Figel: Happy Early Father’s Day, Smile
By Bill Figel June 15, 2012 11:58PM
Before teeth whitening. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:34AM
Imagine my surprise when my kids imposed their collective vanity on me in the form of a Father’s Day gift meant to make me look better.
Teeth whitening, my three high schoolers reasoned, would return my 57-year-old mouth to the image they see in my wedding photos and videos, and maybe further back to my college and high school graduation poses.
Years of coffee, tea, dark beers and the occasional victory cigar had rendered my teeth less than pearly white. But what next? Botox, a butt lift or a nose job?
It’s not like I walk around mumbling or with a hand over my mouth to hide my teeth or mask my smile. Truth is, I am a throw-your-head-back belly laugher.
But teeth whitening, by a thing called Zoom? Not only was I skeptical, but I didn’t want to become a caricature of George Hamilton, the perpetually tan actor who is either playing himself or spoofing himself.
I was startled when the kids presented me with an early Father’s Day gift, a mostly-paid certificate to Durkin & Fitzpatrick Cosmetic and Restorative Dentistry. I went to the website, www.smilesinoaklawn.com, and some of my skepticism faded. But it wasn’t entirely brushed away.
The site said tooth whitening is a “safe and relatively painless procedure.” And, there were two whitening options: in-office in about an hour and tray-whitening over a period of time at home.
There was the college reunion in Minnesota, coming up at month’s end. My family wanted the new smile ready for Father’s Day photos. So what was a yellow-tooth slacker like me to do? I picked the in-office whitening treatment.
Totally disarmed, I called and made the appointment for last Thursday. I asked for dentist Bob Fitzpatrick because I knew his front-tooth-less dad as a kid, and “young Bobby” plays Beatles riffs at the Beverly Arts Center better than any dentist I’ve ever known.
“Yeah, that’s a great gift and it’ll look dynamite,” young Bob said. “We’ll take before-and-after photos, too.”
Locked in for the 1:45 p.m. appointment, I thanked my wife and kids for the gift.
Day 2: post-appointment
I am drooling furiously onto my shirt and lap as I write the “after” account of my teeth-whitening adventure.
I could tell immediately it was a big success when they pulled back the mouth guard and the pretty dental assistant, Heather Hughes, lit up like a child on Christmas morning.
“Are they as white as your teeth?” I asked.
“No, but they look great,” Heather said.
The reason for the drool is a tray full of seal that will be in my mouth for 20 minutes. It’s as gross as they said it would be. It seems teeth have pores, and like little vents in skin, they open to accept the bleaching product. I was told my teeth will whiten even more over the next few days and the seal is simply the finishing end.
Earlier, when I arrived for my appointment, I was greeted by a bevy of blue-clad women who swiftly led me to a side office and comfortable chair for the all-important “before” photo. The expected questions regarding coffee, red wine and smoking ensued, followed by questions about front teeth caps and crowns. Turns out I was a pretty easy subject and the future was bright, at least for my teeth.
What happened next is a little hazy. They installed a kind of Hannibal Lecter mask in my mouth to guard the lips and gums (not them from me). A kind of gauze was puttied up into the upper and lower reaches of my mouth and I was good to go.
They applied the bleaching gel on each of the targeted teeth and attached a laser contraption to the Hannibal mask protruding from my mouth. The plan included four 15-minute sessions. I got comfortable and very sleepy. All the alarming postings regarding the “zinging” pain to sensitive teeth and gums were unfounded.
As I dozed off to the sounds of WLIT during a truly light set, I knew I was in excellent hands. A buzzer would go off at the end of each session and they would apply the gel for the next session and I would doze off again.
I am sure there was at least one Sting or Police song I was able to tune out effectively. It occurred to me that an Iggy Pop selection on WXRT, say, “The Passenger,” might not have had the same soothing impact.
The procedure was entirely pain-free, featured a lengthy snooze ... and whoever that was starring in my dreams, I’m not telling.
One of my daughters was home when I arrived and immediately marveled at how her gift had brightened my smile — even if it didn’t fill in a receding hairline, trim my waistline or iron out the wrinkles on my weathered face.
We’ll see what my wife thinks when she arrives. While I drool through this seal tray in my mouth, I think I’ll Google “laser vision correction” and see what comes up.
Bill Figel, a resident of Chicago’s Beverly/Morgan Park area, covered sports for the Southtown Economist and the Chicago Sun-Times in the 1980s.