If you decide to have your teeth whitened, it's important that you do everything you can to maximize the longevity of your results.
Smile Makeovers Before the Wedding
You're wearing an ornate white gown, your hair is in a fancy updo and you're holding a bouquet of roses fit for a queen as you stare into your beloved's eyes. It's exactly how you always imagined your wedding day to be.
Then the photographer says "smile." You panic. Scared that the seismic space between your front two teeth or your discolored, uneven smile will forever mar the photos of what should be the happiest day of your life your wedding day.
The wedding of your dreams doesn't have to be a nightmare. From new whitening techniques to porcelain veneers and other restorative dental work, the smile of your dreams is within your reach come your wedding day.
"If you think your smile will mar pictures or make you self conscious, then your wedding is the right reason to have a smile makeover," says N. Summer Lerch, DDS, the founder of the Center of Esthetic Dentistry in New Haven, Conn., a past president of the New England Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD).
"Consider getting an initial consultation with a cosmetic dentist when you get engaged," advises Dr. Lerch. "If you do it too close to your wedding day and anything goes wrong, there is no leeway," she says. "You really want to start cosmetic dental procedures with as much time as possible to make sure it's done right, and to give yourself time to enjoy your new smile and get used to it."
"So many factors can impact the optimal outcome, including how straight the teeth are, what the condition is of the gums and whether there are existing crowns or fillings, so it's definitely best to be evaluated well before the big event," adds Larry Addleson, DDS, FAACD, a cosmetic and reconstructive dentist at The Art of Dentistry in San Diego, California and past president of the AACD.
Regardless of what is wrong with your smile, there is likely something a cosmetic dentist can do to improve it by your wedding day, including:
White Wedding, Whiter Smile
"People always want a brighter smile, so tooth whitening is something we see a whole lot of before weddings," Dr. Lerch says. There are many tiers of tooth whitening available today, she says. "The darker your teeth, the more help they need," she explains. "If you have nice white straight teeth, and basically like the color, then over-the-counter whitening strips are good because they give you that extra little whitening," she says. But if you have significant discoloration, or discoloration on the sides of the teeth, these strips likely will not be sufficient.
The next step is usually take-home whitening trays or laser whitening. Both have advantages and disadvantages, she says. "It's a personal preference," Dr. Lerch says. "If your teeth are really dark and you want to whiten them quickly, laser whitening may be your best option," she says. Laser whitening is often the choice for people who don't like the idea of wearing mouth trays.
"Take home trays are more expensive than laser whitening and take more time (but) you may get deeper whitening because you are bathing your teeth in whitening gel for a longer time," she says.
(Read more about take-home whitening)
Wedding day tip: If you choose trays or strips, do a touch up the night before your big day. "Your teeth are always the whitest the day of and the day after whitening," she says.
Restorative Dental Work Before the Wedding
Like options for whitening teeth, there are also several routes a person can take to restore broken, chipped, cracked or stained teeth.
Bonding is typically the first line. Bonding can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, broken, cracked, stained or have spaces between them. With bonding, tooth-colored materials are applied, or bonded, to the tooth surface. "We usually fill small spaces with cosmetic white bonding," says Dr. Lerch. "This can close space and it is a simple, non-invasive and conservative procedure."
(Read more about bonding)
Veneers are another popular choice for brides and grooms, says Dr. Lerch. These thin, custom-made shells cover the front side of teeth, and can be used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped or worn, permanently stained, poorly shaped or slightly crooked.
(Read more about veneers)
Crowns may be needed if porcelain veneers won't do the trick. A crown is a tooth-shaped "cap" that is placed over a tooth. Crowns can restore a tooth's shape, size and strength and/or improve its appearance. Crowns cover the visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line.
(Read more about dental crowns)
Cosmetic Tooth Contouring Before the Wedding
Cosmetic dentists can correct minor defects in the shape and appearance of a tooth through a process referred to as tooth contouring or tooth reshaping.
"This is sort of like filing your nails," Dr. Lerch explains. "Let's say one tooth is longer or pointed or has a chip that needs to be smoothed out, then with a little cosmetic contouring teeth can look pretty, without the need for full braces or a crown," she says. It's not painful either. "It's pretty much like when you are doing your fingernails, you know something is being done, but it doesn't hurt," Dr. Lerch says.
For best results, "bring a picture of a smile you like and say ‘my teeth are square and these are rounded. I'd like mine rounded,'" she says.
Braces Before the Wedding
Braces are not just for kids. Gone are the train track, heavy silver braces of yesteryear. In their place, are more aesthetically pleasing sometimes clear or even invisible braces. Braces can help straighten crooked teeth, reduce crowding or fill in spaces where teeth do not meet properly. While technology has changed the way braces look, they still don't work overnight. Start as early as you can if you want a perfectly straight smile by your wedding day.
(Read more about dental braces)
Regardless of what procedure you choose, make sure your dentist is skilled in cosmetic dentistry, says Dr. Addleson.
To help make the best decision, ask to see before and after photos of actual patients, he says. In addition, "ask to speak with existing patients of the dentist and get a sense for the quality of care the dentist provides," he suggests.
Continuing education assures that the chosen dentist is up-to-date on the latest techniques and materials in cosmetic dentistry. Questions to ask include does the dentist attend continuing education courses regularly, he says. Also ask if the dentist passed a credentialing examination to become accredited by a group such as the AACD.