How to Get a More Confident Smile At Home (Giveaway!)

Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant

This is part of a partnership with Smile Brilliant. All thoughts, opinions, experiences, and photography are my own. 

If you've been following along for some time, you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and recently, I've been trying to make a point of helping to spread that awareness on social media. To me, it's brutally personal. I grew up learning to always be at odds with my reflection in the mirror. I modeled, and had photographers tell me to come back when I lost 10 pounds. Ballet teachers would tell me me I was too tall. School sports led me to believe I wasn't strong enough, or fast enough. Kids in school relentlessly reminded me of every pimple, every blemish, every scar. A lack of body confidence to a severe degree is without a doubt a mental illness. Hating my appearance is a war I was all too familiar with, and one that I found myself on the front lines of more frequently than I'd like to admit.

I already mentioned on my blog the battles I've faced with learning to love my body. My reflection in the mirror and I signed a tenuous peace treaty with each other a few years ago, finally putting our differences behind us. Since then, I’ve tried my very best to become an advocate for body positivity. But if there's another thing that I've always been extremely insecure about, even to this day, it's my smile. Growing up, I hated my smile with a passion. I am fortunate enough to have straight teeth and a track record that involves zero braces or retainers. But my teeth are SO damn small, that if I were to offer up my best big, 'toothy' grin, you'd be served up a mouthful of gums. Deep in the archives of my mom's photo books from my childhood, there are embarrassing school photos of me as a kid, trying to 'say cheese' in the cutest, most earnest way I knew how, and failing miserably (at least, in my opinion). Honestly, I always thought my smile resembled that of those sharks from Finding Nemo, rather than the perfect, flawless grin of a Disney princess.

Once I got older, I started forming an opinion about how 'hideous' my gummy smile was in photos. I cautiously, meticulously reconstructed the way I smile and laugh so that I could pretend my appearance was different. I taught myself to only smile about 70% of the way, taking care to make sure only my teeth revealed themselves, forcing my gums to stay tucked away, hidden behind my lips. All to create the illusion that my smile was big, toothy, and flawless, just like the next girl’s.

In high school, I actually went so far as to consider gum reconstructive surgery (but I eventually decided against it because it meant i’d have to eat jello for weeks. No thanks). As I got older, I eventually knocked some sense into my thinking. I became a more vocal supporter of mental health, and learned that if I was going to do that, I'd need to practice what I preached, which revolved entirely around learning to better appreciate the body (and teeth) I was in. I realized that there were other, less invasive things than surgery that I could do to be more satisfied with the smile I was given – things that I could do to enhance my actual smile, without reconstructing my appearance to create a "new, improved" version of myself that was, at the end of the day, a fraud. I decided teeth whitening was the better alternative I was desperately seeking to positively impact my smile (and reverse some of the effects of my love for wine and coffee in the process).

So I gave it a try.

Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant
Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant
Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant


Since teeth whitening at the dentist is extremely expensive, I'd always been passively curious about at-home whitening. I hate strips since they aren't custom-fitted to your teeth, and I tried charcoal powder a few months ago, only to be disappointed that the results were extremely temporary. But when I heard about an at-home, custom-fitted whitening kit, I decided to give it a shot. Smile Brilliant's at-home teeth whitening kit comes with all of the tools you need to make custom-fitted impressions, whiten, and desensitize your teeth for up to 2 weeks. Once you make your impressions, you send the molds back to the Smile Brilliant HQ so that they can be made into trays. Then, after you receive your personalized trays in the mail, you begin the whitening process. While there are enough supplies for 14 days of whitening, and you're encouraged to whiten for anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours a night, I found that my particular level of teeth staining, and my work schedule, meant that I only whitened for 7 nights (non-consecutive), 45-60 minutes a pop. My schedule looked like this:

  • Sunday: 45 minutes whitening, 20 minutes desensitizing

  • Monday: 45 minutes whitening, 15 minutes desensitizing

  • Tuesday: 45 minutes whitening, 20 minutes desensitizing

  • Wednesday: 60 minutes whitening, 15 minutes desensitizing

  • Thursday: 60 minutes whitening, 20 minutes desensitizing

  • Friday: Nada

  • Saturday: Nada

  • Sunday: 30 minutes whitening, 20 minutes desensitizing

  • Monday: 45 minutes whitening, 15 minutes desensitizing

Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant
Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant

That said, the results were almost immediate, and I kid you not–I started receiving legitimate comments about how white my smile was, both from friends who knew I was whitening, and from acquaintances and coworkers who had no idea. For once, the voice in my head wasn't worried about people focusing on my gums. They were seeing my TEETH! My newly whitened, tiny but mighty teeth! How freaking cool is that?

Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant

Of course, with whitening, there are a few things nobody tells you about the reality of the process. At-home whitening sounds extremely easy, but you have to be committed in order for it to work. Here are some hard, fast facts:


  • I only drank coffee (iced) through a straw for the entire process

  • I avoided red wine and dark liquor (white wine is fine, and I may have had a beer or three during the week. I'm not sure if that has any effect, though)

  • I applied coconut oil to my gums each night as a way of protecting my gums from the whitening chemicals (you can also use vaseline)

  • I DROOLED. Yes, you will drool due to wearing plastic for 1+ hours a night and not being able to swallow. There's no sugar-coating it, and there's no avoiding it. Glamorous, I know, but it's a small price to pay.


  • I didn’t whiten all 14 days

  • I didn’t whiten on consecutive days (not due to sensitivity, but because I wanted to go out on a Friday night rather than be stuck at home with trays in my mouth. That said, you’re actually encouraged to skip a day or two here and there if your teeth DO get sensitive during the process)

  • I didn’t whiten for more than 60 minutes a night (due to my lifestyle, mostly – I don’t get home from work until 8, which means I usually don’t eat until 9 or 10)

Since I only whitened for 7 days, I have enough product left to whiten again in a couple of months, which also makes me really excited. Who knew that such a simple, at-home change could give me more confidence than I've had in my teeth in years?

Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant
Rachel Off Duty: Smile Brilliant


As you guys know, I’m not the biggest beauty expert, but I will always share things that I believe in, and that have worked for me. So, I decided to partner with Smile Brilliant to host a giveaway, both as a thank you to YOU for being here, and because I was really happy with my own results using this, so I just had to share.

One (1) reader/follower will have the opportunity to win your very own customized tray creation + whitening kit. Head to the link below to enter – and if you win, PLEASE let me know how it goes! I was really pleasantly surprised with my own experience, so I hope you will be, too.

This giveaway will be closed on August 1, 2018. Open to USA, UK, Australian, and Canadian residents only. Missed your shot? You can still get 15% off with promo code 'racheloffduty15'!

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