Grooming

Our Guide to Whiter Teeth

When it comes up to upgrading your whole look, a bright, crispy white smile is a pretty solid place to start. Just as with most cosmetic treatments these days, the myriad of options and information can be overwhelming, so we called on one of the top-rated dentists in Los Angeles, Dr. Daniel Adelpour. Certified in cosmetic dentistry, emergency dentistry and Invisalign, the Beverly-Hill dentist came highly recommended specifically for his teeth whitening treatments. His practice, BLVD Dental Aesthetics, is a combination of spa-like amenities and comprehensive care – which was the perfect starting point on our quest for whiter teeth without too many steps and at a decent price.

We went one step further and tested out the Zoom treatment ourselves – not as in the ubiquitous video conference call service, but as in the in-office teeth whitening treatment we’d heard so much about. Three months later, our teeth still appear quite a few shades whiter than pre-treatment. Even in photos, the difference is noticeable.

Below, we asked the good doctor to break down everything you need to know to achieve your pearliest whites, from in-office treatments, staining culprits, why you might be brushing too hard, and how to avoid the dreaded horse teeth look.

STAINING

“People should know how teeth get stained. There’s actually two different types of staining: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic is on the outside surface of your teeth, which is your enamel. The inner layer of your teeth is called dentin, and that would be intrinsic staining.

When people are talking about coffee stains or wine or smoking or anything like that, that’s more extrinsic staining, which is much easier to deal with. For one thing, you can just avoid the foods that cause staining – tea, curry, wine or anything like that. A lot of people don’t realize that turmeric has teeth staining capabilities. Iron supplements can also cause surface level staining. But [without avoiding these types of foods], a lot of this can be remedied by coming in for regular cleanings. You can also do professional Zoom Whitening, and you can even do at-home whitening.

Intrinsic staining is more because of medication or developmental issues and stuff like that, so it’s more difficult to treat because it’s the chemical compound of your actual tooth. If you want to fix intrinsic staining, you’re looking more at any type of cosmetic bonding or veneers or something to mask the color or stains of that tooth.”

CHARCOAL AND OTHER MYTHS

“I’ve seen a lot of people talking about charcoal toothpaste or charcoal toothbrushes and stuff like that. I definitely don’t recommend using any of those because you never want to scratch away any of your enamel, and that’s what this charcoal toothpaste is doing. Instead of it opening up your pores, it’s so abrasive that it actually removes a layer of your enamel! Enamel is what’s protecting your teeth and everything you’re trying to protect when you brush and floss.

Enamel is really what you want to protect because if you’re in that second layer of dentin, then you’re already causing major harm to your teeth where it’s easier to get cavities, it’s easier to get root canals. That’s why I really discourage using any charcoal-based toothpaste or whitening material.

You also don’t want to use heavy-ended toothbrushes. You want to use soft bristle toothbrushes for the same exact concepts. If you’re brushing too hard and you’re being too abrasive on your enamel, you’re taking away that enamel and it’s not good for you. It’s really bad.” 

ZOOM WHITENING

“Zoom whitening is where you come into the office and we do an in-office professional whitening. It takes about an hour. What’s so great about Zoom whitening is we use a higher concentration of whitening. When you come into our office, we’re using 40% as opposed to 20%. So your tubules are much more open. A big hack I usually tell my patients after they get Zoom whitening is, if they still want to enhance their smile and get even more whitening, they can go home and use press whitening strips for the next couple of days while those pores are still open. But the opposite is also true. While they’re getting their teeth whitened and those pores are open, if they use teeth staining type of foods, their teeth will stain faster because those pores are open. 

The only drawback for Zoom whitening is the sensitivity to teeth. Enamel is porous by nature, meaning it has tubules, and whitening actually opens up those tubules and whitens within the inside of your enamel. That’s why people can sometimes get sensitivity, because while those tubules are open, it can cause more sensitive teeth. It can last a couple of days to a week, and we recommend patients use a desensitizing toothpaste like Sensodyne or take some Advil, which usually helps with any sensitivity.”

VENEERS VS CROWNS

“A lot of people are nervous about veneers or crowns because they don’t really understand the difference between the two. They are kind of similar in that they’re both made out of porcelain – and to a regular person, you would never know the difference between a veneer and a crown because all you look at is the aesthetics, and the aesthetics for a veneer and crown look exactly the same. The only difference between a veneer and a crown is that one is more conservative than the other.

For a veneer, you basically just shave the front of the tooth to create a new aesthetic outcome. To create the space for the veneer to attach itself to, otherwise it’s too bulky and you look like a horse. But it’s usually very conservative.

A crown, meanwhile, goes all around the tooth. So, it’s on the tongue side and the lip side of your tooth. Front and back. Which requires a lot more work. For something like intrinsic staining, you might want to do a crown because the enamel is already gone and you want to protect the tooth, so you go all around it. Or maybe the tooth has a very large cavity, and in that instance, you would do a crown to protect it. When you have a root canal, that’s a crown.”

INTERNAL BLEACHING

“The nerve in the tooth has blood supply and gives your tooth life. A lot of people say when you get a root canal [and remove the nerve] that the tooth is basically dead, and in the beginning, it’s probably fine. But over time, maybe five years later, ten years later, the tooth will actually darken because it no longer has that blood supply or life to it. So, what I can do is access where the nerve used to be, and I can put sodium perborate or whitening material in there and leave it there for about a week or two, and it will actually stain your teeth whiter from the inside. It’ll go from black – because the nerve is missing and the tooth is dead – to white. It’s called internal bleaching. Sometimes you do that several times until the tooth turns the color that we want it to, which is white. And then we close the tooth back up.”

SO WHAT’LL COST ME

“Zoom whitening, because it is expensive, would cost anywhere from $300-$700, depending on where you’re going and what promotions are being advertised. But to be honest with you, in my office – and I’m in Beverly Hills – unless I have a promotion, it’s about $750.”

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for clarity.

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