One of the most common requests from my clients is, “Doctor, is there a way I can change my smile?”
There are many ways to transform the smile. With any journey that we embark there must be a destination in mind. So, I will lay out some basic ideas to consider if you decide to transform your smile.
What smile do I want?
We all have different and unique smiles. However, there are fundamental principles to a beautiful smile:
The teeth are present- Missing teeth will affect your smile. The top front six teeth are the most critical. In fact, in dentistry, we call them the “social six”, as they are the most featured in your smile.
The teeth are white- This is the current cultural western norm. However, the degree of desired whiteness and brightness does vary from individual to individual. Some would prefer a “natural white” while others may want (some call) “toilet bowl white”. The common desire is that the teeth are all evenly white or whiter.
The teeth are straight- The desired smile would include white teeth in alignment (not crooked) without noticeable gaps or significant asymmetry.
The gums and lips are symmetrical- This is not thought about enough. The lips and gums frame the white and straight teeth. If the “framing” is not quite right, the appearance of the smile will not look as good as it can.
What can I do to get the smile I want?
If your teeth are misaligned and crooked, with gaps or overlaps, straightening your teeth may be the first consideration before even whitening of teeth. Sometimes, whiter crooked teeth may appear more noticeable. However, braces have been a conventional treatment for decades. Clear aligner therapy, such as Invisalign or Clear Correct, may be the process to straighter teeth.
Replacing Missing Teeth
You have the choice of having dental implants, bridges or dentures.
Dental implants replace the tooth’s missing root, and a crown will sit on the implant to create a whole anatomical tooth. It will give you the closest to the natural replacement of your missing teeth. They are durable.
Bridges can also replace the missing tooth but without replacing the root of the tooth. It is made by using teeth adjacent to the missing tooth to cover the gap. The bridge is usually less expensive and can appear very natural. It is a good alternative if dental implants are not possible.
Dentures are the most known for teeth replacement. They have been around for ages, for centuries in fact. They are relatively inexpensive and removable. If you have many missing teeth, dentures can be an option. Traditionally, they were known to be uncomfortable and embarrassingly wobbly and natural in the mouth. Dentures can sometimes be made with some dental implants to create a very secure denture that is comfortable to use.
You can whiten your teeth in a few different ways.
At home, teeth whitening toothpastes or over-the-counter whitening kits may be able to brighten your teeth slightly.
If more drastic change is desired, you can use a professional take-home kit or a chair side whitening procedure at the dental office. These will give you a more convenient result.
Teeth whitening using is a good place to start though there are limitations. You need to have healthy enamel that is decay-free to benefit from teeth whitening.
If your teeth are internally discoloured, teeth whitening may have a limited effect.
Also, if the teeth are chipped, defective or deformed, then whiter teeth need to be further supplemented with composite bondings or veneers to get you a beautiful smile.
Veneers may be possible if the desired colour cannot be achieved by conservative means.
Veneers are full facings of either ceramic or composite resin used to correct the colour and shapes of the teeth to achieve a beautiful smile. Depending on how white you need your teeth to be, you may require multiple veneers. Typically, the number of veneers can range from two to twenty. It really depends on your goals.
Sometimes, crowns are required to get to your desired smile. For example, they are needed if your teeth are broken down, or you want the colour change to be drastic.
What will it cost me?
Costs need to be considered and divided into two categories: financial and biological costs.
You will want to consider the most conservative, least invasive procedures first. Then consider how much time and money you would like to commit to achieving your desired smile. You may be surprised about what you can achieve.
Speak to your dentist(s) about your options, but know what you ultimately want most importantly. It may take a few weeks to a few years to get there, so don’t rush. Be comfortable with the risks and benefits of all your options, then decide.
Dr Bernard Siew (BDS, Adelaide) is a general dentist with special interest in restorative and cosmetic dentistry. His focus is in restorative solutions to worn and broken teeth due to lifestyle or environmental problems. He is passionate about minimally invasive dentistry and advocates patient education and participation in their oral health.