Health Library

Categories > Oral Health > Oral care

Flash that movie-star smile!

There’s a revolution happening in dentistry. Nowadays, designer toothpastes fight mouth disorders; contoured toothbrushes have multilevel bristles; and computer-guided corrective treatments rebuild, reshape and brighten our teeth with amazing results.

Gleaming grins are no longer just for Hollywood. If you’ve always wanted a smile that looks like a million dollars, here’s what the new dentistry can do for you.

Better products

Anyone who’s cruised the supermarket aisles lately will find a mountainous selection of toothbrushes, toothpastes, mouthwashes and flosses. All promise to safeguard your mouth against a host of problems, but how can you tell which ones work?

Start by asking your dentist. For example, are your teeth prone to plaque buildup? Would a whitener help? Are your teeth or gums sensitive? Then, use these buying tips:

  • Go seal watching. Buy products that carry the American Dental Association seal. That means the items meet ADA’s professional standards.
  • Soften up. Your toothbrush should have “soft” or “extra soft” bristles that go easy on your gums.
  • Be choosy. Try different flavors, brands and types of toothpaste and gels until you’re happy. If one irritates your mouth or lips, change products. Should the problem recur, call your dentist.
  • Use a go-between. Ask your dentist if you should use floss, an irrigator, a rubber dental tip or an interdental brush to clean between your teeth.

Brighter teeth

As we age, teeth yellow naturally and get stained by food and drink. Some toothpastes contain whitening agents, but they’re too mild to really brighten your teeth. Your best bet is a professional bleaching kit.

Using one is simple. At bedtime, you fit a rubber device containing bleaching gel over your teeth. After two weeks, your teeth should sparkle. (In stubborn cases and certain medical situations, your dentist may treat you with an in-office laser- or power-bleaching technique instead.) Touch-up kits for periodic overnight treatments help keep your teeth dazzling.

Wider smiles

One of the best—and most economical—features of the new dentistry is bonding. Using the latest composite resins, dentists can fix chips, exposed gums, misalignments and gaps in teeth.

The resin color is custom blended by the dentist to match your teeth. Then he or she molds the resin like putty against your teeth until it is smooth and properly shaped. The resin is then cured with high-intensity light and polished. Your bonded tooth should last for years, but if it chips or breaks, your dentist can easily repair or even mold a new bond while you wait.

Dismissing dentures

Until the 1980s, lost teeth meant clumsy, often painful dentures or partials. Thankfully, today there’s a comfortable, effective alternative called dental implants—artificial teeth surgically embedded in the gums.

Long-term studies show improving success rates for dental implants, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. The procedure takes several months and involves:

  • Initial surgery. Oral surgeons open the gum at each lost tooth to expose the jawbone. They drill holes and embed the implant anchors. By six months, new jawbone grows around the anchors.
  • Second surgery. Surgeons reopen the gums, then screw a post into each anchor. The gums are then stitched to holes in each post.
  • Molds. Several days later, the dentist makes a mold of your mouth and fashions the artificial teeth that will be attached to the posts.
  • Installation. Artificial teeth are screwed into the posts and can be removed only by your dentist. Magnetized or clip-on restorations are also available, which allow you to remove the artificial teeth for cleaning.