Get Healthier, Whiter Teeth -- the Safe Way

In the 1990s, cosmetic dentistry was just taking off, and I wanted to be a part of it. It was exciting, the promise of porcelain: It would give everyone healthier, whiter teeth -- no matter how crooked their teeth were before the procedure. Only later did I discover that gorgeous smiles were sometimes being produced at the expense of people’s dental health.

The Dangers of Veneers
While cosmetic dentists may suggest veneers to cover up surface imperfections, the danger in this form of “instant orthodontics” is that healthy tooth enamel is drilled away and replaced with porcelain. This quick fix looks good in before-and-after pictures, but your previously healthy teeth are now permanently weakened, setting you up for such problems as nerve damage and cracked teeth later on.

Veneers are also quite pricey -- $1,000-$2,000 per tooth -- and are often done in sets of eight or 10. Sometimes, people are happy with the result, but other times they are dismayed with how yellow the rest of their mouth looks in comparison. Also, it’s easy to accidentally design teeth that are too bright, too big or too thick.

Better Alternatives for Healthier Teeth
Now, if you understand all the risks and your teeth are very worn down or heavily filled, veneers may be justified. Otherwise, I advocate “imperfect” as the new ideal. That’s right: Slight twists, a little space, and surface flaws that are almost unnoticeable at conversational distances are actually desirable.

If you’d still rather fix these imperfections, instead of shelling out $40,000 or more for a single complex smile makeover, talk to your dentist about more conservative and less expensive treatment options that preserve the integrity of your teeth while giving you a beautiful and healthy smile. I recommend the following:

  • Shorter-term braces (straight teeth in as few as three months!)
  • At-home teeth whitening
  • Clear aligners, such as Invisalign
  • Composite fillings that look like teeth
  • Re-contouring of the gumline

Sure, you or the dentist may have to put in a little more effort, but your teeth (and checkbook!) will benefit.

Have you ever gotten veneers or undergone dental procedures that backfired? Tell us below or tweet us @Completely_You

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by Dr. Michael Zuk