Making it prettier and brighter
They say eyes are the windows of the soul, but few would deny the power of a smile. If yours isn’t exactly as you’d like, there are plenty of improvement options. “Lifestyle is the consideration. Often moms, when their kids are done (with their braces), will change the focus to themselves and want their own smiles fixed – it’s an investment in themselves,” says Dr. Bart Wilson of Mission Orthodontics, which has offices in Alamo Heights and Floresville.
Sometimes that improvement can mean moving a tooth that’s distracting, straightening or a full realignment of teeth. Invisalign, a treatment that has been around for over 20 years, has advanced in technology and material. “For aesthetics work, they are a great solution and also for those who grind their teeth,” Wilson says of the clear plastic braces that utilize an alignment tray system. They are not as well suited for moving molars or closing spaces, he says. Wilson also uses Speed Braces with a smaller bracket profile that makes them less obvious than traditional braces. The reduced size, up to one-third smaller, reduces patient discomfort and eliminates the need for elastic ties to move teeth more easily.
At New Image Dentistry, Dr. Chrysalis Heinkel views patients who have chipped, cracked, slightly misaligned or stained teeth or those who just want a brighter, more beautiful smile as good candidates for veneers: “They are a fairly quick method to change color, shape and size if someone is unhappy with their smile.” Citing new technologies, Heinkel says, “Our ability to make thinner veneers, with less removal of tooth structure, is possible because of improvements in materials.” She advises, “There are two very important things when considering veneers: You want a material that has similar light refraction properties to healthy tooth enamel as well as one that is high in strength and fracture resistance, and you want a good dentist with a good lab and great communication between the two.”
Sometimes your smile can be affected by age, trauma, tooth loss, decay, gum disease, genetics or neglect. Some conditions can create structure collapse. Dr. Joseph Perry of San Antonio Denture Solutions is a Strickland Facelift Denture provider in the San Antonio area. The treatment is a paradigm shift in the approach to dentures, Perry says: “It restores a patient’s facial symmetry.” Traditional dentures can give a sunken-face effect “that registers as an advanced aging appearance, but putting symmetry back while replacing teeth and structure will enhance a smile and recapture a youthful appearance like you’d have if you had not lost your teeth,” he says. Perry designs the treatment with the patient’s goals and condition in mind. Sometimes mini-implants are used to help anchor lower dentures, which helps reduce or eliminate the use of adhesives. The final results can be dramatic. “I can’t tell you how gratifying it is, how good it feels, to see a transformation that in most cases is life-changing,” says Perry.
If your smile is already pleasing, sometimes you just want to brighten your teeth and give them a fresh look. Many believe a refreshed smile can give you a younger appearance and boost self-confidence. There are numerous over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, including gels, strips, toothpastes and, more recently, LED light systems.
Heinkel believes treatments from your dentist can have a greater effect. “There are in-office versus at -home versus OTC methods of whitening. At our office we provide ZOOM Whitening and at-home bleaching. ZOOM is the fastest and most effective method. Depending on the initial shade of teeth, you can get up to eight shades whiter. The at-home method is where bleach is placed in custom-made bleaching trays that are specifically made from models of the patient’s teeth. These can be almost equally as effective as in-office but are dependent upon the patient’s compliance at home and take longer for results. It is the combination of the more concentrated bleach provided by a dental office, along with the custom-fit trays, that really makes the difference over OTC products,” she explains.
However improvement is achieved, Heinkel finds the most rewarding aspect of dentistry is watching a patient leave with confidence and a changed smile: “It makes our work so worthwhile.”