Grin And Bare It!
Invisible braces, lunchtime laser whitening, veneers--tips
and techniques for getting the perfect smile (and keeping it for a lifetime)
BY: Amy Synnott
In Style Magazine
"When people look at each other, the first thing they notice is
the smile," says N.Y.C. cosmetic dentist Jan Linhart. Chances are,
if you've been abusing your teeth--drinking too much coffee, neglecting
to floss, blowing off your dentist--it's going to show. Maybe your teeth
are a little gray, or your gums bleed when you brush too hard. The good
news: The damage is completely reversible with proper oral hygiene and
new cosmetic techniques. With easier options for whitening and straightening
teeth, you can even improve on the original. "Of all the ways to change
how you look, fixing your smile is the simplest," says Linhart. "It's
an instant improvement that totally changes your appearance." --Amy
the basics: brushes & pastes Brushing the wrong way can hurt more
than it helps. Learn how to make a clean sweep
brushing up: Experts say the best toothbrushes have small heads and
soft bristles. "Hard bristles and large heads are rough on your gums
and can wear down the enamel," says New York City cosmetic dentist
Ziba Yaghmai. While most agree
that a manual toothbrush is sufficient, some believe the scrubbing action
of an electric toothbrush is more effective. "The rotary motion is
similar to that of machines the hygienist uses to clean your teeth,"
says New York City prosthodontist Steven M. Butenski. When brushing, Yaghmai
suggests, divide your mouth into four quadrants: upper left, upper right,
lower left, lower right. Begin at the back of the mouth (you're less likely
to overlook it if you start there) and move forward, cleaning two teeth
at a time with your brush tilted at a 45-degree angle (to alleviate pressure
on the gums). Do outside surfaces, then inside surfaces, then chewing surfaces.
To clean the inner surfaces of your front teeth, hold the brush vertically
and use gentle up-and-down strokes. Brushing should take two to five minutes.
find your paste: "If your biggest concern is preventing cavities,
fluoride should be one of the first ingredients on the label," says
New Jersey cosmetic dentist Anthony Vocaturo, D.D.S. "Fluoride strengthens
the enamel on teeth, so you're less likely to get cavities." Be careful
using tartar-control formulas--especially if you have worn enamel or receding
gums. "They contain abrasive ingredients like baking soda or pyrophosphate
that can scratch the enamel and irritate gums," says Yaghmai. If you
want to use a tartar-control paste, she suggests alternating it with a
gentler toothpaste like Enamelon or Sensodyne. "These contain potassium
nitrate, which remineralizes the enamel, and they desensitize teeth,"
says Yaghmai. If you have dry mouth, try an antibacterial toothpaste such
as Biotene. "When you sleep, saliva production naturally slows down,"
says Yaghmai, who notes that age and certain medications can worsen the
problem. "The enzymes in an antibacterial toothpaste increase saliva
production, which eliminates the bacteria that cause dry mouth."
OUT, DAMNED STAINS! Easy steps for brightening up
"Anything that has a dye in it can cause stains on the surface
of the teeth," says Butenski. To minimize the damage: Brush after
every meal, floss twice a day, and try to use a straw when sipping any
dark-colored beverage. "That way, it's less likely to hit the surface
area of the front teeth," says Lana Rozenberg, a New York City cosmetic
dentist and owner of the Dental Day Spa.
avoid: coffee, tea cigarettes red wine cola grape juice
freshen up: mouth rinses & flosses One can help minimize bad breath;
the other is a hygiene must
rinse cycle: "If you have halitosis, mouthwash should never be
used as a substitute for seeing a dentist," insists Ziba Yaghmai.
Of course, if the problem has to do with garlic--not tooth decay--a mouthwash
can provide temporary relief (for one to four hours). Pick one that's colorless
and alcohol-free, like Rembrandt (don't let the blue bottle deceive you;
it's clear). "Alcohol dehydrates your mouth, which can make bad breath
worse," explains Yaghmai, "and anything that's pigmented can
stain your teeth if you use it enough." Keep this in mind if you're
considering a fluoride rinse such as ACT; most of them are colored too.
