Here’s my tooth tale: Growing up in sunny Southern California, I was always outside having fun with my friends. A game of Marco Polo in the swimming pool when I was 9 caused me to hit my front two middle teeth on the bottom of the pool. The trauma deadened the nerve in one which stunted its growth and turned it a dark color. I spent my school years being embarrassed to smile and dreaded school picture day.
A New Smile
As an adult, preparing for my wedding, I allowed a dentist to file the tooth down and put a crown over it (a quick and inexpensive fix) but it still didn’t match the rest of my teeth, which also needed improving.
It wasn’t until many self-conscious years later when a cosmetic dentist became my client that I learned what my options were and made the investment in a smile makeover. Yes, it was a large investment but I could not believe how my new smile improved my appearance and confidence, which improved so many aspects of my life. Tooth shame had left me.
Teeth and Appearance
I’m often asked, “What’s one of the most impactful things I can do to improve my look?” If I’m not face to face with that person, I ask them to send a photo of themself smiling so I can see what their teeth look like. We often overlook the impact that our teeth have on our appearance. A lot of us see the usual annoyances in the mirror: wrinkles, droopy eyelids, crows feet, etc., and yes, those things affect our aesthetic, but when looking directly at and talking to someone, we tend to focus on the eyes and mouth. Attractive, healthy teeth make all the difference with first impressions.
Chew on This
A recent study by Kelton Research revealed that people appear to be financially and professionally successful, intelligent, healthy and happy when they have straight, healthy-looking teeth. The findings of the perception study confirmed the effect that bad teeth can have on one’s social life and how they are perceived by others. Nearly one-third of the participants said that the first characteristic of someone’s face they typically notice is their teeth, and 24 percent said that this is also the facial feature that they remember the most after meeting someone.
According to the study, when it comes to attracting a possible partner on a dating site, those with better teeth are seen as 57 percent more likely to get a date based on their picture alone.
I was chatting with a talented dentist friend of mine and asked him about some of the common problems we face with our teeth as we get older. He explained how aesthetics become compromised due to things like bruxism (grinding), attrition (normal wear and tear) and erosion (acid foods & drinks)…perhaps I should cut back on all the coffee, Diet Coke and margaritas I drink?
Gum recession is very common — where the gums pull back from the teeth — which not only looks bad but compromises periodontal health (things like nasty bacteria getting under the gum line). Correcting this is a process that may include a periodontist placing a tissue graph to restore gums to their normal position.
Shifting teeth is also common — as we get older our teeth have a tendency to shift and become uneven. Invisaligners can be instrumental in correcting this problem.
Invest in Your Smile
Considering that we are all living longer, the earlier you get started the better, and your tooth investment will be amortized over decades. Whether you need minor tweaks or a drastic smile makeover, the latest cosmetic techniques can improve your smile and more importantly, as I discovered, your self-esteem.
Good cosmetic dentists are trained to address dental imperfections in a way that’s natural-looking and attractive. They can repair chips, close a gap, replace a missing tooth, even out your gum line, and permanently whiten and straighten the look of your teeth. Don’t fall for TV commercials that say you can get an entire smile makeover “in one day.” Depending on the work needed, it can take several months to a year.
How To Tune Up Your Teeth
So how does one get a Julia Roberts mega-watt smile? Start with common sense.
Take good care of your teeth! Regular brushing and flossing does wonders. My dentist once told me, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.” Good dental hygiene will save you lots of time and trouble later in life. Replace your toothbrush regularly or better yet, get a motorized brush that will get up under the gum line. Sonicare makes several good varieties that run about $49 to $100.
Brighten it up! Whitening makes a big difference. There are dozens of options out there; drug store whitening strips (about $30) are a good place to start. If you’re like me and have years of coffee and red wine stains, you may need to go the professional route which can run from $250 for the system you bring home, to $500 or $600 for a treatment the dentist performs in their office.
I find that professional whitening gets the job done quicker and lasts a lot longer. Charcoal toothpaste is all the rage now for removing stains and whitening and is getting good reviews. Several types can be found on Amazon for $10 to $20.
Invisaligners. A good undercover way to straighten teeth that have shifted. Cost, depending on severity of alignment issues and time of treatment, can range from $3500 to $8000 and can take 1-2 years.
Full-smile Hollywood makeover. This usually involves porcelain veneers on 8 teeth across the front top & bottom of the mouth. In my case, I needed an implant for the “Marco Polo” front tooth as well, which extended the time of treatment to allow bone graft healing, setting of the metal post, etc. Total cost, including implant: About $20K
I did have a little sticker shock at first but for me, it was an investment I wish I made a lot sooner. If I live another 25 years, the $800 per year cost (less than my annual Starbucks tab) is more than worth the benefits I’ve received, which is certainly something to smile about.
Here to read about Aliza Sherman whose photo is featured above.
Here to read “My Age Related Tuneups”
Here to read “Plastic Confidential: Should you do cosmetic procedures?”