Woman on a date trying to hide her smile with her hand

You get up in the morning. You go to the bathroom, turn on the lights, and look in the mirror. And then you immediately want to turn off the lights again. Because you just saw your reflection, and you thought, ‘Ugh!’ If you can’t relate to the above statement, I’m jealous and would please like for you to share some of your self-confidence. For the rest of us mere mortals, we’ve all been in that situation at least once or twice. But for some people, it’s not just once or twice. It’s every month, or every week, or even every day, and it’s because of their teeth. How can you improve your smile?

How Important is Your Smile?

Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you. Take, for example, this photo:

Do you need to improve your smile, like this couple?

What’s the first thing you notice in the picture? Is it the fact that the man has an extra finger? Or… was it the food in their teeth?

If your answer was “tooth gunk,” (which is definitely the technical dental term, by the way) you’re not alone. In surveys by the AACD and ORC International with Philips Sonicare:

  • 47% of Americans said that a smile was the first thing they noticed about someone
  • An appealing smile is crucial to a good first impression and being remembered
  • Your smile affects how others perceive you—a nice smile can make you appear more attractive, intelligent, successful, and confident than people with crooked or stained teeth

So if you’re worried about negative perceptions because of your smile, can you just avoid smiling?

Sorry, bad news for the frown crowd: numerous studies have shown that smiling actually makes you happier and less stressed. The act of smiling releases a bunch of feel-good brain chemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins (and everyone knows, from Legally Blonde, “endorphins make you happy“). And there’s also a correlation between smiling and longer lives. So if you wanna be healthier, for longer, time to turn that frown upside-down. And here to help with that, I’ve got good news: you have multiple options to improve the health and the appearance of your smile.

Dental Treatments to Improve Your Smile

Regardless of the ultimate option you choose, our priority is to get you healthy. Our first step is always going to be to take care of any active disease, which for most people would be either cavities or periodontal (gum) disease. Once that is done, we can focus on appearance (for the purpose of this blog post, I’m focusing specifically on treatments for the front teeth visible when you smile, but these treatments are not limited to just these teeth).

Depending on your concern, you have different treatments available to improve your smile:

Teeth Whitening

If your main concern is staining, whitening is a safe, effective way to lighten your teeth. The most efficient way to do this is with custom whitening trays and gel obtained from your dentist that you wear at home. This type of treatment is more effective than an in-office whitening treatment (and those whitening lights you see being promoted by celebrities on Instagram). The lights mainly just dehydrate your teeth, which results in only a few hours of whiter teeth.

Whitening is good for external or surface stains on your teeth, but not as effective on deeper or internal stains, like those from “dead” teeth or stains resulting from antibiotic use during childhood (e.g., tetracycline staining). For these types of stain, there is a type of whitening known as internal or “walking bleach,” but it requires the tooth to have had root canal treatment.

So if your main issue is that you chug coffee in the morning and pop a bottle of red wine at night, whitening might be the best option for you to improve your smile. And bonus! The Silberman Dental Group offers Free Whitening for Life for all our patients who maintain regular care. That’s free custom-fitted trays and free whitening gel.

Did you know? Do not try to whiten your teeth using lemon juice, strawberries and baking soda, charcoal, or whatever home remedy is floating around Pinterest these days. Why? Citrus is very acidic and acid is very bad for your teeth. Charcoal is super abrasive. When those clickbait links say, “Dentists hate this home remedy and don’t want you to know about it!” it’s true. Because they will ruin your teeth. And trust me, it’s a lot more expensive to fix that than it is to whiten your teeth via the conventional (aka clinically verified and safe) methods.

There are some cons associated with whitening, though. It won’t do anything in regards to alignment or inflamed gums, and some people do experience sensitivity with whitening. This is temporary and usually goes away quickly, and can frequently be avoided by dropping the amount of time the trays are worn, lowering the gel concentration, or using fluoride (toothpastes, mouthwashes, in-office treatments, etc.) in conjunction with whitening. For the people who unfortunately have excessive or intolerable sensitivity, and for those who are looking for more extensive smile makeovers, there are other options outlined below.

Veneers

These are essentially covers that go on the fronts of your teeth. If you’ve ever seen an American TV show or commercial, ever, you’ve seen someone with veneers. They’re typically the go-to for that “Hollywood Smile” and will essentially eliminate any visible defects on the surfaces of the teeth. They can also help to correct abnormal size, shape, or asymmetry of teeth.

The amount of preparation the tooth requires depends on the individual, but modern veneers often require minimal removal of existing tooth structure, and veneers can actually help strengthen the tooth. Most people will get either eight (from the first premolar to first premolar), six (canine to canine), or four (the front four teeth) veneers.

There are two main types of veneers:

  • Porcelain veneers are what most people think of when they hear the word “veneer.” These are made from a similar material to crowns/caps. They have good longevity and are strong and resistant to stain and wear. These are fabricated in a lab and require at least two appointments (preparation and impression, then delivery, with the patient wearing temporary veneers in between).
  • Composite veneers are also called “chairside veneers” because they’re generally done in one appointment, and they’re made by the dentist. They are made with composite, which is the same material we use for tooth-colored fillings. Composite is not as strong or wear-resistant as porcelain. It tends to stain and lose its luster over time, and depending on the dentist, won’t be as “perfect” as porcelain veneers. However, they are cheaper and quicker than porcelain. Just be aware they will probably need to be redone every year or two.

Crowns

Crowns are similar to porcelain veneers in that they are strong and long-lasting with proper care. The main difference is that a crown is full-coverage (that is, it goes over the whole tooth surface, including the back), whereas veneers only cover the front. That means it requires more preparation and removal of existing tooth structure. For teeth with existing restorations or cavities, crowns are usually better. For virgin teeth, I prefer veneers, as they are less invasive.

Alignment

For people with crooked, crowded, or spaced-out teeth, as well as other positional concerns (e.g., overbite, non-centered midline), alignment is the best option. Both crowns and veneers can be used to address minor alignment issues, but only in appearance. They won’t treat the underlying issue, and can sometimes create more problems because the tooth shape has to be unnatural to correct for the discrepancy.

Alignment of the teeth will bring your bite and teeth to where they should be. Correct alignment will improve gum health, can help with clenching, grinding, and TMJ, and can also help prevent abfractions. The fact that it improves the appearance of your smile is just the cherry on top.

The two most common methods of alignment are either traditional metal braces and brackets, or clear aligners. At the Silberman Dental Group, we offer clear aligners from Invisalign®, so you can avoid metal brackets that can be as distracting as crooked teeth. The bonus is that we’re able to use our digital scanner to take all your impressions, so no goop, gagging, or mess.

Ready to Enjoy a Smile You Can Show Off?

So there you have it. How can you improve your smile? These are some of the best treatment options available to turn that ‘Ugh!’ into an ‘Oh la la (or a “How you doin’?” if you’re Joey from Friends).

Frequently these different options can be combined to give you the best smile possible. Your Waldorf dentist, Dr. Silberman, will be able to consult with you to determine your best options, so if you’re looking for a smile that’ll make you smile, give us a call today.

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This blog was originally written for The Silberman Dental Group by Dr. Rebecca Triplett.


Share this article with someone who is self-conscious of his or her smile! They’ll thank you for it!

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