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Regaining the Freedom to Smile, Shannon

Tampa, FL

Family photos were never very representative of how I was really feeling inside. There isn't a birthday, Christmas, or any other photo that captures me displaying my pearly whites with a wide smile. The truth is, I didn't have pearly whites -- and I knew it. I didn't like to reveal my off-white teeth to anyone during any occasion. I was particularly self-conscious of one central tooth, one of two very visible upper front teeth, which had been black ever since I was eight years old, when a baseball bat hit the tooth head on.

I look back with satisfaction and gratitude, thinking how good I feel now since I had my teeth whitened three years ago. Since then, I've had more confidence and been more outgoing than ever before. Most people would think that such a change in attitude would take years to form. As a regional sales manager for Ultradent, a company that makes dental supplies, including teeth-whitening agents, I know that my customers can listen to my personal experience and see the undeniable evidence in my mouth.

I had whiter teeth and a new attitude in four days. It all started with a 10-minute visit to the dentist, who made a mold of my teeth using a soft, putty-like material that solidifies in about a minute. A few days later, I returned to the dentist's office to pick up the custom-made trays, which would ensure that the whitening solution would cover every nook and cranny of my teeth. Then I wore the solution-filled tray during the night while I slept. Four nights later, I awoke to a set of whiter teeth. I knew my eyes weren't playing games on me, either. I had only bleached my top teeth, so I could see the difference. The difference between my upper teeth and lower teeth was obvious.

I really hadn't expected to see the results so fast. My dentist said that whitening my teeth would mean wearing the tray for up to 100 hours. But then, I reasoned, everyone's teeth are different and respond accordingly. I continued to wear the tray for a few more days to whiten my teeth even more, giving that darkened central tooth the most attention.

Now that it's been three years and just about time to do some touch up, I wouldn't think of filling my tray with any other whitening agent than the one I had previously used prescribed by my dentist. The over-the-counter products weren't very effective at all. They provide trays that aren't custom fitted so the whitening process takes much longer and allows the bleaching solution to leak on to your gums and other surrounding tissues. That can make the tissues irritated and sore. What's more, the solutions they use are so acidic that they can eat away at the tooth's outer protective enamel layer.

There's no telling what would happen if I had used an over-the-counter product without my dentist's supervision. By allowing a dentist to whiten my teeth I had all my questions answered and was confident that I would be able to whiten my teeth quickly and safely.

Of course, my family will not be using any over-the-counter teeth whitening products. Lindsey, my 10-year-old daughter, and Joshua my 12-year old son will do exactly as I did when they're ready to disguise the white spots, due to fluorosis dotting their teeth. My wife, Sarah, 36, will also whiten her teeth. Some are darker than the others, so the whitening agents will make the color of her teeth more uniform.

By the time it's all over we'll be a family ready to smile without inhibition. In photos and everywhere else, the world will see our smiles and the shine of our pearly whites. 

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