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.
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.