How to Have a Younger Smile
Even as recently as five years ago, the majority of anti-aging efforts were concentrated on the face. Then women started to realize that a freckled décolletage and crepe-y hands are equally aging, and sunscreen started showing up in body lotions and hand creams as well as facial moisturizers. Now, the next anti-aging frontier is the smile. “The mouth is the focal point of the face,” says Gregg Lituchy, Lowenberg & Lituchy, New York City-based cosmetic dentist. “We eat, kiss and talk with it, and it’s in constant motion. The extent to which you can make someone look younger is affected a lot by changing what’s inside the mouth,” he says.
In fact, a bright, white smile can easily subtract 10 to 15 years from your appearance, says Dr. Lituchy. “I’ve had some patients who were considering plastic surgery, but after I fixed their teeth they decided they didn’t need any other work.” Read on to learn how cosmetic dentistry can help make your smile — and you! — look younger.
A Whiter Smile Is a Younger Smile
“After years and years of drinking red wine and coffee, and eating teeth-staining foods, teeth naturally turn yellow,” explains Lituchy. Teeth bleaching is an effective solution for whiter teeth.
Lituchy suggests starting with an at-home teeth-whitening product first because it’s more economical and will give you a sense of how much whitening you need. If you don’t get good results, or would like to have even whiter teeth, in-office bleaching is generally more effective. A dentist uses a gel with a stronger percentage of hydrogen peroxide and a light that can help the bleach penetrate your teeth. The process takes about an hour. Your dentist can also provide you with custom-made bleaching trays for at-home maintenance.
The only negatives to teeth bleaching are that it is not permanent and some people experience temporary sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages.
Size and Shape Make All the Difference
Much like how good tailoring can subtly change the fit of a dress from something that looks just OK to an outfit that is really special, the right size and shape teeth can make your smile more attractive and younger looking. “The two front teeth should be a little longer than the neighboring two lateral teeth,” says Lituchy. That’s generally the way most teeth are sized to start with, but years of wear can make the front teeth shorter.
As for the shape of the teeth, the canine teeth, should be a little pointy and longer than their neighbors. Similar to your front teeth, these teeth generally start out shaped that way, but then flatten out after years of use.
If want to improve either the size or the shape or your teeth, speak with your dentist about veneers or bonding to achieve a younger smile.
Healthy Gums, Healthy Smile
Ever hear the expression “long in the tooth”? The term, a colloquial way of saying someone is older, stems from the fact that for some people, the gums recede with age, due to periodontal disease. “If gums recede enough to be noticeable and shows the root of the tooth which has no enamel and is naturally more yellow, you will look older,” says Lituchy.
If this is the case with your smile, it may be time to schedule a scaling with your dentist, where the gums are deep-cleaned to remove plaque and tartar.
Even if your gums are healthy, some people are born with a “gummy” smile. “For those who show too much gum tissue when they smile, we can use a laser to cut the gum back so more of the tooth is showing,” Lituchy says. Porcelain veneers may be required after the surgery if too much of the root of the tooth is showing as a result.
Lips: Not Too Big, Not Too Small, but Just Right
Lips naturally loose volume as we age, so hyaluronic acid injections, such as Juvederm or Restylane, to bring back fullness are a good option. However, be sure not to overdo it, cautions Lituchy. “If too much filler is used, it can prevent the lips from rising up so you don’t see enough tooth,” he says. That doesn’t mean lip injections are off the table, just be cautious and work with your dermatologist to determine the right size lips for your face and your smile.
Missing or Broken Teeth Set You Back
It probably goes without saying that missing or broken teeth will not only age your smile, they will make you look less attractive overall. Many options exist for replacing or repairing damaged teeth, including implants, crowns, bonding and veneers, so don’t hesitate to speak with your dentist about how to achieve the younger smile you’re after.