One of the first pieces of advice professionals give when treating people with low self-esteem is: “Smile!” Smiling releases endorphins which make you feel better about everything, including yourself and your circumstances.
But what if you don’t like your smile? What if you have problems with your teeth and for whatever reason, have never had them corrected? What if you have a very good reason for not smiling? Is there no hope for your self-esteem?
Obviously, there is, or we wouldn’t be writing this article! Below are the most common complaints we hear from patients about their smile, and what you can do to fix them.
“I’m embarrassed by how crooked my teeth are.” Many people have grown into adulthood with crowded teeth and misaligned smiles. Unfortunately, this can lead to issues with the desire to display your pearly whites in public. While many are aware that orthodontics (braces) is an option, most don’t want to go through two to three years of treatment or be called “metal mouth.” But did you know that we now have options available that take much less time than traditional orthodontics, and some that would not be noticeable at all?
Invisalign® is a product that can be used in many adult cases to give the effects of traditional orthodontics. The difference is that the appliances are clear and virtually undetectable to others. Many famous actors, news casters, and other TV personalities have worn aligners on air and no one noticed!
The procedure for Invisalign is that plastic “aligners” are made for your teeth that will gently and gradually move them into proper alignment. Your teeth will become a little sore, just as with traditional orthodontics, but it’s not anything you can’t bear. In a few months, or some cases weeks, your teeth are straight!
Another option for correcting tooth alignment is veneers. Dr. Moorhead can remove a layer of your tooth structure and replace it in a way that straightens the alignment of your overall smile. Veneers are porcelain or composite (a mixture of about 75% glass dust and 25% acrylic) “shells” that are chemically bonded to the surface of a tooth to repair it or just change the tooth’s appearance, and are vastly considered the fastest way to straighten teeth.
“I often have bad breath. I don’t know what to do about it, so I just don’t risk it and avoid opening my mouth as much as possible.” While there are many causes of bad breath, the most common is a long hiatus from your dental hygienist! With that said, be sure to tell Dr. Moorhead if you’ve noticed breath problems so that he can help identify the cause professionally and refer you to the appropriate specialist if necessary.
When the problem is strictly dental related, there are lots of options, the first being to get regular cleanings. Most adults need regular dental cleanings every 3 to 6 months. Only a dentist or hygienist can determine the proper schedule for you, but they will be glad to do so.
Foods such as garlic, onions, and other strong substances contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled when you talk. Brushing, flossing and using mouthwash will mask the odor temporarily, but odors will continue until the body eliminates the food. Dieters sometimes develop unpleasant breath due to infrequent eating. Drinking water to keep your mouth moist will help with this problem.
Brushing and flossing daily helps to eliminate particles of food that can remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, and causing bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor.
Since saliva cleanses the mouth and removes particles that may cause odor, bad breath can also be caused by a lack of saliva, or “dry mouth.” The clinical term for dry mouth is xerostomia, which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. This problem seems to develop most often in older adults. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth. If you suffer from dry mouth, Dr. Moorhead can prescribe artificial saliva. Other suggestions include using sugarless candy and increasing your fluid intake.
Tobacco products cause bad breath. We’ve noticed that after awhile, a smoker’s breath will have a “stale” smell to it. If you use tobacco, consider quitting and ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit. Dr. Moorhead has special training in this area and can offer everything from advice, to prescriptions as needed.
Mouthwashes are generally cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you find yourself constantly using a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist. He or she may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.
Bad breath may be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your family doctor or a specialist to determine the cause of your bad breath. Learning the cause and that there is hope will do wonders for your self-esteem.
“I have these spots on my teeth that have been there since I was a child. I just assume that since they’ve always been there, there’s nothing I can do.” Oh, but there are plenty of things Dr. Moorhead can do! Sometimes these spots are a decalcification of the tooth enamel that can be treated with a simple fluoride solution, or a new material called MI Paste. Special trays are made for your mouth, and then the fluoride solution or MI paste is placed in them so that it can be held against your teeth for several minutes. The length and number of treatments just depends on the severity of the problem. There is also a process called micro-abrasion. Dr. Moorhead can use a special substance and appliance to gently, but effectively, remove the trouble spots to give your teeth a smoother, more consistent appearance.
“My teeth have an overall gray (or beige) appearance. I’ve tried whitening, but it doesn’t work. I just don’t think a white smile is ‘in the cards’ for me.” What you probably have is the result of tetracycline treatment, or excessive fluoride that you encountered as a young child while your teeth were forming. It’s true that even some professional whitening systems are not effective against this condition, but we do have other methods of treating this problem. Some dentists use a resin material to bond over stained teeth. This method is quick and easy, but the material does stain and chip over time.
The best method, and what we use most in our office, is porcelain veneers. Veneers are like shells for your teeth, and are much more durable than bonding. Porcelain is more translucent than resin, meaning that it is more like a natural, healthy-white tooth, giving you a more natural-looking, beautiful appearance.
“Too much of my gums show when I smile.” Believe it or not, there is an answer for this, too! Crown lengthening is a procedure where the gum line is altered in order to expose more of the tooth structure, and less of your gums.
This operation is sometimes necessary in order to properly restore a tooth, but it can be purely cosmetic also to give the result of a better smile line. Some general dentists are performing this procedure in their own offices, but some cases still require referral to a specialist. Either way, the investment is well worth it.
If you just don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway! Studies show that the act of smiling can actually boost confidence, and everyone knows that a confident person smiles. Try it; you’ll be glad you did!
Most importantly, whatever the reason for your not liking your smile, please discuss it with us. We’re professionals and take your trust in us very seriously. We never laugh, joke, or kid around when it comes to something as important as your smile, or your self-esteem.
Dr. Moorhead and his team write about dental news, and answer patient questions.