"If you have good hygiene, you probably don't need a fluoride rinse,"
says Yaghmai, noting that most people get enough fluoride from toothpaste
and tap water. If you have cuts in your mouth, use a rinse with hydrogen
peroxide such as Colgate Peroxyl. "The peroxide minimizes bacteria
and soothes gums," says Yaghmai. Or try this homemade alternative:
Mix a teaspoon of table salt into one glass of water. "This is the
best rinse of all. It won't stain your teeth, and the salt kills any bacteria
that could cause infection or bad breath."
flossing 101: "You should always floss before you brush,"
says Yaghmai. Flossing removes food particles and plaque from under the
gum line and between the teeth--areas a toothbrush can't reach. Neglecting
to floss is the surest way to
evelop gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that can ultimately lead
to periodontal disease. Use a floss, such as Glide, that is made with natural
fibers (they're gentler on the gums than synthetic fibers). Break off about
18 inches, winding most of it around the middle fingers of both hands.
Start between the upper molars. Using your thumbs and forefingers, slide
about an inch of taut floss between your teeth, curving the floss around
the tooth in a C shape at the gum line. Slide the floss gently up and down
between each tooth surface and gum, making sure you go beneath the gum
line. Repeat on the rest of your teeth with clean sections of floss.
BREATH SAVERS How to cure halitosis
"If you have chronic bad breath, you really need to find out the
cause," says Yaghmai. An underlying problem such as tooth decay, gum
disease, diabetes or malnutrition may be responsible. "Vitamin C deficiencies
can cause horrible breath," says Yaghmai, who notes that halitosis
can also be caused by bacteria on the tongue. Certain medications such
as antidepressants can exacerbate bad breath because they reduce saliva
production, a natural cleansing agent. Ditto for alcohol, caffeine and
other diuretics. The best advice: See a dentist, drink lots of water, brush
your teeth after every meal, scrape your tongue before bed, and don't let
anything come between you and your floss.
lightening options Too many cups of latte do not a pretty smile make--but
there are brightening techniques for every budget
Move over, Vanna White. Thanks to recent advances in laser technology
and bleaching techniques, perfect pearly whites are no longer just for
actors--or game-show hosts. "Ten years ago we didn't even have instant
bleaching," says Linhart. "Now it's accessible to the average
The peroxide contained in whitening toothpastes helps break down the
film that causes plaque, the main source of superficial stains on the surface
of teeth. "These are good if you want to maintain a bright smile,
but they aren't as effective at removing stains as bleaching trays are--the
paste doesn't stay on the teeth long enough, and the concentration of peroxide
is too low," says Larry Rosenthal, a New York City cosmetic dentist.
Avoid pastes that contain abrasives like pumice or baking soda. "They
can scratch the teeth," he says.
"This is a quick, inexpensive and easy way for people with mildly
discolored teeth to boost their smile," says Rosenthal. Crest, the
company that makes the strips, claims that if you wear these thin, peroxide-covered
strips for 30 minutes twice a day, you will see results in 14 days. But
don't expect a transformation. "It's more effective than whitening
paste but less effective than a professional bleaching system," says
Rosenthal. "It only gets the front teeth, and the strips sometimes
slip around, which can cause incomplete bleaching."
By applying an intense light to highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide
on the teeth, dentists can bleach teeth up to ten shades in just a couple
of hours. Though it's one of the quickest ways to dramatically lighten
your teeth, it can cause extreme sensitivity, especially if you have gum
recession or microcracks in the teeth. Still, the quick, precise procedure
actually gives you more control over what shade you end up with. Prices
range from $ 500 to $ 2,000.
For people with intrinsic stains that penetrate the tooth (caused by
certain medications, aging or malnutrition), porcelain veneers are the
only solution. These thin, ceramic shells, which last up to 15 years, can
do anything from hide stains to fill in gaps. But you may not be smiling
when you get the bill: $ 1,200 to $ 2,000 per tooth.
