8 Treatments Experts Say Make a Huge Difference in Your Smile

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Our smiles are the one feature that immediately tells the world how we’re doing. With age, stress and normal wear and tear, they can lose their vibrancy due to tooth loss, discoloration, cavities, decay or excessive grinding. Yet, no matter the tooth trouble, there is always a solution. And while we might spend oodles of time tweaking our hair and skin, if we fail to maintain our pearly whites, we’re not anti-aging one of our most eye-catching features. “Any irregularity can cause the human eye to focus on an unattractive feature of the smile, rather than the face. Some examples are badly crowded teeth, large gaps, too dark or too white shades, a crooked smile, or a lot of exposed gum tissue,” says Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald Goldstein, DDS. “Patients don’t realize that anti-aging your smile is essential, too. And it’s not a quest for perfection or straight across, super white teeth, which can also make someone look aged. It’s really about creating a custom smile that complements the person’s individual features.”

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A smile makeover starts with an analysis by a cosmetic dentist who will recommend any combination of dental treatments. “For many of my patients, a smile makeover can include teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, gum leveling, closing spaces, and restoring the lost length of teeth that have worn with age,” says Beverly Hills, CA cosmetic dentist Laurence R. Rifkin, DDS. It’s important to note that a smile makeover is not a one-size-fits-all procedure. Each patient has different needs based on their oral health and the condition of their teeth. “Every smile is unique and requires a comprehensive analysis of what the goal is, the anatomical structures of the smile, and the personal expectations,” says Dr. Rifkin. “The options and their benefits—sometimes it’s no treatment at all—should be discussed in order to keep the teeth looking as natural as possible.”

What to Expect

Before Treatment
A thorough consultation with a cosmetic dentist is needed to assess the patient’s goals, along with a clinical evaluation of the existing conditions of the teeth, gums and face. “It starts with a detailed examination of the face,” says Beverly Hills, CA cosmetic dentist Kourosh Maddahi, DDS. “I always look at upper and lower lip symmetry, the smile itself and the shade of the teeth against the person’s complexion.” A fabricated, 3-D model can help the dentist record and design a new smile. “This step is essential when the entire smile will need either all or mostly all of the teeth on the upper or lower arches, or both arches. “Many times, the patient’s bite will need improving, teeth may need orthodontics, fractured or decayed teeth will need to be restored, and the tooth shade may need to be brightened,” says Dr. Goldstein. “A 3-D model mock-up helps visualize which treatments will accomplish the patient’s needs and desires, which at times, aren’t exactly the same.”

After Treatment
Good oral hygiene, including regular cleanings, is essential.

Average Treatment Cost
Fees will vary based on the difficulty of the procedure, patient dental and medical history, and dentist qualifications, including technical and artistic expertise.

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A Harmonious Smile
“Don’t rely solely upon social media posts, online reviews or website information,” recommends Dr. Rifkin. “It’s your body, your health and your investment. Seek out a highly trained dentist that not only performs cosmetic dental procedures, but also examines, diagnoses and executes dental treatments that help build a healthy mouth, body and smile.” Dr. Goldstein adds: “Aways ask for a mock-up of what your dentist plans to accomplish before agreeing to any treatment.”

Less Is More
Sometimes just a few strategically placed veneers, along with tooth contouring, are all that is needed to fix a smile. If they are placed on the upper teeth, usually the lower teeth can be contoured. This helps to take the focus off of imperfections and bring the eye back to the upper teeth. “Two-to-six upper teeth with veneers can help improve the shape, color and length of the teeth,” says Dr. Maddahi. “Otherwise, 10 upper and 10 lower porcelain veneers can be used to create a brand-new smile.”

Follow the Smile Line
“Ideally, the smile line should mimic the curve of the lower lip, which means the two front teeth are slightly longer than the next two teeth in the arch, creating a slight convex curve as the teeth continue to the molars,” says Dr. Goldstein. “Sometimes, just improving the shade of the teeth can help the face look so much better because the best look for any face is one that is balanced, rather than the emphasis being on the eyes, the chin or the smile.”

