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 What's in a Smile 
 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Integrative Dentistry by . View all columns in series
The Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry recently reported when men and women were asked how important is it to have an attractive smile, interesting responses were obtained. Nine out of ten men and women agreed that an attractive smile is an important social asset. Nearly 89% of men and women said they always remember someone with an especially attractive smile. About 75% of adults agreed that an un-attractive smile might hurt someone's chances for a successful career. Nearly 90% said an un-attractive smile makes a person less appealing to people of the opposite sex. Many agreed that the first thing they noticed about a person was their smile.

Self-confidence is another outcome of radiating a beautiful, healthy, smile. How does one know what's in their smile or what their smile is projecting to others? It's very simple, just look in a mirror and see how your smile appears. If you have to hold your lip a certain way to hide your teeth or every time you smile, your hand goes in front of your mouth, then your smile may need improvement. Or when you look in the mirror and your immediate focus goes to your teeth because they are discolored, crooked, or chipped, then your may also need a smile make-over.

With improved technology, cosmetic dentistry has a wide variety of techniques to improve a person's smile. Tooth whitening is the simplest way if you have discolored teeth. It gives your teeth a brighter appearance, rather quickly and very painlessly. Tooth whitening can be done in the dental office or the patient can take it home to do it him or herself. The dentist using high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, which is left on the teeth from 15 minutes to 1 hour, does the in-office method. With the in-home technique, a custom tray is worn through the night or for limited periods during the day. The at-home whitening agent is made with a low concentration of carbamide peroxide, which is a form of hydrogen peroxide. There may be some sensitivity using either technique for a temporary time. The sensitivity usually goes away within 15 min to a day. Fluoride paste used after applying the whitening decreases the risk of sensitivity.

If you have severely stained teeth, such as is the result of medications having been taken at childhood, then the in-office whitening performed by the dentist is the way to go. The cost for the whitening, whether it is the take-home type given by the dentist or the in-office type done by your dentist varies from $250.00 to $500.00 per arch, depending on what part of the country you live in. There are of course, the many bleaching products that are sold in the stores or seen on infomercials. These, as a rule, are not reliable since they are not accountable to any regulatory group. In fact, the FDA at times takes one or more of them off the shelf at the stores, but unfortunately they return with a different label.

If you do have crooked, chipped teeth, just whitening your teeth won't be enough. Porcelain veneers are the exceptional alternative to crooked, chipped teeth. Porcelain veneers last for many years and require minimal drilling on the teeth. They have a very natural appearance and never stain. A veneer is a thin shell made of porcelain (approximately 1/8 of a millimeter thick) that bonds to the front of the tooth. If you do decide to have veneers made, choose a dentist that has experience in cosmetic dentistry. These advanced forms of cosmetic dentistry are technique sensitive, and require an experienced dentist and a good laboratory to fabricate them.

Of course crowns or caps are another means to better the appearance of teeth if they have large, old fillings. These crowns come in a variety of materials from porcelain to resins. The ideal method is to whiten your teeth first and then have either veneers or caps made to match the color of your teeth.

If you look in the mirror and are self-conscious about smiling, why wait? Discover the possibilities by consulting with a dentist who specializes in cosmetic dentistry and let everyone see your dazzling smile.

      
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 About The Author
Flora Stay, DDS holds a doctor of dental surgery degree from University of California, San Francisco. She is the founder of ...moreFlora Stay DDS
 
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