Teeth Whitening That Pays for Itself

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Is your smile Don Draper or Austin Powers? It could make a difference to your career.

Despite, or maybe rather because of the recession, New York cosmetic dentist Dr. Thomas Connelly is seeing a nearly 7% increase in business this year which he attributes to job seekers wanting to improve their appearance to stay ahead of the competition.

According to the good Doctor, the right smile is a career booster. He cites a recent patient, Dottie Oliver, a hospital worker looking for a job. Dealing one on one with patients made her anxious because she was ashamed of her “horrible smile.” After visiting Dr. Connelly to get a smile makeover, she got a job in a new hospital. She got promoted within a month and is now responsible for holding meetings and making public presentations now that she is no longer ashamed to smile.

Extreme case? Maybe. But a whiter smile can be yours for less than you think.

MainStreet recently asked Dr. Connelly for the insider scoop on professional teeth whitening. Here’s what we learned.

4 Ways to Whiteness:
Don't settle for regular toothpaste or mundane mouthwash. Here are the ways to polish up, from least to most expensive:

Specialty Toothpaste
Cost per Year: $51 or more
The Scoop: When we talk about whitening toothpastes, there are actually two different approaches:
1. Whitening -- the mechanical removal of surface stains
2. Bleaching -- the (molecular structural level) removal of internal stains
Most toothpastes use harsh abrasives to whiten teeth by scouring away surface stains.  If you have a lot of surface stains - it will work.  A better alternative is Supersmile, which uses no harsh abrasives and has been shown to whiten teeth with its patented Calcium Peroxide ingredient.

OTC Strips
Cost per Year: approx. $90 (56 Crest White Strip package costs $44 online)
The Scoop: If you have ever spent any amount of time in a drugstore, you already know that do-it-yourself tooth whitening is a booming industry. Crest White Strips (Stock Quote: PG), arguably the most well-known of these products, enjoys a four star rating average out of the 92 consumer reviews posted to Epinions.com. Kittie74, a user on the site who seems indicative of a normal White Strips customer, writes: “Crest Whitestrips really do work. My teeth are several shades whiter. My mom used the strips the same time I did, and her teeth are so white they almost glow in the dark.”


While “glow in the dark” teeth may be overkill, there is no denying the appeal of a great smile—or the social risks of coffee and cigarette stained teeth. Kittie74 also likes the budget-friendly price of whitening strips: a 56 strip package can be had for around $44 online, which costs “much less than a bleach-job at the dentist office”.

Tray Bleaching
Cost per Year: $500 (If needed every six months, $1,000, etc.)
The Scoop: Cosmetic dentists are trained in many ways to get your teeth bleached... gels, paints, lasers, porcelain, composites, etc.  If you have a complex stain issue, an OTC whitener will most likely only be a minor improvement rather than a "beautiful smile maker".  In addition, the concentration of the solutions in the stores is only a fraction of the strength of the bleaching solutions professionals have.

Lasers / Blue light
Cost per Year: $1,000 - $1,500 or more for in-office "laser" bleaching.
The Scoop: All methods utilize the same basic chemistry. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) disassociates into water (H2O) and free Oxygen (O).  The free oxygen breaks down discolored molecules within the enamel and dentin of the tooth.  The different methods (laser, trays, etc) of bleaching simply use different accelerators to speed up the disassociation of the peroxide...  Lasers and blue lights use light and heat energy to break down H2O2, whereas tray systems use a catalyst/base reaction with an auto-mixing syringe usually.

How Bright Should You Go?

How white should you make your teeth? The most important aspect of white teeth is a term known as "value". A solid white porcelain bowl has a high white value -- no translucency, no light passes through the object, and 100% is reflected away from the object. Conversely, a white piece of tissue paper has a low value -- lots of translucency, some light passes through the object while a portion of light is reflected away... yet it still appears white.

Finding a good white value is the key to making your teeth appear natural instead of fake. Naturally white teeth (real teeth) have a value that is lower than a white porcelain bowl. Natural teeth allow some light to pass through them, while reflecting some light away in a specific pattern.

A good cosmetic dentist can determine the best white value for each patient based on factors such as skin tone, lip position, and underlying tooth color.  This is something that out-of-the-box whitening strips at your local drugstore simply cannot take into account.

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