Best Tips and Tools to Whiten Your Smile
Turn back time with the latest lip enhancers, tooth whiteners, and more.
By Abbie Kozolchyk
You can easily romanticize a few laugh lines (hey - every wrinkle is but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life, according to Dickens). But time's effects on your smile can be considerably harder to write off, no matter how talented the scribe. There's the yellowing or graying of teeth, the thinning of lips, the appearance of lip lines...and the list goes on. On the bright side, home tools that fight tooth discoloration (to say nothing of the latest in-office procedures) are getting ultra high-tech, and there are plenty of low-tech anti-aging essentials, too. Read on for these, plus top dermatologist and makeup-artist tips for adding major spark - and sparkle - to your smile.
Tooth Care (Or Consequences)
However unsexy, nuts-and-bolts dental hygiene is key to keeping your smile young-looking. "Your teeth control the lower third of your face," says New York City dentist Michael Apa, D.D.S. Their gradual wearing down and shifting with age contributes to the formation of frown lines and the hollowing of the cheeks. Tooth decay and loss only exacerbate these issues. In addition to what you already know (brush at least twice a day, floss once a day, and see a dentist regularly), here are some things you may not:
1. Rinse your mouth after every meal or glass of wine - red or white. "White wine has acids that penetrate the enamel, allowing staining and decaying food particles to penetrate more easily," says New York City dentist and Supersmile creator Irwin Smigel, D.D.S. Red, by contrast, creates only superficial staining. But whatever you eat or drink, a subtle swishing and swallowing of water right away at the table helps minimize residue, staining, and tooth decay, says Smigel.
2. Chew sugarless gum. "As you age, your salivary glands shrink and produce less saliva, which is a natural antimicrobial that helps prevent decay," says Smigel. "But gum chewing restimulates the flow."
3. Floss down into your gums, not just between your teeth. Plaque and bacteria can get stuck in those voids, causing inflammation and decay.
4. Ask your dentist to check the state of your fillings. "Every filling eventually has to be replaced," says New York City dentist Marc Lowenberg, D.D.S. Silver, or amalgam, lasts between 10 and 20 years, so your childhood dental work may be overdue for replacement. Fresh fillings can help prevent tooth decay and loss - and, down the road, root canals and implants.
5. Consider orthodontics if your teeth have shifted significantly. "Your jaw is shifting along with your teeth," says Apa. "Left unchecked, the situation can create a collapsed look" (think Disney's Evil Queen disguised as the old lady in Snow White). Invisalign or behind-the-teeth braces are the subtlest options for grown-ups. Ranging from $3,500 to $8,000, the investment for them isn't small. But the long-term payoff is big.