Your New Smile: All the Options

Teeth Whitening
This relatively quick and easy in-office procedure can instantly brighten your smile in less than an hour. More powerful than at-home whitening products, laser-based whitening uses light to speed up the bleaching process. First, superficial stains that can be buffed away are removed from teeth before the bleach is applied and activated with a light or laser. Unlike whitening strips, in-office treatments give a more uniform color to the teeth because the solution penetrates the entire tooth. At-home maintenance with custom, molded trays is an important element that extends the treatment from the office to the home. The results can last from a few months to a few years depending on how often touch-ups are done at home. Average Treatment Cost $350–$1,000 per treatment*

Traditional Braces
Braces work best for correcting severe misalignment caused by extreme crowding, large spaces, rotated teeth, or a jaw that sits too far back. The metal or enamel-colored ceramic braces are affixed to teeth to slowly move them into a more desirable position. Brackets are connected to one another with a flexible wire that is “strung through” and secured with dental putty or a rubber band. How crooked your smile is dictates how long you will need to wear them, whether that’s a few months or a few years. Average Treatment Cost $6,000–$8,000 for full-mouth orthodontics using traditional braces*

Clear Aligners
Less-obvious than traditional braces, clear aligners (known commonly by the brand name Invisalign) fit snuggly over teeth to guide them back into place. These BPA-free plastic aligners are custom made to fit only the patient’s smile to slowly move teeth into a better place. Average Treatment Cost $3,500–$7,500*

This 32-year-old patient was self-conscious about what she called her “spacey, baby teeth.” New York cosmetic dentist Husam Almunajed, DMD used tooth contouring and veneers to completely redesign her smile.

Tooth Contouring
A quick fix for a smile hampered by slightly crooked or uneven teeth, or teeth that are overcrowded, tooth contouring creates a more natural, organically rounded and youthful smile by transforming flat, worn edges into round ones. Sometimes, just smoothing the edges of the teeth can give the appearance of a straighter smile. This is a conservative approach that is quick, and a little fine-tuning can make a big difference in a smile. Average Treatment Cost $350–$2,500 per arch*

Gum Contouring
Gum contouring reduces the amount of gum that shows when you smile. Ideal for correcting teeth that look short and square, which can age a smile, removing and reshaping gum tissue creates a more proportional smile. A laser gum lift is nonsurgical and also removes excess gums and enhances tooth shape. The procedure is safe, takes less than an hour per arch and has minimal downtime. Average Treatment Cost $395–$500 per posterior/anterior quadrant; for laser gum lifts, $425–$500 per posterior/anterior quadrant*

Not wanting to drill teeth or remove tooth structure, New York cosmetic dentist Irene Grafman, DDS used cosmetic bonding to correct worn edges, improve spacing and reshape this 24-year-old patient’s teeth to better flow with her smile line.

Bonding
To conceal minor smile imperfections—spacing, chips and dark stains—tooth bonding is performed by sculpting tooth-colored resin over the nooks and crannies of the teeth to give the appearance of a straighter, more balanced smile. A conditioning solution is first applied over the surface of the enamel, roughening the outermost layer of teeth to ensure a stronger bond. Afterward, layers of the material are sculpted over the teeth as needed, and then set in place with a special light that hardens the plastic within seconds. The edges of the teeth may also be lengthened to correct a short smile or build out the back teeth to hold out the cheekbones, which creates the appearance of more chiseled bone structure. Average Treatment Cost $350–$2,500 per tooth*

Crowns
The only saving grace for severely worn or broken teeth may be dental crowns—a hollow, tooth-like cap permanently cemented over the natural tooth. Crowns can be used to make a crooked smile appear straighter, repair broken or damaged teeth, or cover a bridge or implant. The tooth surface is reduced, then covered with a custom cap in all-ceramic, porcelain bonded to metal or another durable substance. Crowns are sometimes used side by side with veneers in a full-mouth restorative procedure. Average Treatment Cost $1,750–$4,500*

Dr. Rifkin performed a smile restoration using six veneers, which revitalized this 18-year-old patient’s discolored teeth.

Veneers
They’ve revolutionized aesthetic dentistry and are capable of camouflaging a myriad of concerns, these thin, porcelain shells are permanently bonded to the fronts—and many times, the sides—of the teeth to enhance and/ or improve the smile. “Veneers can correct and beautify aesthetic tooth blemishes when whitening treatments and orthodontics alone can’t solve them,” says Dr. Rifkin. While veneers cannot be used to replace missing teeth or realign severely crowded teeth, they are a versatile and conservative option. Average Treatment Cost $1,875–$4,500*

*Source: Change Your Smile: Discover How a New Smile Can Change Your Life