"This is the most effective way to bleach teeth because you get
a high concentration of peroxide, it stays on the teeth a long time, and
it doesn't move around," says Rosenthal. But it doesn't work overnight:
You have to wear a custom-fitted tray filled with hydrogen peroxide every
day (depending on the system, from one hour to all night long) for two
to three weeks. Unlike Whitestrips, all of the teeth, not just the front
ones, are bleached. The biggest drawback: If the trays don't fit well,
the hydrogen peroxide can irritate your gums. To reduce irritation, ask
your dentist for a fluoride solution. Cost: $ 500 to $ 1,000 for all teeth.
dental Q&A What you've always wanted to know about teeth but forgot
to ask your dentist
Q Is there really such a thing as invisible braces?
Until magician David Blaine tries his hand at orthodontics, the closest
thing is Invisalign, a new system that straightens teeth with clear, customized
aligners. Here's how they work: A mold is taken of your teeth to create
a series of thin, plastic aligners. Every two weeks, you get a new aligner
that adds more pressure (as with regular braces, it takes six months to
two years to straighten teeth). "You feel the same pressure as with
regular braces because the teeth are moving," says N.Y.C. orthodontist
Jennifer Salzer, "but there are no wires." Nor is there any fear
of getting lettuce stuck in your braces. "You take it out to eat and
to brush your teeth," says Salzer. Prices vary among orthodontists,
but Invisalign costs about the same as metal braces ($ 3,000-$ 9,000).
The big drawbacks: They may not work for severely crooked teeth, and they
may impair speech at the start, a problem that usually goes away in a few
Q I've heard you can get tooth-colored fillings. How much do they cost?
A resin composite costs 20 to 30 percent more than a regular metal filling,
according to Anthony Vocaturo. But many feel it's worth the investment:
Not only are they invisible, but the newest composite fillings also bind
better to the tooth, so you're less likely to get cracks, which can lead
to cavities. "Metal expands and can break loose from the tooth, leaving
a gap," says Vocaturo.
Q What is a proxabrush?
Designed for people who have large gaps between their teeth or who use
braces or bridges, a proxabrush (left) looks like a tiny pipe cleaner attached
to a plastic handle. "It's like a reusable toothpick," says Linhart.
"Some people who don't even have braces use it because it's quick
and easy, but it's not as effective as floss. It doesn't wrap around the
tooth or get below the gum line. It's also hard to reach the back teeth."
More important, if you have no big gaps, it won't even fit between your
Q Is dental gum good for your teeth? Can it really help whiten them?
Any sugarless gum will have a positive effect on general dental health,
says Linhart. "The mechanical action of chewing helps loosen plaque
and stimulate saliva production, which helps reduce decay." But be
wary of any gum that claims to have whitening properties. To lighten teeth,
it would have to contain peroxide, which none do. "Anything strong
enough to whiten teeth would be too irritating to the surrounding tissues,"
says Linhart. Another problem: "Gum doesn't even touch the front of
the teeth, just the chewing surface."
Q I've heard kissing can spread gum disease. Insane, right?
"Believe it or not, it's true," says Linhart. "Periodontal
disease is bacterial, and if you're swapping saliva, you can catch it."
But before you swear off kissing, ask yourself this: Do you or your partner
have bad breath or puffy red gums? "Bleeding gums are usually the
first thing people notice." Fortunately, gingivitis, the fledgling
stage of periodontal disease, is completely reversible. "It's caused
by not flossing or not going to the dentist," says Linhart. Bottom
line: Invest in floss and you won't have to worry as much about bad breath--or
spreading gum diseases.
With dental day spas cropping up around the country, visiting the dentist
is quickly becoming the beauty indulgence du jour. At Brite Smile (above),
a Lunchtime Power Bleach, which lightens teeth up to 10 shades, takes just
an hour. At Lana Rozenberg's Dental Day Spa in N.Y.C., a Prophy Power Polish,
which can whiten teeth up to one shade, takes just 30 minutes (and it comes
with a hand massage).