It’s THE perfect location for THE moment. The outfits have been handpicked from among the countless imposters. The menu is set to perfection, along with the place settings and stationary. Jewelry is meticulously selected to glisten on your big day. And the partner you’re marrying is just the person you always dreamed of.
But what about THE accessory? The one thing everyone’s heart will be soaking in and every picture will capture forever.
No, it’s not borrowed or blue. But it is the ultimate expression of how you feel that day.
It’s your smile—the accessory that shines with the light from within. The crown jewel, so to speak.
As an esthetically focused restorative dentist, I work with wonderful people who are looking to freshen their smiles for their big celebration. This ranges from a touch-up to a full smile makeover. One thing I’ve learned from working with countless brides and grooms is the misconception that the deadline is the wedding. But the festivities begin long before that walk down the aisle. There are parties, photos, and dinners—all of which can take place months before the big day. So whatever you decide to do for your smile, give yourself plenty of time.
Now that we’ve identified your crown jewel, let’s discuss a few ways to polish it up for the upcoming events!
The time estimates and relative costs for these procedures are rough guidelines. You may require more time, so consult your dentist and make a plan early!
At-home whitening toothpaste Time to best result: 2–3 months
Whitening toothpastes are an option if your natural tooth shade needs minor brightening. They use a mild abrasive to gently polish away minor stains, so don’t expect a drastic change. Adding a whitening mouthwash with a bleaching agent may provide a small boost. Be sure to start this regimen early and keep up with it every day. If you don’t see the results you hoped for, you always have other options.
At-home whitening strips/trays Time to best result: 4–6 weeks $
Whitening strips and trays are a cost-friendly option. But they require regular use to be effective and can have minimal to moderate results, depending on the person. They typically use bleaching agents, like hydrogen peroxide, which penetrate the tooth and break up stains from the inside. So you may have to deal with sensitive teeth with every use. It’s important to remember that for 48 hours after each treatment, you must stay away from foods and beverages that would stain a white T-shirt, as they can stain your teeth and sabotage your efforts. So avoid spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, coffee, tea, and dark sodas.
Custom whitening trays Time to best result: 2–4 weeks $
Your dentist can custom-make professional trays, which use prescription-strength, professional-grade gel. They work like over-the-counter trays but typically have faster and more dramatic results. They allow the gel to lie uniformly along the unique shape of your teeth. (Over-the-counter trays, on the other hand, have a general dental arch shape but aren’t fitted to you. This creates areas where the gel can settle and others where it can’t reach.) For this reason, if you want trays, custom is the way to go. Again, avoid foods that can stain a T-shirt for 48 hours after every treatment.
In-office whitening session Time to best result: 60 minutes $$
Professional whitening is the fastest, safest, and most effective way to get a dramatic yet natural result. A one-hour session can yield the same results as several weeks with other methods. It’s also relaxing—we turn down the lights and let you pick a Netflix movie! After treatment, you need to avoid staining foods for 48 hours while the pores of your tooth enamel close.
Important tip: Diet matters!
The results of any whitening regimen depend highly on your diet. Staining foods and beverages require more frequent touch-ups, and diets heavy on acidic foods can erode the enamel, resulting in yellowish, dull teeth that won’t respond well to any whitening option.
Time to best result: 9–12 months $$$
Aligning teeth goes beyond making them straight. It’s about placing them in the right position, front to back, side to side, and up and down to create a harmonious smile that follows your lips, which are like the frame for your smile masterpiece. It’s also important to ensure that the upper and lower teeth fit together properly to avoid issues with chewing, food trapping, or jaw pain.
There are two basic alternatives:
- ● Braces. These are metal or plastic brackets that are bonded to teeth with a wire attached to those brackets. Only your dentist can remove them. The wire, with careful management, gradually shifts teeth to their proper position.
- ● Clear aligners. These are custom-made clear trays that fit over your teeth and serve the same function as traditional braces. Invisalign is the market leader, but there are many other options, including some DIY options that allow you complete your treatment at home.
The cost of braces vs. Invisalign are similar. Treatment times with Invisalign can be much shorter, with an average of six to nine months.
The biggest advantage of Invisalign is comfort and hygiene. Being able to remove your trays and eat normally is so much better than having to avoid foods that can break your brackets. (Goodbye, bagels!) It’s also much easier to maintain a healthy mouth during treatment. Brushing and flossing is already difficult. Imagine having to do it with barbed wire in the way!
Get a comprehensive evaluation from a dentist or orthodontist to fully discuss your options and develop a tailored plan.
