Having your teeth professionally whitened is sort of like a cross between getting probed by aliens and giving an epic blowjob to your nemesis.
It all starts innocently enough. A nice dentist lady lures you into the back of her office and performs a quick, painless exam. Things take a turn for the worse when she introduces you to Juan, the teenager with a cold sore and a dirty mismatching sweatsuit who will perform the procedure. Of course you’re not one of those people who thinks you can catch AIDS from the toilet seat or whatever, but Juan’s face herp is just not setting the right tone for this experience. You begin to feel the first pangs of regret.
In preparation for the treatment, Juan unpacks an arsenal of equipment with the impressive ability to seem both totally ridiculous and incredibly sinister at the same time. Cheek retractors make you pull an unnatural, yet weirdly appropriate, face. Various mouthparts are slicked with industrial-strength SPF plaster that “seals the barrier.” Gums are packed with cotton and teeth are painted with bleaching compound. An uncomfortable plastic tongue guard is carefully rammed down your throat. Last, but not least, you are given a pair of fetching orange sunglasses to don before the white plastic cobra laser thingie beams blue light at your bared teeth.
As he works, Juan explains that there are pores in your teeth that remain open for days after the whitening. Clearly, he considers this a fun fact, but you are so creeped out that you start to sweat profusely. It reminds you of those tumors that have teeth, and you find yourself wondering if tumor teeth also have pores. You try to stay cool but you are starting to gag a little on your tongue guard. You are hoping this is almost over.
It’s not until Juan turns off the lights and sets a timer that you realize that the prep he’s been performing for the last 45 minutes doesn’t even count toward the treatment time, which you know to be one full hour. You try not to panic. You take deep breaths through your nose and set about learning how to swallow in your new nightmare world. Every five minutes, when Juan asks how you’re doing, you issue a strangled gurgle and give him the thumbs-up sign, which makes you feel like a douchebag.
You try to focus on the soundtrack to distract yourself, which is a mistake. When that god awful song Jewel wrote when she lived in her car is followed by “Baby, Baby” by Amy Grant, you start to wonder how much, exactly, you must hate yourself to have paid hundreds of dollars to have someone do this to you. You reflect on why you couldn’t have been born into a society where yellow teeth are beautiful. You think about how, for the rest of your life, you will subsist on vodka and saltine crackers so you never find yourself in the terrible position of having stained teeth ever again.
When you finally stagger out to the street, you start to feel a strange pain deep in your teeth. It is ancient and ugly. You realize that heaping tablespoons of drool are pouring forth from your mouth, and that your plan to do a little xmas shopping is absolutely out of the question. As you hail a cab, you understand all at once why cats go off on their own to die.
The pain caused by professional whitening is very specific. It is a scary kind of pain, even though you know it is a normal side effect from a cosmetic procedure. It is sort of like if someone scratched a thousand chalkboards into your ears while running an icy finger up and down your spinal column—but in your teeth.
And y’all, if that last bit sounds sort of trippy—and I’m just going to drop the second person because I just can’t think that hard right now—it’s because I’m high as balls due to spending the better part of the afternoon and evening taking double the recommended dosage of Vicodin. About two hours after my appointment, when my teeth starting throbbing with some kind of alien pulse, I took my dentist up on her offer for something “to take the edge off.” When she mentioned it in the office, I was like, “Nah, that’s fine.” About two hours later I was on the phone, like, where are my pills PLEASEJESUSGIVEMETHEFUCKINGPILLS.
Thus, I have spent the last five hours lying on my bed in a narcotic haze like something out of Requiem for a Dream, coming to every half hour or so in a growing pool of drool and a progressive state of undress. And while I think I've had a couple of low-grade hallucinations, I’m pretty sure my teeth actually glow in the dark now.