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Would you like to be that person who walks into and room and lights it up with your picture-perfect smile?
In addition to being a sign of attractiveness, smiling is a very powerful expression. This simple facial movement can raise one’s spirits and make those around them happy – it’s also said to be highly contagious. Unfortunately, the majority of us are not born with a dazzling set of chompers as often shown on the cover of magazines.
In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that many of the those Hollywood A-list celebrities who grace the red carpet and glossy publications have logged several hours in a dentist chair over the years. Being a dentist with a special interest in cosmetic dentistry, I find myself constantly evaluating peoples smiles. I have noticed many younger actors who did not have the best smiles in their earlier films, but then once they became well known, they have their teeth done. In some cases, their teeth were done well and someone who had not seen them from before would not know. However, in other cases I have seen celebrities who have had less than ideal cosmetic work on their teeth and it is quite obvious.
For those who are unhappy with their teeth, it’s never too late for a smile makeover.
Cosmetic dental treatments can vary from changing the size, shape, and alignment of certain teeth to improving or correcting bites, filling in unattractive spaces, brightening discoloured enamel –just to name a few.
While there’s the option of transforming your entire mouth, you may only need to do some of your teeth. Let’s take a closer look at what makes a perfect smile and how you can achieve it.
What Makes a Perfect Smile?
When it comes to determining whether you have a beautiful, picture-perfect smile, there are some key factors to keep in mind:
- Are your teeth bright and free from stains?
- Are they reasonably symmetrical and straight?
- Do they follow the alignment of your (lower) lips?
- Do they fill in the spaces between the lips and cheeks?
- Do they all look like they belong together or does one or two stick out like a sore thumb?
Simply looking in the mirror may not give you all the answers you need. Instead, have someone take some close-up photos of your smile as well as some head and neck photos. When looking from the front and the side, how many teeth show when you smile? Are your teeth too long, too short, sticking out or just not visible at all. We also have to look at the gum height and symmetry as this will also affect how our teeth and smile will look. Note: most people will show 8-10 teeth on average when they smile, unless of course you happen to be Julia Roberts.
Step by Step Process – Cosmetic Dentistry
The first thing that we have to consider is what are your expectations. Do you want your teeth to be dazzling (Hollywood) white, perfectly straight, bright but natural looking etc? If you are not sure clip out some photos from magazines to show your dentist. Having an understanding of what your expectations are will help us to determine what needs to be done and whether or not your expectations are realistic.
We also will take photographs and models so that we can both see just how many teeth show when you smile, to evaluate what needs to be done and how many teeth will be involved. For example, if all of your teeth are very good in size, colour and shape but one or two are less than ideal, we can often just treat those two teeth provided you are happy with the others. But if these few teeth are not made in a way to match the others, you may end up with a few beautiful looking teeth that look like they do not belong.
This person had very white, straight and generally good looking teeth with an attractive smile, with the slight exception that the front teeth were chipped. Very thin porcelain veneers were placed on the front teeth and they were made to be just a little bit whiter. This slight difference made the back teeth almost disappear and the front teeth to stand out too much.
This effect was remedied/reduced by composite bonding on the bicuspid teeth to fill the space in the back (what we call the buccal corridor).
An example is someone who has back teeth that are very discoloured, short or generally unattractive. If the front teeth are done when the person smiles the new teeth will stick out like a sore thumb. This is particularly evident when someone sees you from the side. That is why it is good to look at profiel and 45’ angled photos. In some cases the back teeth initially look quite good, but if the front teeth are made even a little bigger and or brighter all of a sudden the back teeth will seem to “disappear” and it may look like the person does not have any back teeth.
This patient initially came in wanting cosmetic work on the front four teeth only in order to reduce the costs. Her desire was to close the gap and to make the teeth whiter, more uniform and remove the white specks. Doing only four teeth would have been a mistake as she wanted very white teeth and the front four would have stuck out like a sore thumb against the canine teeth. after front We ended up placing porcelain veneers on the front six teeth after we were able to show how only four teeth would look. It gave us a lot more flexibility and liberty with respect to size shape and colour and allowed her to have the white smile she was hoping for.
But one more thing we need to point out was that if we had left it to only the front six teeth, when she smiled the first bicuspid would really stand out especially when people see her smiling from a side view. In order to maintain the aesthetics and symmetry and at the same time keep costs down, we placed composite filling (bonding) on the first bicuspids. Ideally, I would have liked to bond the second bicuspid as well as it does show a bit when you look at her smile from the front, but she chose not to for the sake of saving costs.
As mentioned above, an attractive smile has ideal symmetry from left-to-right and from front-to-back. Therefore if you were to just do the front teeth and neglect the back teeth there may be a lack of symmetry which may cause the front teeth to stand out and look fake.
Lower teeth may not be an issue because they usually don’t show as much as the rest –in reality they usually are ½ to one full shade darker in colour. In many cases, you can get away with leaving the lower teeth as they are or simply bleaching them to freshen up your smile.
However, if there is to be a major difference between brightness of upper and lower teeth, it may be necessary to whiten the lowers with some composite (white filling material) bonding.
In this situation we not only had to replace two missing front teeth with implants we had to rebuild the gum tissue to a more natural contour, as well as do some further work on both the upper back and lower teeth for overall function, health as well as aesthetics.
Cosmetic Dentistry’s Alternative ‘Cheaper’ Options
Dental Teeth Bonding
Although almost all white materials (porcelain and white fillings) are bonded to the teeth, when we use the term bonding most dentists are referring to using a white filling material to cover the front surface of a tooth as opposed to porcelain. This is often a less expensive alternative as there is no laboratory cost for the porcelain veneer or crown.
It can be much more difficult and challenging however as the material itself has certain limitations and the outcome is dependent on the dentist having a keen aesthetic eye and the skills necessary to deliver an excellent result. Bonding generally will not last as long as it is more fragile and prone to staining, so you have to expect to touch up or replace it every 5 to 7 years.
Bleaching your teeth can also make a big impact if the only issue is tooth colour. Bleaching can help to restore the whiteness that can erode with time. Depending on the actual colour of your teeth they may or may not whiten very well with bleaching. Teeth that are more uniform in colour, no “blotches” or cracks and that are mainly yellow will whiten very well with bleaching. Gray, brown, orange teeth or those stained by tetracycline will not bleach very well. And teeth which have a lot of spots, cracks or combination of colours may whiten only to increase the contrast between the whiter enamel and the cracks/spots etc. making them look even worse.
When it comes to a ‘toothy transformation,’ there are numerous ways to a brighter, more attractive smile. Come in for a consultation and we’ll help you decide which option is best for your smile and your budget.