A Smile Like Yours
It's a spontaneous, always contagious and gorgeous natural wonder of the world. A smile can say a thousand words - like, I have a great one. But for some, grinning means bearing their not-so-pearly whites and not-so-symmetrical teeth. We've probed modern "dental face-lift techniques to show you how to get a perfect smile
"Aging is the number 1 cause of darkening and yellowing teeth,” says Billie Sabo, director of The Studio for Aesthetic Dentistry in Toronto. But she advises watching what you eat to help put off the inevitable. "Everybody's saliva has a different makeup-either alkaline or acidic-which affects the breakdown of foods and, consequently, the colour of your teeth," says Sabo. But there are common "stainers" to avoid: 'tea, coffee, colas, red wine and, of course, smoking," she says. And while she says there are no de-staining foods, she recommends calcium, found in milk products like cheese and yogurt, to add strength to your teeth.
Smiling takes less work and causes fewer wrinkles than frowning. According to Dr. Wayne Carmen of The Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Toronto, "when you smile you use the muscles in your lower face and a few around the eyes, but when you frown, you use your entire face," So, if you need motivation, consider smiling an antiwrinkle treatment.
"Generally, the perfect tooth should be longer than it is wide and slightly rounded," explains Toronto dentist Dr. Sol Weiss. "Only about 20 percent of the population are born with such teeth," he says. My teeth were what he calls ""orthodontist teeth-perfectly aligned after years of braces, but imperfectly shaped. Almost as wide as they were long and very square, my "heaver teeth" made me so self-conscious that I rarely smiled in photographs and wouldn't even consider it on a first date. Perhaps cosmetic dentistry would be my smile salvation.
Dr. Weiss, who specializes in cosmetic dentistry, has a practice now numbering in the thousands, including many models who go to him for "smile therapy.' My first visit turned out to be not only painless, but exciting. On TV screens in Dr. Weiss' consultation room, I was shown a multitude of before-and-after images-yellow teeth that were now white: gaps closed; overlapped teeth straightened, and even reshaped, to pearly perfection.
According to Dr. Weiss, teeth are one of the most neglected components of beauty. But they shouldn't be. "A smile is an invitation. People who are insecure about their teeth don't smile and, therefore, don't invite. When their teeth are reshaped, their appearance changes, but so does their attitude. Doors open," he says.
While cosmetic work covers up misaligned teeth to give the appearance of a Hollywood smile, braces actually move the teeth into proper position to effect structural change. Dr. Donald Woodside, a professor of orthodontics at the University of Toronto, who is also in private practice, says that adult orthodontics has been made a more attractive option due to new techniques: clear ceramic or plastic braces (visible only by those standing within 3-6 feet); retainers worn only at night; and even braces applied just to the inside of the teeth-a technically demanding, costly and lengthy procedure practiced by only a handful of orthodontists. For clients who are TV personalities or performers, Dr. Woodside will even remove the visible portion of the brace work for a period of time, reapplying after the client has finished filming or performing.
What orthodontists can't do, however, is change the colour or the shape of individual teeth-something cosmetic dentists accomplish using bleaching, cosmetic contouring, veneers, bonds and bridges. An ideal situation, for those who need it, is to work with an orthodontist to move teeth into proper position before a cosmetic dentist moves in to perfect the aesthetics.
"White, bright teeth is where it all starts," says Dr. Weiss. And, start to finish, whitening is the easiest of cosmetic dentistry procedures. At- home kits come complete with teeth guards that are filled with a gel- like whitener and worn overnight for 2-3 weeks. I couldn't take much more than six hours at a stretch before my teeth started feeling sensitive to the whitener-and my pride began bruising from the humiliation of sporting guards that made me feel like Lennox Lewis. The newest (kinder and gentler) cosmetic whitening technique is laser bleaching, an in-office procedure that takes only about two hours to complete. An argon laser made specifically for whitening teeth removes years of stains (coffee, smoking, wine, genetic yellowing) built up on the teeth. While fast and relatively pain-free, the process costs $1 000*_about twice the cost of the take-out whiteners.
