WARNING: this post contains ugly photos of teeth and gums.
I had a brace as a child. I was given a retainer which pressed against the roof of my mouth and was almost invisible to the untrained eye. Apart from a silver stud which was attached to my lower canine tooth, and from which I strung a tiny elastic band. The other end clipped onto the retainer, gently pulling my wonky tooth inwards whenever I opened my mouth. I used to twang this mouth guitar during lessons. I still remember the taste of food under the retainer – everything tasted the same. Blurgh.
I wore that contraption for a year in primary school and emerged with beautiful, straight teeth. Years later, coffee, chocolate and red wine took their toll on my less than pearly whites and I started to feel self-conscious. I found myself smiling less widely and wearing paler lipstick, so as not to draw attention to my yellowing gnashers.
I mentioned it to my dentist and she’d explained the procedure. And then the price. So we left it there.
Do it yourself?
I talked to a couple of people about home teeth whitening kits and was told to stay well away. They’re full of bleach and other horrid chemicals, they said.
But I’m a stubborn old goat. I wanted white teeth on MY budget, which meant doing it myself at home. Even if I didn’t get to keep my gums, I knew it would make for an interesting blog.
(Don’t worry, this is an article about professional teeth whitening, we’ll get there.)
Let’s get started
Amazon was my first stop. I found a product which didn’t contain bleach, thinking that was the main enemy.
The Harvey & Coco Teeth Whitening Kit, Pro-Edition with LazerCoco had some decent reviews from UK customers. It has full UK CPSR (Cosmetic Product Safety Report) certification. I’m not endorsing this product, there are probably others on the market with similar ingredients and results. I just want to show you what’s in it and how it worked for me.
Harvey & Coco claim you can have white teeth in 20 minutes, partly thanks to the whitening LED light which supercharges the whitening gel. The kit comes with ten treatments in two syringes, a silicon double mouth tray and the LED light.
I’ve done a basic Google check on all of the kit’s ingredients, but I’m no scientist. Apparently they’re all safe and approved additives used in the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, although I have my doubts about Sodium Chlorite.
Ingredients in the Harvey & Coco Teeth Whitening gel
- Propylene glycol – a type of alcohol
- Glycerin – for texture
- Aqua – water
- Carbomer – thickening agent
- Sodium bicarbonate – baking soda (I use it to clean my sink – works a treat!)
- Cellulose gum – thickening agent
- Sodium chlorite – Used for bleaching and stripping of textiles, pulp, and paper. It is also used for disinfection of municipal water treatment plants after conversion to chlorine dioxide. Mmm tasty.
- PVP – binding agent
- Triethanolamine – PH balancing and thickening agent, which can become toxic with regular use
Put it this way, without any scientific knowledge, this seemed like one of the least harmful teeth whitening products I could buy ‘over the counter’ or, in this case, online.
How to do it yourself
It was simple to use. Attach the mouth tray to the LED light, apply the gel to the upside and underside of the tray, stick it on your mouth, turn on the light and wait.
Twenty minutes was just enough time to get dressed and write my journal, while trying not to salivate all over the pages.
I repeated the process every day for a week and then ran out of gel. The pack was meant to contain ten treatments, so perhaps I used too much gel – or perhaps they didn’t provide as much product as they claimed.
It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, but the gel didn’t taste terrible. The whitening tray didn’t fit closely to my teeth, which isn’t a huge surprise when it’s a ‘one size fits all’ kit. I’m sure the gel would have been more effective if I’d had customised trays. But what do you expect for £29.
The results from the teeth whitening at home kit
Here are the results from the home teeth whitening kit. These before and after photos were taken on my phone, without artificial lights, filters or retouching.
Not bad? I could definitely see a difference and hadn’t noticed any negative side effects.
A bizarre birthday present
My birthday was coming up. Mr Maven wanted a hint from me about my birthday present. My birthday present hints usually come in the form of a URL to a very specific dress/necklace/handbag, in a particular size and colour, leaving no room for error. This time I sent him a link to our dental surgery and asked him to investigate the best teeth whitening treatment on the market. He wasn’t expecting that.
