Is looking good a survival trait? Harvard psychology professor Nancy Etcoff thinks so.
“Appearance is the most public part of the self,” she writes in Survival of the Prettiest.
It is our sacrament, the visible self that the world assumes to be a mirror of the invisible, inner self. This assumption may not be fair, and not how the best of all moral worlds would conduct itself. But that does not make it any less true. Beauty has consequences that we cannot erase by denial. Beauty will continue to operate—outside jurisdiction in the lawless world of human attraction. Academics may ban it from intelligent discourse and snobs may sniff that beauty is trivial and shallow but in the real world the beauty myth quickly collides with reality.
“Beauty,” she adds, “has its roots in biology and is not only a means of attraction, it is used in nature as a visual representation of health.”
Yet how many of us look in the mirror and don’t see beauty? Maybe your smile has faded. Maybe an old composite filling on your front tooth now appears discolored. Maybe the gap-toothed grin that looked adorable when you were younger now seems less attractive to you.
If your teeth are getting between you and a smile, maybe it’s time to investigate the options for getting your groove back.
“Cosmetic dentistry” is a term we use to describe dentistry that improves appearance. And it can be provided in a holistic way. Though the immediate focus is on your smile, the procedures should be done in a way that honors and supports whole body health and overall well-being.
Here are a few of the most popular cosmetic options:
Tooth Whitening/Smile Brightening
Everyone’s teeth grow darker over time, partly from tooth changes, partly from staining. While over-the-counter products can help remove stains, the best cosmetic results come from professional whitening.
There are lots of different in-office whitening systems available. All rely on the power of peroxide. Here in our office, we use Zoom, which offers fast results with less of the sensitivity that can sometimes come along with smile brightening.
Another option is deep bleaching, which offers the most consistent results. It works by restoring our teeth’s ability to absorb oxygen which in turn dissolves those hard-to-get stains.
Tooth-Colored, Metal-Free Restorations
There are plenty of health reasons to replace “silver” amalgam fillings with tooth-colored composite. Despite their name, they’re mostly mercury, and mercury is a well-known neurotoxin. Other non-precious metals in these and other types of restorations can be highly reactive in the body, as well.
But sometimes simple aesthetics are the motivation to finally replace amalgams and other metal restorations, to get rid of the ugly gray color and black lines edging crowns. These visual disturbances peek out of your mouth whenever you talk, smile, laugh, or yawn.
Composites, on the other hand, are a beautiful natural tooth color and broadly biocompatible. (Blood testing, muscle testing or electrodermal screening can guide us to the materials best suited to your unique biochemistry.) The fillings are bonded to your teeth for long-lasting results. When done correctly, composite restorations look – and perform – like natural tooth structure.
Metal-free crowns and bridges can be done, as well. Each tooth is constructed, in a specialized laboratory, with a strong internal, non-metal, core and porcelain over the core. Like the newest composites, these restorations are strong, durable, and perform like natural teeth.
Porcelain veneers, usually reserved for use on top or bottom front teeth, can give your teeth a beautiful and minimally invasive option. They work well for stained, discolored, or fractured teeth, and are customized to your unique smile.
While some biocompatible veneer options require that we remove a bit of natural tooth structure before placing them, no-prep options are available. These incredibly thin veneers fit perfectly over the front of your teeth without making them look bulky. With proper care, their color, shape and polish can last a very long time.
If you’re missing a tooth between two teeth that have no dental needs, an implant can be an excellent option for replacing it. Implants will help you return to normal chewing while preserving the integrity of the adjoining teeth.
Traditionally, titanium – a more body-friendly metal – is used for implants, though metal-free ceramic implants are also increasingly an option. Once the implant is set in the jaw and bone has built up around the implant to support it well, an abutment and crown are fixed on top. The end result is a prosthetic that looks and acts just like a natural tooth.
If you struggle to see the beauty in your smile and hesitate to do something about it because it seems silly or vain to desire a beautiful smile, we urge you to put a different picture into focus.
Image by Jaume Escofet, via Flickr