Are your teeth ageing you? I've discovered that a brighter, whiter smile certainly helps to make you look more youthful...Anti-ageing - or as I prefer to say, "optimum ageing" - is one of those topics that's usually concerned with skincare and how to zap wrinkles and crows' feet and tighten jawlines... You know what I'm talking about. But one thing that I think makes a huge difference to your appearance at any age (giving you a much more youthful appearance overall) is your teeth. Dark, stained teeth always have that association with ill-health and ageing: Whoever saw a portrayal of an old witch in the movies with bright, white sparkling pearlies? Exactly.
As a 44 year old with teeth that are in pretty good nick, I'd lately become concerned that my teeth weren't quite as white as they once were, or as white as I wanted them to be. So when Philips contacted me to try out the in-house Philips Zoom Teeth Whitening, it was like Santa had come early. Although I definitely didn't want plastic-looking white teeth, I did want a brighter smile.
DESPITE DOING/NOT DOING ALL THOSE THINGS ASSOCIATED WITH GOOD DENTAL CARE, I STILL HAD TEETH THAT WERE LESS WHITE THAT I WANTED THEM TO BE.
Why I decided to have my teeth whitenedI'm one of those people that looks after their teeth religiously: Brushing and flossing twice a day. Avoiding excess sugar (I don't touch fizzy drinks or add sugar to anything). Not smoking. Not consuming many things that are known for staining teeth, like coffee or red wine (I don't drink either). I go to the dentist for a checkup every year. All of these things, as we know, are vital to looking after your teeth - especially as you get older.
However, despite doing/not doing all those things associated with good dental care, I still had teeth that were less white that I wanted them to be.
I will say now that I have whitened my teeth before, but it was eight years ago and the effects hadn't lasted. It was a home treatment that I carried out myself over the course of a couple of weeks, and as I was being offered an in-house treatment this time I was very interested to have an almost instant result within the space of an afternoon.
My teeth before: Not terrible, but not brilliantly white either!
Brits and their teeth
I asked Philips if they had any facts about how Brits feel about their teeth - they had some interesting insights! It's one of those cultural myths that all Brits apparently have terrible teeth (Austin Powers didn't do much to help quash that theory unfortunately). I think dentists today are a lot more braces-happy than they were 30 years ago when I was a kid, so although most of us don't go round with dazzling Hollywood smiles, we don't as a nation have truly terrible teeth (and today's kids will have even better teeth when they've grown up). But it did make me think about how our attitudes to our teeth have changed over the years.
According to new research by Philips Sonicare, "Brits are more conscious of their teeth than previous generations and feel more pressure than ever before to have a perfect white smile. More than 50% of Brits have also tried whitening their teeth, usually with whitening toothpaste. Proving that Brits are more conscious of their teeth than ever before:
- 62% of UK adults agree that having a white smile is more important today than 20 years ago
- 57% say there's more pressure than ever to have perfectly white teeth
- This pressure is felt most strongly by women - 69% say having a white smile is more important than ever (compared to 55% of men) and 64% facing increasing pressure to have perfectly white teeth (compared to 50% of men)"
So there you have it - we are concerned about our teeth. I think the numbers prove that women are concerned about their teeth as they're aware of the impact they can have on your overall appearance. I'm not saying that we should all have perfectly straight, glaringly bright white veneered teeth, but keeping your teeth in good condition is vital for your all-round health.
There are several connections that scientists have made between bad oral hygiene and other health problems including stroke, diabetes and heart disease - this list has been growing as research continues. So preventing gum disease really is the number one priority, and making them look as good as possible is the cherry on top (and who doesn't like cherries)?!
The Philips Zoom teeth whitening processPhilips Zoom teeth whitening is, I'm told, a safe and healthy treatment and it has to be carried out by a dental professional. It's "clinically proven to whiten teeth by up to six shades in one hour" - if I could achieve just two or three shades whiter I knew I'd be happy.
The pre-appointment consultation
Two days before my treatment I was booked a consultation appointment to see Dr Grant McAree at the Devon Teeth Straightening Clinic in Exeter which uses the Philips Zoom system. (It's available all over the country so you're bound to find a practice near you that offers it.) This was just to check that my teeth were in good condition and that I was fit and well enough to undergo the treatment.
Everyone at the practice was just lovely so any nerves disappeared quickly. First I was given a questionnaire with questions about my health and details of my doctor. Dr Grant then gave my teeth a quick check up and explained the whole process to me, making sure that I could ask whatever questions I wanted and that I was happy about everything that was going to happen. With the green light given, I was ready to pop back two days later and have the treatment done... I was pretty darn excited at this point.
