Multitasking Smile Perfecters

For smile concerns, like discoloration, alignment and spacing, or some combination thereof, there are a number of treatments that target multiple issues. Typically, these procedures require multiple appointments and a financial commitment. If you aren't prepared for the upkeep necessary to ensure long-term results, you're wasting your time and money—and your smile will soon return to its pre-makeover condition.

1. If you had orthodontics…

A popular orthodontic treatment, Invisalign uses a series of custom-made removable aligners that straighten teeth without metal or wires over a period of time. Other choices are American Orthodontics' cosmetic self-ligating braces, which consist of clear brackets and a clip to hold the wire, and lingual braces, which are fitted to the backs of teeth.

Keeping Teeth Straight: A commitment to a lifetime of wearing either a clear Invisalign retainer or a traditional retainer is essential. Initial shifting can happen as quickly as 24 hours without a retainer. Patients who fail to wear the retainer can expect an orthodontic relapse that will require additional treatments to correct.

Long-Term Results: "After a year or so, patients can experiment with taking the retainer out for a period of 24 hours. If it refits easily, they may try two days, but if it is tighter, then that means there is some muscle pull on the teeth to return them to a crowded position and therefore they can only take the retainer out for a limited amount of time," says Atlanta cosmetic dentist Ronald E. Goldstein, DDS.


2. If you had bonding…

Bonding involves applying a composite resin to fix cracked or chipped teeth, hide discoloration or minimize spacing issues. It is often less expensive than veneers.

How To Maintain: Aside from regular brushing and flossing, no special care is needed following a bonding procedure. But, Dr. Goldstein does advise using a soft brush or soft rotary electric brush to minimize risk of damaging the bonding material. And keep in mind, bonding is a restorative procedure so if you weren't meticulous in your oral care habits before, you'll need to be now in order to maintain the results.


3. If you had veneers…

New York cosmetic dentist Irwin Smigel, DDS says, "Veneers are an excellent way to improve teeth that are discolored, crooked or have gaps between them, and can even reshape a person's face." A thin layer of enamel is removed from the surface of the tooth to make room for the ultrathin veneer, which is bonded in place.

Clean Teeth Are Key: "The parts of the tooth that aren't covered by the veneer are susceptible to decay, so regular cleaning and brushing properly are key," says Palm Desert, CA, cosmetic dentist René Dell'Acqua, DDS, who also recommends patients wear night guards to protect against clenching and grinding. Break any habits like chewing on pencils or any other hard objects to prevent veneers from becoming chipped or cracked, which will require a procedure to replace the affect veneer.

Long-Term Results: Most importably, veneers are not permanent. "Veneers are quite durable and can last about 10 to 15 years if not longer," says Dr. Smigel. "Proper oral care and regular visits to your dentist will help maintain long-term results."

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