I’ve always been scared of professional teeth whitening, and I blame Friends. Specifically, I blame the episode where Ross gets his teeth whitened and ends up with a ridiculous, glow-in-the-dark smile (appropriately titled “The One With Ross’ Teeth,” should you want to go back and rewatch it on Netflix). But in the name of facing fears — and, you know, removing coffee stains — I booked an appointment for a Zoom teeth whitening treatment last month. You could say I got more than I bargained for, in a good way: Not only did my teeth reach a (totally normal) shade of pearly white, but Zoom also made my skin look better. I swear.
According to Dr. Victoria Veytsman, DDS, a cosmetic dentist with Cosmetic Dental Studios who sees clients in both New York City and Los Angeles, this isn’t a surprising side effect. “Teeth are one of the biggest overlooked features of the face, but can have the biggest impact,” she tells The Zoe Report. Guess that explains why my BFF stopped me mid-sentence the day after my treatment to tell me she “couldn’t stop staring” at my “glossy” face. Nope, it wasn’t a new skincare regimen — it was the light reflecting off of my glowy, glowy teeth, thank you very much.
“I think there’s been and rise in awareness of how oral care and smiles affect beauty,” Dr. Veytsman says. “It’s called dentofacial aesthetics in our world, and there’s a whole science behind it.” She explains that in the practice of dentofacial aesthetics, the goal is to “achieve harmony and balance” between your smile and the rest of your facial features, which can be done in a number of ways: straightening via Invisalign, a set of veneers, or a simple whitening procedure, like Zoom. “When we talk about anti-aging and youth, a bright healthy smile can take years off of a face,” the cosmetic dentist, who works with celebs like Hailey Bieber and Karlie Kloss, says. “It can make you look polished and more together.” Basically, brightening your smile could be the key to looking both younger and glow-i-er.
Zoom is one way to do it. “This is a safe, effective, in-office whitening procedure,” Dr. Veytsman says. “It uses 25 percent hydrogen peroxide — the active ingredient that oxidizes stains off the teeth.” A hydrogen peroxide gel is applied and activated with a laser-equipped mouthpiece. Each laser session lasts 15 minutes, and a typical treatment involves three to four sessions, based on your level of staining and sensitivity.
“Zoom can lighten teeth between three and eight shades depending on their starting point,” she explains. “External stains are removed — think coffee, tea, and red wine — although it doesn’t do anything for internal stains from trauma or tetracycline staining.” And that day-glo effect I was scared of? It’s not actually a thing, according to the cosmetic dentist. “Everyone has their own natural shade of white,” she says. “Like hair color and eye color, we are born with natural intrinsic characteristics and everyone will get a different result.” My result was pretty much perfect: No one would guess I have a two-Venti-a-day habit from seeing my smile, but it’s not bright enough to scream, “I’ve been chemically bleached!” either.
Zoom, like most comparable in-office treatments, is relatively safe, although there are concerns that hydrogen peroxide gel strips enamel and causes sensitivity. The sensitivity issue is very real; lots of patients report pain during the procedure, and opt for fewer sessions as a result. (I personally didn’t feel a thing while the lasers were working their magic, but I did have a few sharp, phantom pains afterwards.) “There’s some possible short-term sensitivity, but that doesn’t last more than 24 hours,” Dr. Veytsman tells TZR. That being said, those who have super-sensitive teeth to begin with may want to opt for a gentler, at-home option instead, like Lumineux Whitening Strips, which are non-toxic and free from hydrogen peroxide.
“Motrin or Advil usually work well to alleviate [sensitivity] symptoms,” Dr. Veytsman adds, “and a fluoride toothpaste like Sensodyne works well, too.” Post-procedure, patients should only consume light-colored foods for 48 hours to avoid staining. (Yup, that’s two whole days without soy sauce or iced coffee — tough, but worth it.)
Want to test the teeth whitening waters? Ahead, eight essentials to give your smile a summer glow.