While a smile makeover can make you look younger and more attractive, simply smiling more can have a big impact according to a handful of scientific research projects carried out over the last decade. In one particular study, participants were separated into three groups: one that would smile, one that would maintain a neutral face, and another that would estimate the age of the other people. Those groups were then rotated until everyone had observed, smiled, and remained stoic. What this revealed was that people were quite good at estimating ages when a person was calm but not accurate at all when they smiled.
Why this information is important is that many people smile less as they age, and there are a number of factors as to why this is. Teeth become discolored and show other signs of wear as we age, and so many people hide their smiles. Such uncertainty leads to self-esteem issues, which become exacerbated through the negative reinforcement of hiding your smile and the other bad body language that comes with that. But all of this is avoidable with the help of your cosmetic dentist, and a smile makeover can actually help you turn back the clock by restoring your facial structure and reducing wrinkles.
Discoloration of your teeth as you get older is something that happens to most of us and can be corrected with a smile makeover. Even with proper and regular oral care, your teeth can yellow with age. They can also stain due to the foods you eat and beverages you drink. Diet-based discoloration can even occur early in life if you regularly drink coffee, tea, or red wine, and of course, smoking can wreck your teeth in just a few short years.
The reason teeth discolor with age has to do with how they are structured. Enamel is the hard, pearly-white outer layer. It is also porous due to its function, which makes it prone to discoloration from deep-tinted foods. Dentin is the inner layer. It is softer than enamel and yellow to tan in color. As you get older, your enamel tends to get thinner, which allows the darker dentin to peak through.
Other color issues can include oral restorations you had when you were younger. Metal crowns and amalgam fillings, for instance, can mar your appearance from the outset and can look worse as they age. The good news is that there are effective, economical solutions available. Even teeth that have yellowed naturally due to aging can be corrected, which will have a transformative effect on your appearance.
- Teeth Whitening – Professional teeth whitening is the simplest and most affordable way to achieve a smile makeover. While there are over-the-counter products available, these are not as effective, tend to cost more in the end, and can actually worsen your teeth without the supervision of a dentist. The bleaching agents used by your dentist are approved by the FDA and quite effective at removing stains from your enamel. You will notice an immediate difference. Optimal results will be achieved in five to seven days, and your dentist will give you a take-home kit that will help you maintain that brightness for many months to come.
- Porcelain Veneers – Teeth whitening can even improve the color of a tooth after root canal therapy has been performed, but what it cannot do is whiten dentin. In cases of teeth yellowed due to age, dental veneers are a popular option. Often made from porcelain, veneers are ultrathin, tooth-colored shells that can transform not only color but size and shape, and you never have to worry about them staining. Veneers are made individually. You can brighten a single tooth or an entire row, and each tooth can be adjusted individually. It is worth noting that veneers are not reversible because some enamel must be removed in order to maintain the natural thickness of the tooth. Another point to consider is cost. There is a great deal of custom work involved, and if you need many veneers, it can be relatively expensive.
- Dental Bonding – Another option for lightening a tooth is cosmetic bonding. If you have a single dark tooth, for instance, then bonding can be a fast, simple, and affordable solution. The dental resin used can be colored to your natural shade, and it can be sculpted, so your dentist can shape it to correct other minor imperfections in your tooth. Bonding does stain, however, and it will not last as long as a veneer will.
- Dental Crowns – Some teeth may be too darkened, such as due to tooth decay or dental damage, to be restored by a veneer or bonding. In that case, a dental crown is the solution. A crown looks like a natural tooth but caps the visible portion of the actual tooth while keeping the tooth root intact. Porcelain and composite crowns are very natural looking and can last decades, but as with a veneer, once a tooth has been prepared for a crown, the process is not reversible, and it will always require a crown.
- Replacing Old Restorations – Cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, and if you have old-fashioned restorations or restorations that have simply become unsightly with age, there are options. Old amalgam fillings can be replaced with tooth-colored fillings. Larger cavities can be filled with porcelain inlays, and a porcelain onlay covers even more of the tooth but not as much as a dental crown would. Opting for composite material can make this option even more affordable, but porcelain lasts longer and will not stain.
Dental Wear and Tear
Discoloration is not the only dental issue that comes with getting older. Another is the wearing down of your teeth that happens due to biting, chewing, and perhaps the teeth grinding and jaw clenching associated with bruxism. A young smile is characterized by curved and well-proportioned teeth, but in an older smile, teeth are often flat, and the wear pattern may be irregular. Such wear and tear is preventable, and if it has accumulated, there are cosmetic options available to correct it.
