This month, I was going to write about my classmate Glenda and her new bundle of joy, baby Susan, but ‘tis that time of year again—finals week(s)! Glenda is extra busy making up exams and psychomotors from maternity leave in addition to the finals the rest of us have…plus, you know, being a new mom… so we are going to check back in once she has a little less on her plate! 😊
Instead, I thought it was the perfect season to talk about a dental student’s perspective on how to achieve the pearly white Christmas you’ve been dreaming of. After all, the best gift you can give is a warm and genuine smile!
Here are some tips we’ve learned:
- If you like the shape of your teeth but not the color
We always make the most conservative approach first. Getting your teeth professionally cleaned and polished can return brightness and luster without doing any invasive procedure.
In-office bleaching is another safe and effective way to brighten your smile.
In our office, we also offer an at-home option so you can whiten your teeth over time until you achieve a pleasing shade. I personally did the in-office option and did a touch-up with the at-home product before my wedding.
Over-the-counter white strips are typically a fine and affordable option too, but it might take longer to see results. It’s always good to consult with your dentist first though(especially before trying any of those LED light whitening systems), because some people can experience serious sensitivity or even do pulp damage in certain cases!
If the discoloration of your teeth is inside (called internal or endogenous staining), which sometimes happens with medications like tetracycline or after a root canal treatment, then you might need more intensive bleaching called “non-vital” bleaching or try some of the options discussed in this next section.
If you’re not happy with the shape or positioning of your teeth (or you have internal stains)
Cosmetic bonding or composite veneers are the next best step. These procedures consist of placing a tooth-colored resin-based material (like the material used for tooth-colored fillings, called composite) to aesthetically correct the shape and color of teeth. The preparation needed is often very conservative and preserves natural tooth structure. For teeth with large gaps or crowding, we might work closely with an orthodontist to achieve the best results.
- If your case is more complicated
Porcelain veneers are another great option. We prefer cosmetic bonding because it takes away the least amount of healthy enamel, but a good veneer preparation is relatively conservative. Veneers are what a lot of celebrities have and it involves cementing a thin piece of ceramic to the front of your tooth for a natural-looking smile makeover.
Talking to your dentist about your goals and expectations is the best way to figure out what treatment would be best for you, because every single case is different. Sometimes, more tooth needs to be taken away and a full ceramic crown that goes all the way around the tooth, instead of just on the front.
It is important to realize that these are all optional and cosmetic treatments. Therefore, our #1 goal is to always make sure your risk for cavities is low and we get rid of decay and any periodontal disease in your mouth before electing to do these procedures. After all, why waste your money for a pretty smile that won’t last? Putting these restorations in a mouth that isn’t brushed and flossed regularly will ultimately lead to even more staining around the margins and decay or failure, which defeats the purpose of having straight, shiny teeth!
Joy to the World
This year our dental fraternity, Psi Omega, partnered with Peaceful Paths to adopt a family! Peaceful Paths is an organization which houses domestically abused women and children and provides them with a safe environment away from their abusers and violent homes. I love that our school is spreading holiday cheer and encourage everyone to do something that spreads smiles this season. 😊