What is the first thing you notice about a person when you meet them for the first time? Think about it. Is it their clothes or hairstyle? Chances are it’s their smile. While people seek cosmetic dentistry for different reasons, the fact remains that it can erase years from your appearance. For some people, who’ve tolerated yellowed, discolored, chipped, cracked or misaligned teeth their whole lives, they just want to stop feeling self-conscious about it. Long term it can erode a person’s self-esteem and affect their self-confidence.
As we age, teeth can become yellowed or discolored. Stained teeth can even occur from drinking wine, coffee or tea, by smoking and by certain medications such as tetracycline. But you can reverse the signs of an aging smile with cosmetic dentistry. One accessible and easy option is teeth whitening or bleaching. If you’re a candidate for whitening, you now have two options available:
Often called chairside bleaching, this treatment does require one visit to the dentist where a protective gel hardened into a rubber shield is used to protect your gums. At this point a bleaching solution, often made with 35% hydrogen peroxide and a high-intensity light begin the oxidation process. Sometimes a laser or a plasma arc light are used and are proven just as effective in whitening teeth since it accelerates the action of the bleaching solution. A patient can have a smile four to six shades lighter within one hour.
Whiteners, containing peroxide, can actually bleach the tooth’s surface. This whitening solution is a gel with 10 to 20 % carbamine peroxide that is used in combination with a fitted tray. Generally, a patient simply places a ribbon of the gel into the tray and wears it while sleeping. Patients see results in as little as one to two weeks.
Straighten Teeth with Braces
As we age, teeth can shift become crowded or misaligned. Braces or orthodontic treatment can correct bad bites, crowding or crooked teeth. And contrary to popular belief, orthodontics can be completed at any age as long as the teeth being treated are healthy. Orthodontic treatment plans can take anywhere from one to three years followed by a retainer which holds the new “bite” position in place for one year. Today’s braces are quite different from the metal-wired braces worn years ago. New materials allow patients to have “clear” braces which are designed to look more like the natural color of teeth. New materials means new customized orthodontic treatments that combine technology with 3-D imaging, and software for faster more efficient results. Other new treatments that have gained a lot of buzz are clear removable aligners, called Invisalign ® brand, can be used for simple cases where the braces match the color of the teeth, but also gradually move the teeth into their final position. This type of orthodontic treatment is not recommended if extractions, palate expansion or jaw surgery is required as part of the treatment.
Composite Fillings or Replacement Fillings
Every time you laugh or smile, someone sees dark silver fillings, also called amalgam fillings. Many dentists now use composite fillings made of a mixture of glass or quartz filler rather than metal fillings, which can crack, fracture and discolor over time. Tooth-colored composites are not only aesthetically pleasing, but chemically bond to the tooth structure for additional support. Using composite filling means less of the tooth structure is removed, as compared to using amalgam fillings which require a larger space to hold metal fillings.
Porcelain veneers are the best option to treating teeth that have been worn down, or that have become misaligned, uneven, irregularly shaped, overcrowded or even discolored. While veneers made of a resin composite are available, perhaps the most recommended are porcelain veneers because gum tissue tolerates porcelain well, resist staining and it also happens to be the most conservative approach to changing the shape or color of your teeth. Best of all, no special oral hygiene care is required, making this an easy way to change the appearance of your smile without surgery or heavy braces.
To the outside world and your self-confidence, nothing is more important than a beautiful and natural smile that takes years off your appearance. Cosmetic dentistry now makes it easier than ever.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
I hope this this post has been helpful!
So until next time,
Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD