Teeth whitening in the UAE: what works and what hurts

We try a range of trays, gels and strips, as well as activated charcoal all in the quest for a whiter smile

There are more than 20 shades of white when it comes to our teeth. Courtesy The Smile Bar
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Fans of the 1990s sitcom Friends might think twice about whitening their teeth after watching Ross Geller's disastrous dabble with bleaching. For those not familiar with the episode, David Schwimmer's character leaves the formula on for too long, needs make-up to try and mitigate the ghastly whiteness and, nevertheless, scars his date when she turns out the light only to see Ross's neon white glow-in-the-dark grin.

Having tried and tested strips, trays and even charcoal in my quest for the perfect smile, all I can say is rest assured. Teeth-whitening procedures have come a long way in 20 years, with plenty of options that promise to painlessly remove nasty stains while restoring a natural-looking pearly white shade. It all depends now on how much time (read: patience) you have.

Teeth whitening trays

My first foray into a brighter smile with a teeth-­whitening tray, which Dr Deborah Rello from the British Dental Clinic in Dubai says are effective, but require patience. “Wearing clear trays for a couple of hours each day or overnight should allow results to start being noticeable after approximately a week,” she says.

The Hi Smile package I order, which comes with the brand’s pink-hued whitening toothpaste, promises I’ll be smiling whiter in 10 days.

Courtesy Hi Smile 
Courtesy Hi Smile 

The kit costs $60 (Dh220), and contains three ­syringes filled with a whitening elixir, accompanied by a mouthpiece with an LED light, which beeps after 10 ­minutes of whitening time is up. Hi Smile handily includes a whitening chart in its kits, making it easy to measure progress as my teeth get noticeably whiter by the day.

Teeth whitening strips

The Crest 3D teeth-whitening strips (Dh100 for 10 pairs) I tried yields visible results ­within just a few days, but gum irritation is an unfortunate side effect. Friends comment on how white my smile has become, but it is at the cost of my poor, red gums.

“Whitening strips sold over the counter are fairly inexpensive, easy to use and most of them work,” says Dr Rello but, confirming my fears, he adds: “However, strips can be dangerous because they are not custom-fit, so the whitening chemicals come into contact with the gums and other tissues in the mouth.”

Activated charcoal

Effective as it is, activated charcoal takes the longest time to fulfil my teeth-whitening quest, but is ideal for those who want subtle results. Activated charcoal, a form of porous carbon, is touted as the ultimate organic teeth- whitener, as it soaks up dirt particles.

I alternate between Ecodenta toothpaste, which is about Dh75 for 100 grams, and activated charcoal paste from Pro Teeth Whitening ($10) and, as mentioned, notice a subtle difference in the shade of my smile after nearly three weeks.

Having said that, beware that ­activated charcoal products aren’t yet officially approved for teeth-whitening purposes. Dr Rello says: “Despite its popularity, there’s no scientific ­evidence backing up activated ­charcoal’s benefits for teeth. In fact, activated charcoal’s abrasive texture may even cause harm by wearing down tooth enamel.” One way to reduce ­abrasiveness is to gently rub the product on using your fingers instead of a toothbrush.

In-office whitening

Rello instead advises using in­-office whitening at your local dentist or at a professional whitening clinic. The Smile Bar in Dubai’s Palm Strip Mall in Jumeirah 1 offers a range of whitening procedures and ­packages, including an express 20-minute session starting from Dh200.

“Avoiding foods and drinks that contain strong colours would be perfect, but we all know this can be difficult,” says May Carino Grenard, managing partner of The Smile Bar. The clinic whitens teeth by removing enamel stains with an LED light and a gel from Brilliant Smile Sweden.

The Smile Bar uses products from Brilliant Smile Sweden
The Smile Bar uses products from Brilliant Smile Sweden

“When you’re in the chair, remember, the slower it is, the safer and better,” says Grenard. “If you use products contain a high dose of hydrogen peroxide, it could cause sensitivity and even seriously damage your enamel.”

Maintain your pearly whites naturally

Once your teeth are the right shade for you, Dr Rello advises cutting back or even eliminating the usual culprits – tobacco, coffee, colas, turmeric and even blueberries. Fruits that promote a brighter smile include strawberries and pineapple, while apple cider ­vinegar – in small quantities and diluted with water – makes for a great natural mouthwash.

An old wives’ tip I’ve been trialling at is swilling coconut oil around my mouth every evening. An Indian friend tells me her grandmother has done this all her life to keep her teeth in tip-top condition. The technique is called oil pulling and is used to kill bacteria that can cause plaque to build up. You can use sesame and sunflower oil, too, but coconut is easier on the palate.