Time to best result: 1 visit $
Enameloplasty reshapes enamel, teeth’s protective covering.
The enamel takes a beating. We drink acidic beverages, clench and grind, and even use our front teeth to open Doritos bags! (I’m speaking from experience, as I actually caught myself doing just that the other day.) All this abuse results in frayed, chipped tooth edges.
Enameloplasty reshapes and smooths out those damaged areas. It uses a series of polishing disks to smooth out the chips and leave a perfectly round edge.
This looks better and protects the remaining enamel. That’s because it’s much easier for jagged edges to catch on something and make the chip just a little bigger, over and over again … You can see where this is going.
Enameloplasty can usually be done in a single visit, and it’s painless.
Time to best result: 1 visit $$
Dentists use bonding to add material to a tooth. It’s the same technique used with filings and can reshape teeth and make your smile symmetrical and balanced. It can also fix large chips or fractures. Today we use high-end composites, or plastic, to mimic the anatomy and shade of teeth. This allows for beautifully crafted restorations that provide a very realistic appearance.
One potential downside: bonding requires a mostly sound, healthy tooth to last. The more natural tooth that’s left intact, the better the results.
Time to best result: 4–6 weeks $$$$
Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that are bonded to teeth to completely transform their appearance. For optimal results, teeth need to be prepared (read drilled), meaning the enamel is reshaped to receive the veneer.
Committing to a smile makeover takes a lot of trust in your dentist’s artistic eye. The last thing you want is a big reveal that leaves you feeling uninspired, right? So, using the new smile model, the proposed veneer design is duplicated with temporary materials. This allows you to see precisely what the veneers will look like without ever having to prepare your teeth. I like patients to test drive their new smile for a week. Go home, see your family and friends, take selfies, and have the chance to adjust the veneer design before they’re permanent.
Once you have the perfect design, a dental technician fabricates the permanent veneers for a vibrant, realistic restoration with all the shading and intricacies of teeth at their best—not a “chiclet smile.” (I’m looking at you, dental tourism.)
Time to best result: 1 day–several months
All too often, people focus on the teeth (white esthetics) when enhancing a smile. This is true even for some dentists. In reality, the smile is the combination of the teeth and everything else around them—including gums and lips (pink esthetics).
A healthy mouth is the foundation for any restorative or cosmetic work that ensures the lasting results you want.
Gingivitis is the most cause of unhealthy gums. It’s inflammation of the tissue, which is usually created by the buildup of plaque. Depending on the severity, professional care essential to undo the damage, but the most important factor is developing (and sticking to) a proper regimen at home. Gingivitis can usually be reversed in a matter of weeks, but advanced cases can take months to heal.
If the gums are healthy, the main aspect of pink esthetics is symmetry and proportion. You want your gums to follow the teeth so the same amount of tooth shows on both sides without too much gum covering them (think gummy smile). Laser recontouring, or a gingivectomy, reshapes the gums to improve the symmetry and proportion of the teeth. This is usually done in a single visit with local anesthesia. Gums will be slightly sore for three to five days.
Time to best result: 2 weeks
Lip esthetics can be distilled into two basic components, volume and shade.
- ● Volume: As we mature, we lose volume under the skin, leading to lines and wrinkles. One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent this is to stay hydrated. It not only helps our bodies function better, but it looks better too! If volume loss is advanced or your lips are thin to begin with, fillers can be the solution. They’re biocompatible gels placed just under the skin to provide volume. This results in plump, full lips to perfectly round out the smile. A word of caution: go slow. Results can last up to a year or more, and it’s easy to think more is better.
- ● Shade: A blueish lip undertone will cancel out yellowish tooth hues, making teeth appear brighter and whiter. Avoid orange undertones, which will only accentuate the yellow.
Lower-Face Support and Premature Aging
Time to best result: Daily management
Have you ever seen someone take out their dentures and have their lips collapse into their mouth? Their nose and chin get close together, making them look insta-ancient. That’s because teeth support the lower half of the face. In an attractive, youthful appearance, the bottom half of the face is adequately supported. And although the denture case is the most advanced lack of support, a gradual version occurs when we grind our teeth.
The good news is that if caught early, tooth wear can be easily managed. Options vary from a custom night guard to Botox to control clenching, which alleviates the pressure on teeth for up to six months.
Regardless of the level of care you feel you need, the first step is to find a dentist who will hear your concerns and review your options with you. Together you can develop a plan of action that will get your crown jewel ready for the spotlight.
Smile, it looks good on you!
Purveyor of Smiles at Semidey Dental