I wouldn’t call myself a horribly vain person. Sure, I know all the tanning salons locations in my area before they’re even fully open, go to the tanning salon 3 hours every day, 365 days of the year, regularly bathe in the collected tears of Madagascar primates (good for stretch marks) and only occasionally inject myself with high doses of human growth hormones. But overall, I’m comfortable in my skin. My concerns about personal appearance, grooming and fashion are admittedly above normal compared to an Average Joe out there, but still quite relaxed and usually tempered by an appreciation that the pages inside a book are inherently more important than the cover outside (I like to imagine I’m a Taschen tome).
That all being said, I just learned a painful lesson after attempting to improve myself in a very superficial manner: teeth whitening. My teeth aren’t even perceptibly hued, only slightly on the outer edges of the canines where coffee sipping has given the porcelain a subtle patina I like to call “Intelligenstia Cream”.
A weekend ago, while perusing the drugstore aisles as we like to do on our wild weekend excursions (“As Seen On TV”!), Emily and I purchased a teeth whitening kit on a whim to split between ourselves. I had never used one of these kits, so I was excited at the premise of a Rick Fox-quality grin in just two hours. Application was simple enough, two clear whitening strips folded across 6 of the front teeth, creating a sort of form fitting mouth guard. Two hours wearing this strip is required, with claims of several shades lighter afterward, good for 3 months. I was already planning to always carry a spare pair of sunglasses so friends’ eyes weren’t damaged from the glare of my future enhanced pearly whites.
All went well, except near the end of second hour wearing the strips. A combination of hunger and an ever so slight sensation of aching pain similar to ice cream induced sensitivity (dental, not gastrointestinal in nature) bothered me until the completion of the application time. Upon removing the strip I was welcomed by a hardly perceptible difference in appearance. The difference in shade was slight, more a suggestion than actual noticeable improvement; the result reminded me of interior paint chips that distinguish seemingly same-looking hues of white paint, only distinguishable from one another under certain light, only by name, mere percentages of added or subtracted colours separating each. My teeth had gone from Atrium White to Decorator’s White, if one was to use Benjamin Moore paint swatches for comparison. So not worth the 2 hours of drooling endured (my pillow will never be the same).
And certainly not worth what happened an hour or so after removing the strips. The slight aching sensation felt initially like a subtle heartbeat through the teeth. Annoying, but tolerable. But in just a few hours, I found myself thinking of all these lucky kids that have been spared old time dentistry, those commercials you see on TV about kids happy teeth and their carefree smiles at the dentist, how lucky they are. The pain surprised me, the feeling magnified and brought back childhood memories of the pain, tears and horror of enduring Korean dentistry (dutifully keeping the spirit of Dr. Mengele alive, one filling at a time), the percussion grown into a dubstep remix of severe dental pain. My teeth had gone extra sensitive…like a Counting Crows medley. And just like when I hear Adam Duritz’s dreadful whine, my teeth were hurting way too much now, so badly I could neither stay awake nor sleep, stuck in a painful purgatory set aside for vain, impatient fools such as I. Even after 800mg of ibuprofin the T-Pain just smirked disdainfully and continued to remind me there’s no pain as bad as dental pain, oh , how I envy you modern kids that get to experience the serene modern world of dentistry at from the likes of the Falls Church pediatric dentist, you children have no idea what it used to be like.
It’s only now, 6 hours later, my teeth are starting to feel normal again. I can barely drink room temperature water without making a Robert DeNiro grimace. They say, “no pain, no gain”. I say, “no white is alright”. Just call me Mellow Yellow and excuse me while I wipe away both the saliva and tears from my pillow before I try to go back to sleep again.