Two weeks later, I’m in Diana the Dentist’s chair (Diana is my dentist, I’m not sure what the chair is called) and she’s explaining to me how this is all going to work.
How the professionals do it
Diana recommended the quickest and easiest treatment (certainly not the cheapest), is Philips Zoom!, which is administered by the dentist, and can give you up to seven shades whiter teeth in just an hour. The price includes a take-home whitening kit, with customised whitening trays, to brighten up your teeth when required.
Philips Zoom! professional teeth whitening treatment
Diana started by taking a mould of my teeth. While I was having the whitening treatment, Diana was making the trays from these moulds for me to take home.
A massive plastic tray was inserted into my mouth to keep it wide open during the treatment. That was the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure, although I did get used to the feeling my lips were being stretched beyond repair.
The next step was to protect my gums from the gel, by covering them with a paste that dried and came off in one piece after the procedure. The whitening gel was then applied.
Let’s take a quick break here so I can tell you what’s in the Philips Zoom! gel, so you can compare the ingredients with the home whitening kit. There are many more active ingredients here, but they are approved by the General Dental Council and applied by a qualified dentist, so I have to trust it’s all safe:
Ingredients in the Philips Zoom! Teeth Whitening gel
- Poloxamer 407 – a surfactant, which lowers the surface tension on the teeth
- Glycerin – for texture
- Propylene glycol – a type of alcohol
- Hydrogen Peroxide (6%) – bleach
- Potassium Nitrate – helps reduce sensitivity (it’s also one of the major components of gunpowder)
- Xylitol – naturally occurring alcohol commonly used in toothpaste
- Mentha Piperita – peppermint for flavour
- Hydroxypropyl cellulose – thickening agent
- Eugenol – a plant based molecule used in dentistry for its antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties
- Potassium Hydroxide – a corrosive agent
- Calcium Nitrate – a water soluble source of calcium
- Sodium Phosphate – used for colour correcting
- Sodium Saccharin – artificial sweetener
- Sodium Fluoride – to prevent cavities
- Mica – for brightening
Now, where were we?
The Zoom whitening lamp was attached to my mouth tray. I was completely pinned down by the heavy machine, but Diana made sure I was comfortable providing towels for my head and neck. I had come prepared, with several podcasts downloaded to take my mind off this bizarre self-inflicted torture.
The light remained on for 15 minutes, Diana removed and reapplied the gel and the light was reattached. I had four x 15 minute sessions in total, after which the mouth tray and gum protection were removed and I sat up to look in the mirror.
WOW! Take a look. Again, no fancy lighting, no filters and no tampering. Just incredibly white teeth!
I was advised not to eat any food or drink which would stain a white shirt, for two hours after the treatment. So just white wine and white chocolate for me for the rest of the day.
Unlike the Harvey & Coco home kit, the Philips home kit is comfortable to wear, as the trays fit my teeth perfectly. I can get on with my work, and even talk (albeit with a lisp) while wearing them – which is just as well as Philips recommends wearing them for an hour at a time.
Philips sells the gel online so I can top up when I want to.
Later that day, I had a couple of sharp pangs of sensitivity in one on my bottom teeth. The next day it was gone. My gums were a little sore for a couple of days, aggravated by using the home kit.
Before and after photos
Both treatments improved the colour of my teeth. I don’t know for sure how safe the home treatment kit is, but I didn’t suffer any adverse effects and wasn’t too concerned by the ingredients. The Zoom! treatment is expensive, but incredibly effective. Each dentist will charge a different amount so I won’t disclose how much we paid. You’re paying for the dentist’s time and all the associated equipment, but the results are clear.
What do you think? Have you had a treatment like this or are you tempted to try it? Let me know in the comments below.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: nothing to disclose. I had the Philips Zoom! treatment at my usual dental practice – Abbey Road Dental. Big thanks to Diana and the team who are all so caring. Tell her Vicki sent you! Thanks also to Mr Maven who bought me this bizarre present for my birthday. I paid for the Harvey & Coco treatment myself. I don’t endorse either product – I’m just providing an honest, unbiased review. I use affiliate links where possible.]