Tooth whitening – how white is too white?

This month Manrina Rhode discusses the many shades of tooth whitening and what her go-to shade is for a natural, white smile.

Today we are going to talk about: how white is too white?

There has been a lot of publicity recently about Turkey Teeth and the way they look. They became quite popular with with Love Island a few years ago with someone who had really white veneers. And I have certainly been questioned about it a lot recently after the turkey teeth documentary that I did on BBC Iplayer last year.

Light bulb teeth

I have done more than 13,000 veneers in my career – I counted them about five years ago, so there will be a fair few more that I’ve done since then. And in that time, I’ve only done two cases in shade BL1. BL1 is a very white shade – it’s the whitest shade on the bleach shade guide.

For the first case that I did in BL1, the gentleman came in to see me and he said, ‘I want my teeth to look like they have got light bulbs behind them.’ It was quite clear to me that BL1 was going to work for him. And even though I made sure to tell him not to tell anyone that I had done his teeth, I gave him BL1 teeth that he’s very proud of.

The other case that I did was a few years after that. A young lawyer came in to see me. She had A2 teeth, which is a really common shade for patients to start with, but she was sick of her yellow teeth and she wanted a really white smile. So she asked me to make her ceramics in BL1. We argued back and forth, I was like ‘Don’t do it! Even if we do BL2 that would be a better shade for you.’ But she was adamant that BL1 was the shade for her.

I put some really white bleached temporaries on for her so that she could check that it was what she wanted, and she said that she loved them. So, I went ahead and did the BL1 for her.

However, she then came to see me two years later. She paid to have a ceramics replaced and she had her teeth replaced back to A2. She was so traumatised by her BL1 teeth, she said she felt like when she entered a room, the first thing that anyone saw was her teeth – no one was seeing her face or anything she was wearing. It was just her white smile. So, she went back to that warm yellow colour that she had before.

All of that was was about 15 years ago – we did her first set then, and then did the second set – and she’s still my patient now 15 years later.

Find your tribe

I really love a BL3 smile, I think it’s a really beautiful colour. It is very similar to my tooth colour – all my teeth are natural. I have straightened them, I’ve shaped them and I’ve whitened them – and I did it all myself in a mirror! I’m a cosmetic dentist, so where else would I go to do it?

By creating BL3 smiles for my patients, because I know it’s a colour that is naturally achievable, ceramics can look very natural. My patients don’t typically come to see me because they’re looking for a really fake white smile, or for any of the treatments that I do because they’re looking for fake results. They come to see me because they want to look like they were just born naturally perfect or naturally beautiful. Those are the results that I like to achieve.

Quite often, patients will say to me ‘I don’t want veneers, they look really fake’, and I say, ‘You don’t know that my patients have got veneers. All you know is that they have got a beautiful smile.’

It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re wanting to promote yourself as a dentist that that turkey teeth or Essex smile, then by all means you’re going to do BL1 smiles and your patients know what they’re coming in for. If you’re comfortable with that, then you should do that.

Find your tribe. Find what sort of cosmetic dentistry you’re comfortable with. If it’s a natural result you want, then, for me, how white is too white? BL1 is too white.

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