How to improve your smile

How To Improve My Smile

The most popular methods for improving your smile are:

  1. Bleaching (Whitening)


       Braces are a common method of changing one’s appearance. 20% of today’s patients are adults. They are usually placed by an orthodontist or a experienced general dentist. Orthodontics is the dental field that involves the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems caused by poorly positioned teeth. When teeth are out of position they sometimes look unaesthetic but also are more susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease and dental decay. A poor bite can also stress your jaw joints (TMJs) and muscles and cause pain.

       There are different types of treatments to correct the position of teeth. There are fixed and removable appliances. These appliances gently move the teeth and bone until they are in a desirable position. The most common type of fixed appliance is ‘braces’. The braces consist of a bracket, made out of plastic, metal or ceramics, and an arch wire which connects them. The teeth are moved by adjusting the pressures on the teeth by the archwire. Sometimes, springs or rubber bands are used to help. In certain instances the brackets can be placed on the lingual or inside surface of the teeth so they are less visible. These braces are tightened periodically and some discomfort is felt at that time.

       Invisalign or Orthoclear are two alternatine to conventional braces.  They utilize a series of clear trays (like a bleaching tray) to move the teeth.  Every 2 weeks or so you change the tray to achieve more movement. Talk to your dentist to see if you are a candidate for this type of treatment.

       The length of time it takes to move the teeth to the desired location varies from person to person. The average is from 18 months to 30 months for children and may be longer for adults. The time depends on the difficulty of the case, the amount of room available, the distance the teeth must travel, the cooperativity of the patient and the bone and the age of the patient. In some adults braces can’t correct the problem and a jaw surgery is necessary. After the braces come off a removable retainer is used to keep the teeth from moving back to their original positions. This retainer must be used. Sometimes it is still used years after the braces come off.


       Bonding is the term used when a dentist ‘bonds’ a tooth colored resin onto the tooth to repair a fractured, worn or chipped tooth, cover up a discoloration on a tooth, or close a small space or gap between two teeth. The dentist lightly prepares the tooth to receive the material and etches the surface so the material has more surface area to bond to. He coats the tooth with a bonding liquid and then shines a light on the tooth to set it. He then places the putty like material on the tooth and shapes it to the desires shape and then shines a light on the tooth again to harden the material. After it is set he trims and polishes the resin to a luster. This can be performed in one or more appointments depending on the number of teeth involved.

       Bonding usually lasts from 3 to 5 years and before needing to be repaired. Because the material is a plastic resin it is not as strong as your natural teeth and can be chipped or broken, if not careful. The material is also porous and eventually will pick up stains. The bonded surface will wear and get duller in appearance after a while unless special toothpastes are used. Proper home care and professional cleanings will keep your restored teeth healthy. Bonding not only restores your tooth but also helps to improve your appearance and self-confidence. People are sometimes hesitant to smile because of the way their front teeth look, after bonding they can smile freely again.

Bleaching (Whitening)

       A popular method for treating moderately stained or discolored teeth is bleaching. These stains often can not be removed with regular professional cleanings. The most popular methods of bleaching are the at-home method and the in-office method. There are a few good products out on the market that are dispensed by dentists. I do not suggest to use the off the shelf variety. They can cause more harm than good.


       The two most popular types are Zoom (1,2 and the latest APL) and BriteSmile.  They both involve sitting in the dentist office for about 1.5 hours.  The mouth is prepared so no bleaching agent touches anything but the teeth and the mouth is protected from the light.  The actual bleaching time is 45-60 minutes and you can get 6-10 shades lighter.  Some dentists will give you trays to use as touch-up for future use. Average cost is $350 -600.

At home:

       First, the dentist makes a mold of your teeth and makes a custom mouthtray. The mouthtray will hold the bleaching material against the tooth surface without concentrating the agent on the gum tissue. If the material contacts the gum tissue to long the gum tissue can be irritated or even burned. The tray is worn 1/2 hour to 2 hours per day and a noticible improvement usually takes place within 2 weeks. Some bleaching agents say you can wear them all night but your teeth may get very sensitive after doing this. You may continue using the product until you reach your desired whiteness. Sometimes you can not achieve the desired whiteness and will have to settle for something less. The dentist may have you come in periodically to check the progress and the reaction to the gum tissue, if any. After you have lightened your teeth, you may need to periodically (once every couple of months) bleach them for a session to keep the whiteness. Average cost is $200-300 per arch (top or bottom).

Porcelain Laminate Veneers

Before and After Photos

       Veneers or Porcelain Laminate Veneers are the strongest way to repair a broken portion of your tooth. They are used to correct the same things as bonding does. They can cover up discoloration, repair a damaged tooth or change the shape or size of your teeth. They are much stronger than bonding. They will not pick up stain like bonding does. They will retain their luster, unlike bonding. They will usually last 4 or more years. I have seen them last 20 years.

Some veneers can be made with little or no preparation of the teeth.  This will increase the thickness of the teeth and not everyone is a candidate for this no-prep veneer.  Ask your entist if you are.

       Ideally, models of your teeth can be waxed-up so one can see the size and shape of the final product before any preparation has been started. This is a two appointment procedure. The first appointment is the preparation phase. A small amount of enamel is removed off the front of the tooth and an impression is made. The impression is sent to the lab and the lab makes a front of the tooth, much like a false fingernail, out of porcelain. The dentist tries in, bonds, trims and polishes the veneers at the next appointment. The seating is usually a time consuming appointment and can last for hours. But usually quite worth the wait.

       Compared to crowns, veneers are a more conservative method for restoring a moderately fractured tooth. They average from $750 to $2000 per tooth. Make sure you select a dentist that has the proper training to do an excellent job.  Make sure your dentist shows you photos of actual cases that they have performed to see the quality of their work.