father’s footsteps and joining his practice he explained, “I actually came to dentistry through art. I always knew I wanted to do something substantial that improved people’s lives, but it was equally important that I satisfy my lifelong urge to be creative and work with my hands.” In college, he majored in art studio and history alongside his pre-med requirements, knowing they would all somehow intertwine in the future. “I began shadowing a number of plastic surgeons and cosmetic dentists, and ultimately decided on dentistry, frankly because it was a much shorter, clearer path, and my father already had an established dental practice I could join and make my own mark on.”

Sivan certainly has made his mark by focusing on the cosmetic dentistry portion of the business. “We’re both technically general dentists, but my father handles all the more surgical procedures like extractions, implants, and root canals; meanwhile, I cover all the veneer, Invisalign, and ‘smile design’ cases,” he tells me of their complementary working dynamic. “What’s especially nice about our setup is that rather than be a jack of all trades or master of none, I am free to spend 100% of my time performing cosmetic procedures. This is significant because ‘cosmetic dentistry’ is not an actual recognized dental specialty,” he says. “Any general dentist can call themselves a cosmetic expert — and unfortunately, many do. I’m lucky that I can spend every moment of every day doing only cosmetics, honing my craft.”

After chatting for awhile and getting to know Sivan and his practice, it was time to get down to business. As previously mentioned, my teeth were already really white, so Sivan told me that my results might not be as impressive as his other patients, but that is was still possible to take them up a few notches. To get started a very friendly dental assistant named Kim worked with Sivan to create molds of my teeth. These would be used to make trays for the at-home whitening kit I’d be given later to maintain my refreshed smile.

After that, it was time to get down with some very highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide. Because the hydrogen peroxide they were applying had such a high concentration (it can range from 15%-40%) my face had to be fitted with some type of plastic apparatus that pulled my lips and cheeks away from my gums with the help of some gauze in order to protect them. It wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world, but most things I do in the name of beauty are not. Once my face was safely restrained, Kim applied a barrier to my gums to ensure they would be protected too. From there the hydrogen peroxide was applied to my teeth and it was time to Netflix and chill for the next 15-20 minutes.

During the treatment, I sat happily and enjoyed Parks & Rec on my own personal flat screen. It was so nice and comfy that I was considering the best way to ask if I could move in when Kim reappeared to re-apply the hydrogen peroxide. We repeated this process a few times and before I knew it my lips, gums, and cheeks were ready to be freed and my teeth were ready for their big reveal.

My teeth have always been whiter than most, but after getting them professionally whitened they had never looked better. In fact, a few days later a friend of mine admitted that he could not stop staring at my teeth and he had to know how I’d gotten them so white. “I got them whitened professionally!” I replied, flashing my bright new smile. Look, I’m not one to keep a beauty secret. I always tell the truth because there’s no shame in admitting when you’ve gotten an extra boost. “Your forehead is so smooth, wow,” someone will say to me. “Thank you. That’s the Botox!” is my standard reply. Honesty is better for everyone. No need to play it close to the belt and make people think certain beauty results are attainable by sheer force of will, genetics, or even just great products. That long-winded speech kind of got away from me. Back to The Dental Parlour.

teeth whitening two hours

A before and after of one of Sivan’s other patients.

After the treatment, as Sivan began to explain how to use my at-home maintenance kit, I started to feel like there was a lightning storm raging inside my teeth. Every few minutes I would jump a bit and cover my mouth as a painful volt of heat erupted in a tooth. This was unpleasant, but Sivan assured me that the transient sensitivity also referred to as “zingers” (zingers indeed!) would go away within the next couple of hours. He also told me that most people have little to no irritation after getting their teeth whitened, but as usual, this guinea pig can’t help but to go all in — feeling all the feels someone might experience during a professional whitening session.

Before sending me on my merry way, I was told to put my at-home whitening kit in the fridge to keep it fresh and to avoid colorful food for the next two days because my teeth would be more susceptible to absorbing dark colorspost-whitening. Done and done.

So would I have my teeth professionally whitened again? Yep! While it is slightly uncomfortable to have your lips and cheeks taken out of commission by a comically large mouth guard, the entire treatment took under two hours and I got to watch Netflix while Kim checked in on me and used that cool suction tool we all know and love to make sure I stayed comfortable and didn’t drown in my own saliva (I’m guessing). Sure, I was in a little pain here and there for a couple hours following the session but the results were well worth it. My teeth get so many compliments now, they would be blushing nonstop if they could, but they can’t so they just stay beautiful and pearly white.

Q&A

Ready to get your teeth professionally whitened? Check out my Q&A with Sivan to learn everything you need to know about the service including his take on various whitening methods.

Why should someone get professional whitening instead of using at-home over the counter products?

I always say that if the over the counter products are working for a patient, great! Many patients, however, start with very discolored teeth, and require a stronger concentration of whitening chemicals that can only be dispensed by a dentist. Another benefit of professional at-home whitening is that we make custom bleach trays that are perfectly adapted to the teeth, keeping the chemical close to the tooth and off the gums. A third benefit of the professional approach is that I develop a personalized whitening strategy for each patient, i.e. a specific combination of in-office and at-home techniques, with different concentrations of chemicals and different frequencies of use depending on starting shade, habits, and lifestyle. All these advantages of professional treatment will make the whitening more effective and more “stable” (long-lasting) than any over-the-counter products.

