Do you find it easy to smile naturally and comfortably? Or do you hide your smile behind your hand? Perhaps you’ve even changed how you smile, using your lips to cover more of your teeth? If you hide or change your smile, you’re certainly not alone. It is not unusual for many individuals to feel self-conscious about their smile. This is especially true if the individual feels that there are any sorts of imperfections in their smile, such as cracked, crooked or discolored teeth. Fortunately, there are many different cosmetic dentistry and orthodontic options that can help you to improve your smile, improving both the aesthetics and the function of this critical body part.
The Basics of How to Improve Smiles
Depending upon your specific situation and the issues you are hoping to resolve, your dentist or orthodontist will discuss which cosmetic dentistry or orthodontic procedures will work best to improve your smile. Among the many options are:
- Teeth whitening. You have undoubtedly noticed that there are countless teeth whitening products on the market today, each one promising better results than the next. Unfortunately, these over-the-counter products are not often as safe and effective as professional whitening procedures. With professional whitening procedures, teeth that have become stained or discolored due to smoking, medication and certain foods and beverages can be bleached back to their natural white. The two primary professional whitening options include in-office whitening and at-home whitening, where your dentist applies bleach to your teeth and leaves it on for anywhere from one to two hours, or provides you with custom mouthpiece trays and a bleach solution to use at home. In-office whitening normally takes one or two visits to achieve the desired results, whereas at-home whitening normally takes several weeks to achieve the desired results. Either procedure will require additional treatment in the future, especially if you continue to consume the foods and beverages that cause staining.
- Bonding. Composite resins, such as those used to fill in small cavities, can also be used to fill in gaps between teeth, or to repair the appearance of teeth that are chipped, cracked or stained. Bonding can last for several years before needing to be replaced.
- Veneers. Dental veneers are very thin plastic shells that are placed over the front surfaces of the teeth in order to improve their appearance by changing their color, size or shape. They are often recommended for teeth that have gaps between them, that are chipped or worn down, permanently stained, misshapen or crooked. In order to receive veneers, your dentist first prepares the tooth and then takes an impression of it. This impression will be used to make your custom veneer, which will be cemented over the front of your tooth. He will then use a special dental light to “cure”, or harden the cement and secure the veneer in place.
- Crowns. Also known as caps, crowns are used to cover a tooth in order to restore its normal shape and appearance. This is useful for teeth that are misshapen, discolored, weak, broken, worn, containing a large filling, helping hold a dental bridge, or the recipient of a root canal. They can also cover dental implants to make them more aesthetic and functional. Crowns are custom-made based on the impression taken of the prepared tooth, and are made from metal, porcelain fused to metal, resin or ceramic. Temporary crowns are often placed until permanent crowns are able to be placed.
- Enamel shaping and contouring. Through enamel shaping and contouring techniques, your dentist can improve the appearance of your teeth. This can be particularly useful for crooked or overlapping teeth, chipped or irregular teeth and minor bite problems.
- Braces. Braces have come a long way over the years, and are still one of the most effective ways to resolve irregular bites, crooked jaw positioning, jaw joint disorders and crooked or crowded teeth. Due to expert placement, braces can apply the exactly appropriate type of pressure and thereby reposition the teeth over a period of time–usually a few months to a year depending upon the specific situation.
- Clear aligners. Used as an alternative to braces where the repositioning that is needed is minor, clear aligners can also steadily move the teeth into a better position. However, they are less visible and can be removed for eating and teeth brushing, so are often considered a desirable alternative to traditional metal braces.
If you have any questions about how to improve your smile, contact us today.