Smile and say ‘selfie’! This app wants to brighten your teeth

The White Tooth app means to help brighten your smile. (Photo: Pearly Whites)
The White Tooth app means to help brighten your smile. (Photo: Pearly Whites)

Your phone can hail you a cab, order you a burrito — and possibly add sparkle to your smile.

That’s what makers of the White Tooth app claim, anyway. Like skipping the manicurist to paint your nails at home, a Boston whitening center has created an app that’ll give you the benefits of professional tooth bleaching at home.

“Look at Blockbuster and what happened to them because of Netflix,” said Justin McFadden, founder of Pearly Whites Express Teeth Whitening Center, which hopes to phase out its chair-side service. The app turns your smartphone screen into a blue LED, and when paired with a whitening agent — store-bought whitening strips or Pearly Whites gel — it promises to speed the process. The app is free and available for Android phones in the Google Play store (one for iPhone is due this month), but usage is metered: A 40-minute session (which will keep your teeth glistening for 90 days) costs $3.98.

Like other whitening centers, Pearly Whites, with offices in Woburn and Beverly, uses lights in its treatment. The American Dental Association warns that most studies “have reported no additional benefit with the light-activated systems.” But McFadden insists a blue LED makes the process faster and more effective.

So does it work? I tried the app recently, prying open my lips with the blue mouth guard Pearly Whites mailed to me and coating my front teeth with the whitening agent that was also included in the pack.

I fired up the app and settled onto the sofa with my phone raised to my face, as if taking a selfie. With a timer counting down, I tried to stay still for about 20 minutes — not an easy task because my face was smarting from the mouth guard and my hands ached from holding my phone a half inch from my face. Because my mouth was hanging open, my salivary glands went into overdrive. I needed to place a wad of tissues near my chin to avoid drenching my shirt in drool.

When your session is complete, photograph your teeth and send it to Pearly Whites. A technician will assess the change.

I sent before and after shots to McFadden. Most people start off between 18 and 22 on the whitening scale, with the higher numbers being darker. According McFadden, I’d begun a 16 and wound up a 12. I saw no discernible difference.

The takeaway: Grit your teeth and smile if you have the patience. Otherwise, whiteners alone may be enough.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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