- Cosmetic Contouring – Enamel contouring or reshaping involves the use of a specialized dental tool to polish a tooth. This procedure can smooth and shape sharp and flat edges, which will make your teeth appear younger. The process is fast, relatively inexpensive, and can be performed during a single short visit, and since only the enamel is affected, there is no discomfort, so usually no need for local anesthesia.
Other Age-Related Dental Issues
If your teeth are shorter due to wear, then contouring will not be effective. You would instead need to have the teeth lengthened, which is possible with either the veneers or crowns discussed earlier. Another option is gum surgery, which is more invasive and requires greater investment but which can have a much more dramatic impact when it comes to de-aging your appearance.
- Occlusal Splint – In cases where the wear and tear on your teeth are not just due to age but grinding or clenching your teeth at night, you should talk to your dentist about an occlusal splint, which is more commonly called a night guard. Night guards are custom-fit mouth guards that protect your teeth while you sleep.
- Clear Aligners – Your teeth can also become misaligned with age, and although such misalignment is usually minor, it can have a dramatic impact on your appearance. Braces are no longer the only solution. Clear aligners can correct most alignment issues and require months rather than years. Better yet, products like Invisalign and SureSmile are practically imperceptible, which means you can attend school or go to work without having the self-esteem issues often associated with traditional braces. It is also worth noting a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, which found that wearing aligners resulted in significant enhancement of facial aesthetics for many patients:
Receding gums is also a common problem as people age and can really undermine a smile even if the teeth are otherwise beautiful. This happens because the roots, which do not have enamel and are thus darker, are exposed. The leading cause of gum recession is gum disease. It will eventually lead to some bone loss, which can cause black triangles and other cosmetic issues.
But if tissue and bone loss is occurring, the cosmetic aspect is the least of your worries. You should see your dentist as soon as possible and may be referred to a gum specialist—a periodontist. In addition to in-office therapeutic treatments, your dentist will advise you on at-home care. Once the gum disease is in check or if the gum recession is genetic, there are tissue and bone restoration procedures available.
- Grafting – Your dentist can restore lost gum and bone tissue through grafting. This is a routine procedure that does require local anesthesia but is performed in-office and often in just a single visit. There are multiple approaches to grafting. The traditional method involves taking tissues from somewhere else in the mouth, such as your inner cheek. However, a relatively recent innovation allows your dentist to use a grafting material that has been made in a laboratory rather than your own tissue. In cases where the recession is not significant enough to warrant grafting, dental bonding may be an alternative.
Another sign of older age is facial collapse, which is often characterized by sunken cheeks and thin lips. What many people do not realize is that these facial alterations are often due to changes to the teeth and jaw. Even a single missing tooth can cause the lips and cheeks to drift inward, and multiple missing teeth—even if they are imperceptible—can make a face look decades older than it actually is.
With intact teeth, ensuring that they are properly aligned, shaped, and sized will avoid facial collapse. When it comes to missing teeth, you must replace them in order to avoid it. This is true even with a molar or premolar. No one can see them, but they can still lead to sagging and wrinkles. There are a few tooth-replacement options available, including dentures, bridges, and dental implants.
- Dental Implants – Experts agree that dental implants are the superior tooth-replacement procedure. The reason for this is that the titanium post inserted into the jaw stimulates it as the actual tooth root would. That stimulation prevents the bone loss that would otherwise occur, and that bone loss is what causes the jaw to change shape and lead to sunken cheeks, thin lips, wrinkles, and many other appearance issues.
Achieving a More Youthful Appearance
Often, achieving a more youthful appearance through cosmetic dentistry requires multiple procedures. A smile makeover is an individualized plan that coordinates and synergizes the various treatments that you require. Your cosmetic dentist will develop this plan with you based on your goals, needs, and budget. During this process, your dentist will explore your various options, discuss the pros and cons, and make professional recommendations, but in the end, the choice will be yours. Your smile makeover does not need to be carried out all at once, and your dentist can help you prioritize the treatments in order to make the process affordable while also avoiding further damage that could make it more expensive.
Reverse the Signs of Aging
Getting older is a natural part of life, but we do not have to resign ourselves to looking older! There are many cosmetic dental treatments available to patients at Scottsdale Dental Excellence that can help you look younger and feel more confident. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, is among the leading cosmetic dentists serving the Greater Scottsdale area, and he has helped many patients enjoy a more youthful appearance. He can help you whether you want a minor correction or are seeking an extensive smile makeover. Call our office at 480 585 1853 for more information and to book a consultation.