Makeover your smile

By at home

You may not have mastered how to wear the latest fashions, but you can still wear a great smile.

Looking good is about knowing what to wear and how to carry it off so that you exude maximum confidence. But it’s not all about clothes. You could well be parading around in the latest designer rags, but if you then smile to reveal yellow, chipped teeth, you’re hardly going to look a million dollars. Which is why, in the world of celebrity, it is just as important to have sparkling white teeth as the latest fashion accessories.

The good news is that there’s no need to hide away from the world if your pearly whites are less than perfect. From minor procedures such as tooth whitening to the more complex crowns, bridges, veneers and multiple dental implants, there is a whole range of things you can do now to fix the problem.

If your teeth are cracked, broken, stained or crooked, missing, chipped, rough or if you have gum decay, unsightly fillings or an uneven bite, a good cosmetic dentist can solve your problems.

Just be aware that the procedures are practised by highly trained professionals who aren’t shy when it comes to billing you. So do your research, see if someone you know can refer you to a dentist they’re happy with, and if you need loads of work done, haggle!

Banish unsightly irregularities

These are placed over the front teeth to change their colour and/or shape. Veneers are ideal for teeth that are too small, too big, or have uneven surfaces. It is very common for people to have oddly shaped, chipped, or crooked teeth, or an inappropriate sized tooth or teeth that have an odd appearance.

Veneers solve such irregularities and create a durable and pleasing smile. Often an alternative to crowns, veneers are very thin pieces of porcelain or plastic glued over the front of the teeth. Little or no anesthesia is needed. Unlike crowns, veneers don’t require the dentist to remove much of the tooth.

Created from an impression taken in the dentist’s office, veneers are glued directly to the tooth. Less costly than crowns, veneers won’t stain, making them popular with people seeking a perfect smile. They last from 10 to 15 years.

Fill the gaps for a better look and protect other teeth at the same time

If you have missing teeth and good oral hygiene practices, discuss this procedure with your dentist. If spaces are left unfilled, they may cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position. Additionally, spaces from missing teeth can cause other teeth and gums to become susceptible to decay and disease. If you have a space from a missing tooth, a bridge will be custom made to fill in the space with a false tooth. The false tooth is attached by the bridge to the two other teeth around the space – bridging them together.

You’ll be given a mild anaesthetic and your cosmetic dentist will prepare the teeth on either side of the space for the false tooth. An impression will be made, which will serve as the model for the bridge, false tooth and crowns. A temporary bridge will be worn in the meantime.

Strengthen and brighten in one go Grinding your teeth, an improper bite, age, fillings and tooth decay can all contribute to the wearing down, cracking or breakage of teeth. Dental crowns cover the visible surface of the affected tooth and add strength, durability and stability.

Your cosmetic dentist can usually spot problem areas that might lead to tooth damage and the need for crowns. Chewing patterns play a big role too. By selectively grinding the tips of your middle and back teeth you can alter your bite to reduce the stress on at-risk teeth.

Crowns can also be used to replace a missing tooth. They will be anchored to the teeth on either side, with a bridge section connecting the two crowns. Instead of bridges, single tooth dental implants may be used, eliminating the need for supporting the crowns.

Your cosmetic dentist will make an impression of the tooth and a dental laboratory will create the crown. You are likely to leave the surgery with a temporary crown until the permanent one is made (about two weeks) and then cemented onto the tooth. Due to loss of the original tooth structure a filling must first be put in place to stabilise the tooth. Crowns last 10 to 15 years.

Check with your dentist that the cement colour used for the permanent crown will be the same as for the temporary one. A trial paste is used for this purpose. The colour of the cement affects the overall colour of a porcelain crown, so this needs to be discussed in advance.

Nothing will make you want to smile more than a pearly white set of teeth

Your dentist will explain the tooth whitening procedure as part of an initial consultation. He or she will then evaluate your teeth before deciding which whitening method is best. An impression of your teeth will be made so a tray can be created to fit your mouth perfectly.

As your mouth needs to be healthy to get the best out of tooth whitening, you may need to have a little work done, or have a visit to the hygienist before whitening begins. Whitening only whitens real teeth, so if you have crowns or bridges in the area to be treated, they may need to be replaced once the process is finished. But your dentist will discuss this with you before beginning any treatment.

Depending on the type and severity of tooth discolouration, whitening can take between five and 14 days, although it can be longer in some cases. Most of the tooth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide. The ‘dentist supervised’ kits contain carbamide peroxide which breaks down to hydrogen peroxide, which further breaks down into oxygen and water. The oxygen penetrating inside the tooth makes the tooth whiter.

There can be a degree of sensitivity while having the treatment, but if you are terrified of any pain, your dentist will be able to advise on the methods to reduce this.

Teeth can be whitened at the dental surgery using Illumine Office, or, if you prefer, at home using kits like the Dentsply Illumine Home kit where you treat yourself in the comfort of your own home using the pre-mixed gel and tray given to you by your dentist; dentists can often recommend a combination of Illumine Office at their dental surgery followed by Illumine Home kits as a follow-up, during which your progress will be monitored by your dentist.

Correct your bite and your look
These are used to help move teeth into a better functional or cosmetic position. They can also influence jaw growth if timed early. Malocclusion is the dental term for teeth that don’t fit together properly.

The size of teeth and how they fit a person’s jaw are inherited traits, but habits like thumb-sucking can put pressure on teeth and cause a malocclusion. Missing teeth can cause a bad bite to develop as other teeth shift, throwing off the bite.

An uncorrected malocclusion can affect a person’s appearance, contribute to tooth decay, bone destruction, jaw joint problems and headaches. Correcting your bite with orthodontic braces can improve your health and your smile.

Gok says…
‘How to Look Good Naked’s famous army of gorgeous testers went and tried out various DIY teeth whitening products on the market. The one that came out top was Pearl Drops Replenishing White which was voted one of the top beauty products of 2007. Always consult your dentist first.’

photographs: shutterstock, istock

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