The mouth takes up one-third of the face, so Dr. Scott L. Rose wonders why the business world encourages people to “put their best foot forward.” “No one really looks at your feet, they look at your teeth,” says Rose, of the Center for Aesthetic and Restorative Dentistry in Solon.
Chipped, crooked, discolored, overlapping, gapped and missing teeth send out deceiving signals. “People can have perceptions that you are uneducated, a lower socioeconomic bracket — there is a lot of negative stigma that goes with bad teeth,” Rose says.
Dr. Anthony J. Heibili, a cosmetic dentist in Rocky River who performs “smile makeovers,” says a polished set of pearly whites brightens a person’s self esteem. Heibili uses a procedure performed with high-intensity halogen light in four 20-minute sessions during a visit.
Some of Heibili’s patients request a Halle Berry or Heather Locklear look, only achievable through veneers or bonds. “Most people think of the perfect smile as pearly white, perfect symmetry and ‘level,’ meaning teeth are parallel to the ground, with two front teeth just a touch longer than the side teeth,” he says.
This look is realistic, but Rose says creating an age-appropriate smile is key. Teeth grow flatter and more yellow or gray as they age, he explains. “If you put a glaring white toilet-bowl smile on a 60-year-old man, it’s really going to look out of place,” he remarks. “But you can put that smile on an 18-year-old female and she’ll look like a model.”
Most patients, however, ask for a wide, white smile, Rose says. “Very wide and very white,” he emphasizes. “In some patients, you can do it, and in others, their faces aren’t shaped to handle that smile.”
Though a Crest-white supermodel smile isn’t achievable for everyone — or desirable, in the case of the 60-year-old man — everyone can improve their pearly whites, Rose says. Candidates who can actually achieve a Hollywood smile already have well-aligned teeth and orthodontic structure so when they smile, they show their pearly whites. (Some patients’ gums cover a larger tooth surface, resulting in a smaller smile.)
Rose notes that gender also plays into a smile makeover. Men’s teeth tend to be square, and the incisors next to the two front teeth generally are similar widths. Women’s incisors are usually half the width of their front teeth. “You try to individualize each mouth,” he adds, noting that he even matches teeth to patients’ personalities. “You can make canines more pointy, which is an aggressive look, or you can soften them for a passive look. How you play with the cusp tips can change the look.”
And when Rose performs neuromuscular dentistry, which changes a patient’s jaw position, this relaxes muscles in the face and produces a better profile. “Some people know their smile isn’t great, but they come in for other problems that a collapsed bite causes, such as jaw joint pain, neck problems and pain behind the eyes,” Rose says. “When you correct the bite, their face becomes more balanced and their pain goes away.”
[Teeth have a blood supply that comes from the heart. Tooth coloration is no indication of tooth strength (www.webmd.com)]
Bonds and Veneers — Rose compares veneers to press-on nails. Made of porcelain, these highly polished “covers” fit over the teeth and can last up to 10 years. Bonds are made of composite resin material, which wears and stains more easily. You can expect them to last about five years.
Heibili adds that for extreme cases, today’s dentures are a solution. “You won’t be able to spot good dentures, and artificial denture teeth are darn good looking nowadays,” he says.
Model Teeth — Before going through with a dental procedure, your doctor should produce a model of your mouth. Rose takes photos of patients’ mouths and recreates the smile in wax. For whitening, he uses computer imaging to show patients various shades of white and smiles so they can approximate the most flattering look.
Extra Credit — Make sure the dentist who performs your “smile makeover” is trained to perform cosmetic procedures. (Don’t assume the dentist who cleans your teeth can also apply veneers.) Ask to see certification. The Academy of General Dentistry (www.agd.org) has a listing of dentists on the Web who have additional training after dentist school.