The teeth-whitening treatmentOn the day I was seen by Mel, the very lovely (and calming!) Dental Hygienist, who carries out the whitening treatments. She went through everything really thoroughly again and described exactly how the treatment would work and what to expect. I was shown a little teeth chart (see below) to explain how much whiter my teeth would be at the end of the session.
To sum up the process: You spend a total of one hour in the chair with a mouth guard and all the various gels and protective swab thingies in your mouth (yes that's the technical term 😉) - it's broken up into four 15 minute sessions where the hygienist removes and reapplies the whitening gel each time. The big overhead light that makes the magic happen is brought down and attaches to your mouth guard to speed up the process with the blue light, and you're given protective glasses to wear throughout.
After the in-house treatment you finish the whole process at home with a four-day course of whitening gel in trays (casts made of your teeth) which is included in the package.
It looks like something out of a horror film(!), but this plastic mouthpiece is guided gently into your mouth to keep all your teeth exposed throughout the treatment. Your tongue is kept away from your teeth with that middle plastic section to stop you flailing it around and licking all the whitening gel off (hmm, yum). The white goo you can see is applied to your gums to protect them during the whitening process. And in case you're wondering about getting sore lips, a thick layer of lipsalve is applied to keep them from cracking or drying out (they've thought of everything, in other words).
Teeth sensitivity is something I was somewhat concerned with, but Mel explained that regulations have changed in the last eight years since I used a home whitening kit, so the gel is a lot less harsh than it used to be. My teeth reacted quite strongly last time so that's why I was concerned - this time I felt zero pain, and zero sensitivity during the process. It was quite a relief as my teeth are pre-tty sensitive at the best of times.
But this treatment? Not a single twinge.
How I found the experience
I won't lie, it wasn't the most fun way to spend an hour. I was perfectly comfortable and didn't have a problem with swallowing or drooling or anything like that - the plastic guard wasn't a bother. The worst part was having to keep your head perfectly still for 15 minutes at a time - I had to just stretch a little and rotate my head a couple of times in between each session to prevent getting stiff. It's just amazing how slowly 15 minutes goes when you have to sit still and do nothing without being relaxed enough to have a snooze...!
Mel very kindly changed the position of the headrest for me just so I could lie slightly differently... You can imagine how fun communicating this to her was with that contraption in your mouth. Lots of pointing and grunting noises ensued - it's difficult to be able to say "It's not a huge problem, but my neck aches a little, could I possibly just stretch it out and have the headrest adjusted please?" without wanting to laugh at your own inability to get your point across.
That said - once the hour was up everything was taken out very carefully and I got to have a good rinse... That was absolute heaven. (My neck didn't suffer any after-effects by the way.) I was given a mirror to see the results:
And yes - the difference was immediately noticeable. You don't quite realise that your teeth aren't so white until you have them whitened. When I went to leave the Practice Manager Becky (who kindly took these photos for me) was in reception and gave me a "Wow..." and said straight away how good they looked.
After-care and completion of the treatment at home
I would normally have had tray casts made of my teeth in the same appointment, but I still had the ones from when I had my teeth whitened eight years ago which Dr. Grant said to bring with me to the appointment (they were still in perfectly good condition so there was no need to make more).
I was given a Philips Zoom Patient Take-Home Whitening Kit, and Mel explained thoroughly how to use it (it comes with an instruction booklet as well). Basically you have to squeeze a small dot of the solution into each tooth section of the trays and wear it for a few hours each day (or overnight which is what I did) four times, starting the next day after my appointment. You also need to avoid food and drinks that are likely to stain, like coffee, red wine (no problem for me), berries, beetroot (harder but not a huge sacrifice), etc. I was given everything I needed to know in some information sheets which is handy for someone with a memory like a sieve.
The syringes of gel keep better in the fridge and I was given enough to keep my teeth "topped up" every six months or so. It means you can continue to have lovely white teeth, or you could brighten them for a special occasion (anything where you'll be having some long-lasting pictures taken) - so unlike before when my teeth gradually "unwhitened" themselves I can continue to keep them white for much longer.
Philips also kindly gifted me a (rose gold! love!) Philips Sonicare DiamondClean electric toothbrush which is the one they recommend to maintain your white smile. I had an electric toothbrush already but it's over 10 years old and is nothing like this one: The DiamondClean has five cleaning modes (clean, white, polish, gum care and sensitive), has an interval timer to guide your brushing, can be charged by USB through the travel case or the charging glass at home, and the battery lasts for up to three weeks.
I love using it by boy does it tickle... But I've always found that electric toothbrushes tickle me! I brush my teeth and have to use the other hand to keep scratching my tickling mouth and lips. But it looks fabulous in the bathroom and I really like the interval timer thing. Judging by the reviews it's one of the best on the market so I'm looking forward to using it long term.