For those with longer, "rabbit" teeth, with one tooth slightly longer than the other, or chipped teeth, dentists can use a filing procedure to shave the teeth, shortening them permanently. Although a quicker, less expensive option to veneers (see below), cosmetic contouring is not advisable for shorter, square teeth, as it can create even worse proportions. This can cost $30-$60, though many dentists will do it for free.
Veneers are actually porcelain overlays that are affixed to the front of the teeth. (Not to be confused with crowns, more commonly known as caps, which are also made of porcelain, but fit over the entire tooth- more for corrective than cosmetic reasons.) Veneering, perhaps the most common technique in Dr. Weiss' practice, works much like press- on nails do. The tooth is first shaved down to make room for the veneer that will sit atop it, then the porcelain is stuck on using an acrylic cement. The porcelain is virtually translucent, allowing light to refract as it does with natural teeth, making veneers the most natural and permanent cosmetic technique.
Beyond practicality, however, the beauty of veneering is that the dentist is able to shape the veneers to suit the proportions of an individual's face or to perfect imperfections like gaps and crooked or misaligned teeth. In my case, Dr. Weiss sought to "feminize" my front teeth by making them longer and thinner (apparently in dentistry, like life, you can never be too tall or too thin). He first "sanded" about a millimetre from the width of both front teeth, then shaved the top of the tooth to accommodate the porcelain overlay, and then cemented on suitably shaped veneers. In all, the process takes about 3-4 hours, depending on the number of teeth being veneered, at a cost of $500-$650* per tooth.
At one time, bonds were used as an inexpensive alternative to veneers. Now, however, with significant improvements in veneers (they look better and last longer), bonds are mostly used as a temporary fix. Ideal for growing children with chipped teeth or for anyone wishing to experiment with the shape and size of their new teeth before committing to a permanent process, bonds are made of resin and last only 3-4 years. Like veneers, the bonding is glued on to the tooth with acrylic, a process taking 2-6 hours at a cost of $350* per tooth.
Teeth seek contact from their neighbouring mates. When a tooth is missing, therefore, its neighbours will grow toward each other, creating distorted bites and an unsightly smile. When a fake, or replacement, tooth is inserted, a bridge is created. The process is lengthy-three hours and up, over two visits-and costly-starting at $1,000* and escalating depending on the number of bridges. -Liza Finlay
When chosing a lipstick that makes teeth look whiter and brighter, you should consider colour for contrast.
Phil Jin, a colour expert at Pantone, the world leader on standardized colour systems for the design and fashion industries, says, "If you want to make a colour spot look lighter, the key is not to surround it with a colour that is any lighter than itself. That will only make the target spot look darker" -so avoid white, silver, gold and peach lipsticks. "Make your choice as dark as possible to act as a contrast to your teeth," Jin says. Try: Chanel Rouge A Lèvres Hydrabase Creme Lipstick in 97 Rouge Ténèbre. Diana Carreiro, a Toronto makeup artist, says that in lipstick we don't have true pigments, only undertones- blue-based (cool) and yellow- based (warm). So if you're trying to take the attention off yellow- tinged teeth, look to a blue- based lipstick to neutralize the yellow. Finally, for a flawless smile, you'll want to avoid having lipstick rub off on to your teeth. Choose matte lipsticks, which are formulated to facilitate a lasting hold. Try: M.A.C Lipstick in Media and Shiseido Matte Variations Lipstick in Underground Brown. Sweater Dma Merulla - Boz International.
A great smile is me sum of its parts and the look of the lips is just as important as that of the teeth. According to Tricia Sawyer, a film makeup artist and a spokesperson for Prescriptives, the au naturel, less-contrived route is best. "A great nude colour with a gloss that enhances your lips is very appealing to show off your teeth and smile.'
How do whitening toothpastes whiten? According to Dr. Robert Ibsen, president of Den-Mat Corp., the makers of Rembrandt toothpastes, "many toothpastes remove surface stains by using strong detergents." Rembrandt's patented Citroxain formula contains hydrated aluminum oxide, sodium citrate and papain (an enzyme derived from papaya) to "remove plaque, stains and tartar on the surface of the tooth and take out deeper protein stains within the tooth with a minimum amount of abrasion."