Improving Your Smile

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on July 9, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 9, 2014

Improving Your Smile

In a large international survey on the topic of male beauty, researchers found that the most important factor in making a man attractive to a woman is good hygiene. A great smile was number three. Confidence took second place. Whether or not you’re in the market for a girlfriend, there’s no question that a little additional attention to your smile and oral hygiene can pay off big.

Bad Breath

Bad breath is usually caused by poor oral care habits, smoking, or a dry mouth. Hundreds of medications cause dry mouth as a side effect as well—the worst offenders are medicines used to treat allergies, high blood pressure, depression, and pain. The best ways to combat bad breath is to stay hydrated, floss daily, and brush your teeth twice a day—and don’t forget to brush your tongue, too! If you wear dentures or other mouth appliances, clean them daily. Use an alcohol-free mouthwash and artificial saliva or a dry-mouth spray or gel.

If your breath suddenly takes on an unpleasant or unusual odor, it may be a sign of a serious disorder, such as diabetes or a bowel obstruction. If this occurs, you should seek medical attention immediately. Chronic dry mouth that is unrelated to medication use should also be investigated because it may indicate an autoimmune condition or other disorder.

Healthy Gums

Proper brushing and flossing will keep your gums healthy. Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. This type of infection is caused by a buildup of plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. Though gum disease is often painless, it makes gums red and puffy and causes them to recede and bleed. Over time, the infection can progress, leading to more serious symptoms—according to the American Dental Association (ADA), gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults (ADA).

The good news is that gum disease is almost 100 percent preventable—regular check-ups with your dentist combined with good oral hygiene (that means brushing and flossing twice daily) can keep plaque at bay.

Teeth Whitening

Many over-the-counter toothpastes, mouth rinses, and chewing gums claim to have a “whitening” effect. Proper dental hygiene using toothpaste and mouth wash will help keep your teeth white. A peroxide bleaching agent is necessary to lighten the yellowish dentin, which is visible beneath the tooth enamel. Home bleaching agents, such as paint-on whiteners and strips applied directly to the teeth, are effective and relatively cheap—look for one with at least 6 percent of the bleaching agent. People who have isolated stains, such as a single discolored tooth, dark stains, crowns, dental implants, or other restorations should consult a dentist to discuss their alternatives.

Dentists can prescribe bleaching kits for home use, or they can bleach the teeth in the office. This typically involves applying a bleaching agent to the teeth and then using a special light or laser to enhance the effect of the whitening agent.

Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that can help remove stains. However, unlike bleaching agents, whitening toothpastes cannot change the color of your teeth because they only remove stains on the surface.

Concerns linger over whether the bleaching process is safe for the teeth and whether the bleaching agent might be toxic if ingested.  Long-term use of bleaches or abrasive toothpastes can increase sensitivity or gum irritation. Therefore, it may be wise to avoid whitening your teeth if your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold (ADA).

While both home and prescription products can be considered safe at this time, you should not have a bleaching procedure during pregnancy. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) recommends postponing all unnecessary dental work, including whitening procedures, until after birth to prevent exposing the fetus to potentially dangerous chemicals or medications (APA, 2007).

Teeth Straightening

Of course, a range of other cosmetic improvements is available. Some adults are candidates for Invisalign, which uses transparent trays, or “aligners,” to straighten the teeth. People with bite problems or more complex orthodontic issues may need traditional braces. Brackets made of tooth-colored ceramic or polycarbonate are less noticeable than stainless steel brackets. Sometimes, the brackets can be mounted on the back surface of the teeth.

Fixing Imperfections

A missing, chipped, or stained tooth can be replaced with a crown or dental implant, which is an artificial tooth permanently anchored into the bone of the jaw. Porcelain veneers are pricey but can transform a person’s smile in just a couple of visits to the dentist. See a cosmetic dentist to discuss your options.

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