Why:Over time, teeth begin to shift position and angle inward. "Fewer than 10 percent of us have teeth in the same position in our 50s as we did in our 20s," Golub-Evans says. "And that includes adults who had braces when they were younger."
How It Ages You:As your teeth move inward, they provide less support to your cheeks and lips, creating a hollowed, gaunt appearance. "Crooked teeth can look more severe on an older face than on someone in their teens or even 20s," Golub-Evans says.
How to Fix It:You have two choices: braces or veneers. "Many patients who are not thrilled with the idea of veneers are opting for Invisalign braces," Golub-Evans says. "These clear acrylic molds gradually move your teeth back into position. They’re noticeable from only a few feet away. One of my patients, who is in TV news, even wore them on the air."
If you want the additional perks of whitening and reshaping, you can realign your teeth with porcelain veneers. You’ll also be adding a little extra bulk to the teeth to support facial tissue. "When you fill out your teeth a bit with bonding and veneers, it may pull the smile back up, like a mini lift," Golub-Evans says.
What It’s Like:"I used the braces because other than the fact that my teeth were crooked, they were in very good condition," says a 43-year-old salon owner in Louisville, Kentucky. "Most people didn’t notice the braces until they came right up to me. It took about nine months to get all of my teeth where they belonged, but it was worth it."
Caveats:While Invisalign braces are a popular choice, keep in mind that they correct only position. "I have people finish up braces and then realize that they also want bleaching," Apa says. "And then they wonder if they really should have had veneers in the first place. Just make sure you’ve fully explored how your expectations will match up with the results."
Age Change: Chips and Cracks
Why:Thinning enamel and years of wear can cause fine cracks on the surface of your teeth.
How It Ages You:Cracks trap food and beverage particles that can darken and stain teeth.
How to Fix It:Consider bonding, veneers, or crowns.
What It’s Like:Applying a crown requires two visits: one for making the mold and applying a temporary, and the other to apply the finished crown. You will most likely need novocaine at at least one visit, because a relatively deep crack can expose nerves.
Caveats:Crowns are the longest-lasting dental restoration — up to 20 years, as opposed to about seven years for bonding. Keep that in mind when doing the cost-benefit analysis of the two procedures.
Get Whiter Teeth
Age Change: Your Dental Work Discolors
Why:"We think of them as being permanent, but most crowns, fillings, and bridges last 10 to 15 years," Apa says. "They darken and discolor over time, just like real enamel."
How It Ages You:When you smile, you get a rainbow effect; that multihued jumble of discolored crowns, darkened fillings, and your own teeth is an instant ager.
How to Fix It:Replace and upgrade your old dental work. "Because so many materials have improved during the past 10 years, you’ll be amazed at how much better these corrections can look," Golub-Evans notes. "You can opt for invisible porcelain fillings, more translucent crowns, and maybe a bleaching treatment to even everything out."
What It’s Like:"It took two visits to replace three crowns and my old metal fillings," says a 48-year-old pharmaceutical executive in Summit, New Jersey. "It looked as good as veneers because everything was uniform."