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9/14/2003

White at home

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Before clients knock on Annie Bell’s door, they see what could be — at least smile-wise.
A giant picture of a red-shirted, dark and handsome man with a snow-white grin covers the top half of the front door of her home-based business at 1011 Pratt St.
But Bell’s new tooth-whitening business, called ColoradoSmile.com, parts company with dental offices beyond the threshold as well.
To reach dentist office phobes, she has decorated the office in muted colors and lightly fragranced it with potpourri. It looks and feels like a friend’s living room — a perfect place to lose drill-and-fill-related anxiety for chat about self-improvement on the chops.
Given the 300 percent growth in this slice of the cosmetic dentistry business since 1996, it’s a hot spot for a start up, though not very well regulated.
The American Dental Association and various tooth-whitening-product manufacturers recommend dental supervision in the process.
Still, drug and grocery stores legally sell an over-the-counter, “boil-and-bite” product that effectively bleaches teeth — albeit slowly and less evenly, according to Bell, a licensed dental hygienist.
She uses a higher-end product and dons a mask and gloves to mix a bubble gum-flavored material to custom-cast tooth trays used to hold the bleaching gel evenly against a client’s teeth.
Also, with 20 years of experience as a dental hygienist, she offers a dental exam for tooth decay and cancer — something that adds value to her whitening work, she explained.
Bell said she knew she was onto something big when she asked a friend at Sun Microsystems to announce her services to co-workers.
“Seventeen people responded right away,” she said.
From there, she formed partnerships with seven spas countywide and a Longmont plastic surgeon to do on-site treatments along with house calls and her in-house treatments.
So far, she has whitened and brightened approximately 100 smiles, she said. But its not all about applying the product correctly through custom trays.
“This is groundbreaking ... because I am taking the procedure out of the dental setting and into a relaxed environment,” she said. “People are treated as a guest in my lab.”