Smile Enhancement

Everyone knows the importance of a smile. Smiles are instinctive, a universal sign of friendliness that even newborns recognize. An attractive smile goes a long way in getting you what you land a job, and find love. Yet too often, our teeth deny us the benefits of a beautiful smile. They ruin our looks through discoloration, overlapping, crowding, gaps and chips. Fortunately, through cosmetic dentistry and/or orthodontics, all of these problems can be fixed.

Teeth Whitening
The number-one job of cosmetic dentistry today is whitening smiles darkened by coffee, tea, tobacco, red wine, or simply age. Whitening patients can choose from two routes to whiter teeth: at-home whitening or in-office whitening. At-home patients can choose from whitening toothpastes, peroxide strips, or at-home home bleaching kits.

    · Whitening toothpastes deep-clean your teeth, scrubbing away heavy stains on your enamel to make your teeth appear whiter. While the polishing agents in these toothpastes help restore your teeth to their original, pre-stain shade of white, they do not actually change the fundamental colour of your teeth. One exception is the Rembrandt line of toothpastes, which contains peroxide. These toothpastes actually oxidize and bleach your teeth.
    · Peroxide strips bleach your teeth through oxidization. Sit the strips against your teeth and for two thirty-minute intervals a day. The most popular peroxide strips are Crest Whitestrips, which whiten your teeth in fourteen days, and Crest Whitestrips Premium, which whiten your teeth in seven days.
    · At-home bleaching kits use carbamide peroxide solutions to oxidize and bleach your teeth. Mouth trays hold this solution in place against your teeth for a specified amount of time each day. You can purchase at-home bleaching kits from either your dentist or your local drugstore. If you purchase a kit from your dentist, he or she will create custom mouth trays based on molds of your teeth, then help you determine the duration of your treatment. If you purchase an "over-the-counter" kit, you might be asked to create your own mold of your teeth with provided material, send your molds away, and receive trays based on these molds within a few weeks. Or you might receive a one-size-fits-all mouth tray within the kit. (Dentists discourage one-size-fits-all kits as they likely will not fit snugly enough into your mouth, creating the risk of peroxide ingestion or gum irritation due to leaked gel. Use these products at your own risk.) The store-bought kits will include instructions on how long to wear your trays in order to whiten your smile.

For faster results, ask your dentist about in-office bleaching procedures (also called chairside, light-activated or one-hour bleaching). Using hydrogen peroxide gels and a heat or light source, these treatments lighten your teeth by six to eight shades in up to three visits, and sometimes less (hence the name "one-hour whitening"). Choose from one of two in-office options:

    · Traditional Light-Activated Whitening requires that your cosmetic dentist apply the hydrogen peroxide gel to your teeth, then position a lamp by your mouth such that the light shines on your teeth, quickening the work of the gel. Typically, these treatments consist of three twenty-minute gel applications.
    · Laser Whitening also requires that a hydrogen peroxide gel sits on your teeth. Instead of a lamp, your cosmetic dentist will shine a laser light on your teeth, one tooth at a time. Laser whitening allows for greater precision, but can cause some irritation to the gums. This irritation should disappear within twenty-four hours.

Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are thin shells of ceramic fitted over your existing teeth to create a beautiful, natural-looking smile. Though pricey—from $700 to $1,200 a tooth—veneers are long-lasting, natural-looking and, because they are custom-made based on your needs, can cover up all kinds of problem teeth: chips, overlaps, "short" teeth, crooked teeth, and gaps. Best of all, veneers come in beautiful shades of white, fixing any discoloration worries you might have for years to come. Popular among celebrities, porcelain veneers are your ticket to a Hollywood smile.

Veneers require three trips to your dentist: consultation, preparation, and application. During the preparation session, your cosmetic dentist buffs half a milimetre off your teeth to create room for the veneer, then creates a mold from which your veneers will be made. During the application session, your cosmetic dentist will give you a "trial fitting," then cement the veneers to your teeth.

Dentists recommend getting veneers done in "sets"—all six top teeth, from the right canine to the left canine, for example. Sets allow dentists and technicians to create a smile with consistent shape and colour. If the veneers are placed individually, then matching their shape and colour to the surrounding teeth can prove difficult.

Dental Braces
Braces can correct a variety of tooth alignment problems, including gaps, crowding, overlaps, rotations, and crooked teeth. Braces apply pressure on the teeth to shift into a straighter, more attractive position. Usually, braces consist of brackets glued on to the teeth, and a wire. The wire puts tension on the teeth, forcing them to move, and the brackets hold the wire together. Orthodontists will sometimes request that teeth be pulled to make room for the new alignment.

The duration of the orthodontic treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Typically, a patient wears braces for up to two years. Once the braces are removed, a removable retainer holds the newly shifted teeth in place for the first few months after treatment.

Individuals who require braces but are worried about their appearance can consider ceramic brackets, translucent stain-resistant brackets that blend in with natural teeth colour, or Invisalign, a series of plastic transparent removable aligners that pressure the teeth into place and eliminate the need for brackets and wires. Note that Invisalign can be up to 50% more expensive than bracket braces. It also may not work for more complex orthodontic cases.

Those who want fast results may want to consider accelerated orthodontics, an emerging field in cosmetic dentistry requiring the teamwork of several specialists. This process is a combination of lingual braces and periodontal surgery. Note that some insurance policies will not cover the cost of accelerated orthodontics. As well, due to the speed at which changes are happening in your mouth, this process can at times be painful.

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