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    How to Create a Better Smile

    Hate smiling for photos – or smiling at all? Your dentist can help.
    By
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by Eric Yabu, DDS

    Many people consider their smile one of their best assets. But what if you're embarrassed to smile?

    Chipped, crooked, or discolored teeth can do more than ruin a picture-perfect moment. "Beauty is based on symmetry, and having teeth that are asymmetrical, crowded, or misshapen throws off that symmetry," says Kellee N. Stanton, DDS, who has a practice in Eagan, Minn. She says misaligned teeth even keep some people from achieving their personal and professional goals.

    Recommended Related to Oral Health

    How to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Visit

    As president of Charles River Dental in Boston, Mark A.H. Sivers, DMD, aims to make dental care as positive, painless, and downright relaxing as possible -- complete with warm neck wraps, eye pillows, and paraffin hand treatments to distract you from the business at hand. "If you find going to the dentist a painful or scary thing, that means you need to find a new dentist," he says. Sivers shares these words of wisdom. If your dental cleaning takes less time than a sitcom, it's not thorough enough...

    Read the How to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Visit article > >

    What do you do if you're unhappy with your smile? You could start by whitening, one of the most popular cosmetic dentistry procedures. "It makes such a big difference," Stanton says. "Crooked or misshapen teeth that are whitened can dramatically improve your smile." You can whiten your teeth at your dentist's office or use trays with a professional-strength gel at home. The results are often dramatic, lightening teeth by several shades, Stanton says. A dentist-whitened smile can last for years if you maintain it by using your trays about once a month.

    For broken or chipped teeth, you have several options. Bonding fills in chips and gaps with a hard, tooth-colored material. More durable are crowns, porcelain "caps" that slide over the entire damaged tooth, or veneers, thin pieces of porcelain laminate that cover only part of the tooth. Your dentist can also reshape your smile by removing some of the gum lying over your teeth, a procedure called gingivectomy.

    To save money, you could combine cosmetic dentistry with orthodontics. First you wear braces to straighten your teeth, then your dentist only has to restore the few teeth that braces can't fix instead of cosmetically altering your whole smile.

    If you're considering cosmetic dentistry, ask your dentist to give you a preview of your post-procedure smile with a digital simulation.

    Reviewed on July 15, 2012

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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