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How to Create a Better Smile

Hate smiling for photos – or smiling at all? Your dentist can help.
By
WebMD the 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

When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist?

Q. How old should my child be before I make his first dental appointment? A. You should take him in by the time he celebrates his first birthday. First visits are mostly about getting kids used to the dentist's chair and educating parents about how to care for baby's teeth. If your child has transitioned from the bottle to cup and doesn't snack or drink in the middle of the night, you get a one-year pass, until age 2. That's when the standard every-six-month dental visit recommendation...

Read the When Should I Take My Child to the Dentist? 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

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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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