Is Your Smile Aging You? Try These Fast Teeth Fixes

Chips, cracks, stains, and other changes to your teeth can add years to your face. Learn how better teeth can help you look younger.

By Christine Fellingham
smile teeth white bright aging

Porcelain Fillings

About $850 to $1,600 each; lasts 10 to 15 years

Porcelain Veneers

$1,000 to $3,000 per tooth; lasts 15 to 20 years

The Dental Mini-Lift

Your skin looks tighter, your lips fuller, your smile wider — without a single incision or a nanosecond of healing downtime: Say hello to the dental mini lift. "No matter what your age, a good cosmetic dentist can help play down certain features and enhance others just by strategically shaping and contouring your teeth," says Anthony Vocaturo, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in private practice in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Basically, your dentist uses bonding material, crowns, or veneers to build up some of the teeth along the sides of your mouth. The number of teeth treated depends on your facial structure and the condition of your teeth. (Often the bottom teeth don’t need to be built up. If you think of how a face "hollows," it’s more pronounced in the upper regions.)

"At our office, many patients try this procedure before they consider plastic surgery," Golub-Evans says. "Adding some bulk to the front surfaces of the top side teeth widens the smile, softens nasal labial lines, and perks up the midsection of the face. Depending on how much we build up the outer corners, it can also give you a softening of lipstick lines and turn the corners of the mouth up."

"My friends all thought I had done something surgical," says one New Yorker in her 50s who underwent the bonding procedure. "I really felt as if I had erased five to 10 years in an afternoon." And a woman from Long Island, whose dentist used veneers, reports: "I looked like I just had the nap of my life. Everything moved up a bit."

Have a clear idea of a budget when you walk into the dentist’s office. And if you find a doctor who uses computer imaging, you’ll be able to see a realistic picture of the results you can achieve with the amount of money you want to spend.

How to Choose a Cosmetic Dentist

"There is no legal definition of a cosmetic dentist, and too many dentists, seeing the promise of huge profits, are venturing into the field without so much as a single seminar on the subject," warns Michael Apa, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in New York City. Both the American Dental Association (ada.org) and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentists (aacd.com) have stringent credentials programs and provide lists of local doctors on their Web sites. "You’re looking for a dentist who does cosmetic work on a regular basis, not someone who does veneers or bonding occasionally," Zase says. Here, other key things to consider.

Ask to see before and after photographsof a dentist’s patients to make sure you like the results. Specifically ask whether the doctor took the photos and didn’t just download them from the Internet. "If all the photos are similar 8-by-10 glossies, they may have been purchased," Golub-Evans warns.

Ask which lab the doctor usesfor creating veneers and crowns, and ask to see several samples. "The dentist can’t create the final product on his own," Apa notes. "It’s also his ceramicist, the one who makes the restorations, who makes a difference."

Inquire whether the dentist has performed cosmetic restorationon anyone on the office staff, so you can see the results. Or ask if any patients who had procedures similar to the ones you’re considering would be willing to talk with you.

When you go for your consultation, bring photos of smiles you like and smiles you don’t with you. Ask the dentist for his or her opinion. It’s all about collaboration. "Everyone has different tastes and cultural biases," Golub-Evans notes. "In cosmetic dentistry, success for the patient is as much about style as it is fit and comfort."

Originally published inMORE magazine, July/August 2007.

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