Results of the full treatmentThis is the bit you've been waiting for of course... The before and after pictures!
The results are subtle but definitely noticeable... I'm SO pleased with my whiter teeth! I've tried to take the two pictures in as similar light conditions as possible so it's a true "before and after" comparison. You can see my teeth weren't terrible by any means before, but I'm really, really happy with the results. (The "after" picture was taken after the four days of at-home treatment so it's the final result.)
I HAVE TO ADMIT I COULDN'T STOP SMILING AT MYSELF THE DAY I HAD THE INITIAL TREATMENT DONE - TALK ABOUT BEING A 24 HOUR SMILEY NARCISSIST...!
I have to admit I couldn't stop smiling at myself the day I had the initial treatment done - talk about being a 24 hour smiley narcissist...! Even though I hadn't yet done the final home whitening there was a big difference after the in-chair treatment at the practice. As they're based in Exeter town centre I went to the bathroom in a department store and sneaked in a smile in the mirrors. I grinned like a Cheshire cat at all the store sales people I spoke to. I smiled at myself in the flip-down mirror in the car before driving home.
My husband's reaction was the best - he came home from work and I got a "Bloody hell, your teeth!" from him. Says it all really.
All the ways my whiter teeth have affected meThis is the interesting part: How does having a brighter, white smile affect you in other areas of life? Does it affect you in other ways apart from just having nicer teeth?
One thing I've noticed I'm doing more is smiling and showing my teeth in outfit shoots. Whereas before I might do one or two teeth-baring smiles and rarely include them, I'm just grinning away in loads of the shots. When you're aware your teeth are whiter you seem to automatically show them off more.
I'm also a lot less conscious of them for YouTube videos now - lots of things have been holding me back with making more videos, and although my teeth weren't exactly stopping me (it was mostly technical stuff that was the problem), I'm now more encouraged to get on and make some because my teeth look so much whiter.
I WOULD ONLY VERY OCCASIONALLY GO FOR A BOLD LIP WHEN DOING MY MAKE-UP BEFORE: SINCE HAVING MY TEETH WHITENED I THINK I'VE WORN BRIGHT LIPSTICK MORE OFTEN THAN NUDES.
And who doesn't feel better just by smiling more? Smiling more will surely have a positive impact on both the way I feel and the reaction I'll get from others. Flashing your (literally) pearly whites at someone will improve their day as well as yours. It's all good for your general well being.
My husband keeps asking me to smile at him just so he can bask in their glorious whiteness - love that man...!
And finally I've started wearing brighter lipstick more often - I was always a little worried that bright lipstick would enhance the not-very-whiteness of my teeth. I would only very occasionally go for a bold lip when doing my make-up before: Since the treatment I think I've worn bright lipstick more often than nudes.
What's not to love?!
Final thoughts - good and badI'll start with the bad - which aren't actually that bad at all. The treatment in the chair is a little uncomfortable because you have to sit absolutely still for four 15 minute sessions, but that's over soon enough.
The only other problem I had (I asked about this at my appointment) was that because I already have sensitive teeth, my teeth were more sensitive during the home treatment part and for a few days afterwards and they "ached" a little. So for example: Going out into the cold air and breathing in meant my bottom teeth (only) had a bit of a jolt of sensitivity. (As mentioned before it didn't affect me at all during the in-chair treatment.) But it only lasted a short while after the fourth and final night of home whitening, so not bad considering. I always use Sensodyne toothpaste anyway (two small tubes of which were included in my pack to take home), and I'll continue to use it. About a week on from the final night of whitening and my teeth are perfectly fine now.
As for good - I think I've explained most of that already! I couldn't be more pleased with the results...
Much whiter (but not crazy or unnaturally) white teeth.
A great service at a local practice.
More smiling and showing them off with brighter lipstick.
The knowledge that I can continue to keep them white with the home whitening kit.
Verdict: Absolutely worth it, and the perfect present to yourself, at Christmas time or otherwise. Give yourself a white Christmas this year...!
Philips Zoom whitening treatment prices vary depending on your dentist, find your local Zoom dentist here: http://www.philips.co.uk
ARE YOU CONSIDERING GETTING YOUR TEETH WHITENED? COMMENT BELOW, OR TAKE IT TO TWITTER @NOTLAMB WITH THE HASHTAG #PhilipsZoom!
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Disclosure: I have written this post in collaboration with Philips Zoom (click here for my full disclosure) who also gifted me the teeth whitening treatment and electric toothbrush. All content is original, however, and opinions are my own and 100% honest.