Are there any side effects or risks of having your teeth whitened, if any?

In terms of side effects, there is always a small chance of some transient sensitivity, known as “zingers”, which subsides and does not cause any damage to the tooth. The risk of this is increased with the higher concentrations of whitening chemicals, and so I may opt to use a weaker chemical over a longer time period with someone who has sensitive teeth. There is also a chance of “burning” the gums if the chemical comes in contact with them, but again, this passes and causes no damage. A properly fitted at-home bleach tray will prevent extra chemical on the gums, and when we use the VERY strong chemicals during in-office whitening sessions, we go through a lot of effort to isolate the lips, cheeks, and gums so it touches nothing but the teeth. In terms of actual risks, the only thing we don’t do is whiten the teeth of pregnant women, but this is just to be on the safe side — there is no evidence that hydrogen peroxide (the main whitening agent) is dangerous to a fetus, but why risk it for a cosmetic procedure? Overall, tooth whitening is the most conservative, least invasive way to improve a smile.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t get their teeth whitened?

Again, I would hold off on whitening the teeth of a pregnant woman until after she delivers. Additionally, anyone with extensive dentistry on their front teeth (bonding, veneers, crowns,) needs to know that these artificial materials will not respond to the whitening, and so these teeth may look relatively yellow after everything else lightens up. I also wouldn’t whiten anyone’s teeth if they are in obvious need of a cleaning — first, it’s irresponsible to prioritize cosmetics over health, and second, the whitening chemicals will not be as effective if there is a layer of plaque.

Do patients find it uncomfortable for example if someone has a small mouth, gag reflex, has breathing issues?

This goes back to the need for a customized whitening strategy for each patient. If someone is a gagger, for instance, they will probably not be a candidate for in-office whitening, which requires several 15 minute sessions back to back with plastic barriers and gauze in your mouth — but they would do just fine with an at-home method where they’re in control and can stop as soon as they want. There is a solution for everyone.

What food should people avoid after getting their teeth whitened or just in general to have a sparkly white smile?

The rule of thumb is that anything that will stain a white shirt, will stain your teeth — and more so in the 2 days immediately following a whitening procedure, when your teeth are drier and more “thirsty” to absorb stains. It is wise to avoid colorful foods as much as you can in those 48 hours after whitening (blueberries, tomato sauce, red wine.) Of course, after those two days, your teeth will still always be susceptible to staining, which is I why I arm all my patients with an at-home system for periodic touch-ups. My two biggest tricks for avoiding stains on my own teeth are drinking coffee through a straw (weird but you get used to it!), and rinsing with water immediately after eating or drinking anything colorful.

Sivan’s Take On Different Whitening Methods

1. Over the Counter (i.e. Crest White Strips): Usually contain around 5% concentration of hydrogen peroxide, which is not very strong, so maybe a better use of them is to maintain teeth that have already been whitened via a stronger method. Very little chance of sensitivity because it’s weak. Also, lack of a customized tray makes it less effective.

2. Whitening Toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste contains a very weak concentration of hydrogen peroxide (typically less than 1%), so they do not truly “whiten” our teeth. The main mechanism of action in whitening toothpaste is small silica particles that literally scratch away the surface stains on your teeth (as opposed to other whitening treatments which are actually lightening the actual core of the tooth.) If you are too heavy-handed when you brush, you can actually damage the surface enamel of your teeth, which will take away their luster and give you duller teeth. Gums can be damaged as well, so be careful with whitening toothpaste. Overall though, a good way to maintain your smile’s brightness as long as you don’t brush too hard.

3. Professional At-Home Treatment: Patients are made custom-fitted bleach trays, and given whitening chemicals ranging from 10-35% carbamide peroxide. Carbamide peroxide is simply hydrogen peroxide plus urea, so it’s a weaker form than what we use in the office, which is pure hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the concentration used, patients wear the trays anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight, and for 1 week to 3 weeks (weaker concentrations are worn overnight and for more weeks.) This is a very effective way to whiten teeth, with less sensitivity than the in-office version, and long lasting, “stable” results.

4. In-Office Whitening: Hydrogen peroxide ranging from 15%-40% concentration is applied to the teeth for several sessions, lasting 15-20 minutes each. Because this is pure hydrogen peroxide (vs carbamide peroxide used at home,) the gums and cheeks must be protected with a barrier material first. This is a good method for someone who is not willing to wear trays at home, although the downsides are it’s a more expensive procedure, and the potential for sensitivity is increased.

5. Combination Approach: In my experience, an at-home whitening system is a MUST either way. Meaning, either my patients get an at-home system alone, or if they request an in-office whitening session, I will still supply them with an at-home system for maintenance.

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Head to The Dental Parlour to learn more about their services. In-office whitening like the kind I received costs around $1,000 and their at-home kits cost about half of that. 

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