Timer set: 30 minutes. OK, here we go. Countdown is on.
You can’t tell this right now, but I’m typing really fast because anything I do fast distracts me. For the past two weeks, I’ve been the same with vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the bathroom and scrubbing the toilets. I need to be fast and efficient, press hard against that toilet bowl with that brush. Because then I don’t think about it.
Except it’s there, of course. Of course it is.
Three weeks ago, I decided it was high time for me to jump on the bandwagon and get myself some white teeth. So I went to the dentist to find out my options.
“I want them to be white,” I said. “But I don’t want them to be so white, they’re blue, knowwhatImean?”
She nodded solemnly as I tried not to smile at my own joke.
“Fitted trays seem like the right thing for you.”
The concept seemed innocent enough: two trays that you fill with a bleaching solution and then put on your teeth for 30 minutes at a time. Put them on each day for two weeks and then whenever you needed a little bleach boost.
I felt very encouraged when one of the dental assistants took a set of fake teeth, each slightly different in color like a paint chip wheel, and matched the current color of my teeth to it.
“This is how we can measure just how much whiter your teeth get.”
My turn to nod solemnly.
I was less encouraged when another dental assistant filled my mouth with purple goo (to get a mold of my teeth so they could form the custom trays) and then, once it turned to cement, nearly couldn’t get it out.
I’m not going to lie, I dream a lot about my teeth. Sometimes they’re loose when they shouldn’t be. Sometimes they fall out and I try to put them back in. Sometimes I have a big wad of gum in my mouth and it keeps sticking to my teeth so I can’t quite spit it out. Now I have a new thing to dream about: that purple cement stuck permanently in my mouth.
Anyway, I trotted home with my little Colgate kit and the next day the dentist called to tell me my trays were ready. That night, I was ready for my first dose.
Granted, I’ll preface this by saying I should have read the instructions. But the concept seemed so easy: trays, bleaching solution, put the stuff in the trays, put them on my teeth.
So I slapped them on there and prepared myself for beauty. I settled into bed with my laptop and started to watch an episode of “House.” The show started as it always does — some shocking medical mystery befalls a random person.
But then, umm, wait. My gums. They were on fire. Not a little bit on fire. On FIRE fire. Was this what was supposed to happen?
I looked at the ceiling, gritted my teeth into the trays and they flexed a little. OK, if I kept biting down the pain was somewhat manageable, almost like I was scratching it.
I kept watching my show, but soon accepted there was no way I could pay attention to anything except what was going on in my mouth. Because the fire, it was hot on my gums, but cold and deep on my teeth, like the bleach was eating into them.
I texted my friend who’s already been through teeth bleaching and she assured me, yes, this was part of the process.
OK, so apparently I was not only vain, but far, far wimpier than most. Knowing this still didn’t make me stronger, though. I abandoned the bed to stand in the bathroom with my elbows on the counter so I could watch the timer go down on my phone. Just 15 minutes had passed, folks, and I was ready to pass out.
Finally at minute 22, I pulled those suckers out and looked at my gums. And there instead of red, I saw white. Bone white, folks. On my gums. Had I burned a hole right through them?
I ran out onto the porch where my husband was reading the news and informed him (read: screamed) that my gums were now as white as a whale.
He smiled, though I could tell his smile was meant to cover up mild alarm. We went into the bathroom, and under the bright lights, he looked inside my mouth.
“They’ll be fine,” he said. “But how much of that stuff did you use?”
It turns out, way too much. Rather than a dot of it as recommended, I’d nearly filled each tooth slot with solution, forcing it to spill out all over my gums. Later, after my husband handed me the instructions, I learned whenever the solution gets onto your gums, you’re supposed to blot it off with a Q-tip.
Still, I’ve learned bleaching one’s teeth truly falls into the category of suffering for beauty. As cleverly as you learn to blot, it still feels rather terrible and certainly unnatural. Then the next day, your teeth feel sore and weird.
But am I continuing with the regimen? Hells to the yeah. I want to be beautiful, don’t I? So I’ve been mopping and dusting and folding and now writing and pressing the keys very, very, very hard.
But, luckily, time is now … up.