When we talk about beauty stuff, what comes to mind first is obviously the temporary stuff: makeup that washes off, self-tanners that gradually fade, hair colour that eventually grows out. Even Botox and fillers only last somewhere between a few months and just over a year.
But today I want to discuss a more permanent—and I think, worthwhile—investment, and that is in your SMILE. As some of you know who have either written asking for advice or who've read the little tidbits I've left in the comments, I recently splurged on some cosmetic dentistry that included teeth whitening, laser gum reshaping, tooth reshaping and porcelain veneers. (Eeeks! That sounds like a lot doesn't it?)
But people? I am absolutely, 100 percent, over-the-moon thrilled with the results. I won't lie: it was pricey; very pricey (no media discount here)... but I don't regret spending the money for a single second. Especially because I'd consulted with about seven or eight different dentists before I finally made my decision.
So—by popular request, I want to give you the lowdown on my entire cosmetic dentistry experience: what it can do to transform your smile (I honestly had no idea!), why you need to be careful about who does it, and of course, my own Before and After. Whee!
WHY YOU MIGHT CONSULT A COSMETIC DENTIST
In a nutshell, it's because regular dentists who don't specialize in cosmetic work aren't to be trusted.
Sorry, but it's true. Let's say you're considering getting some veneers. Sure, your regular dentist who checks your cavities 'n stuff may be able to do a decent job... but I've seen one too many cases during my eight-month long research process where the results looked totally fake (Chiclet-mouth), or the wrong colour (too white or too yellow) or just the wrong shape/size for the person's mouth. This field is REALLY specialized, and so you can waste a lot of money by getting either work you don't need or the wrong kind of work. Things like colour matching, determining the most flattering tooth sizes and doing teeth and gum reshaping require a certain level of expertise.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT "COSMETIC DENTIST"
Okay, wait. I hate to say this, but all of the above problems can also happen with a dentist who specializes in cosmetic work. Case in point: Hilary Duff, who I'm sure got her horsey teeth (since refined) from some fancy-schmanzy Hollywood dentist...
So even celebrities can fall victim to bad work. And in fact, the term "cosmetic dentist" is a made-up one anyhow. Anyone can call themselves a cosmetic dentist. It's also a minefield out there. Most of the cosmetic guys I consulted told me I'd "need" to replace at least six to eight of my upper teeth with veneers. Which of course, makes THEM a lot of money, but in fact would've made my smile a lot worse, according to the dentist I finally went with.
His name is Dr. Ed Philips and like I said, I didn't get any special sort of media treatment—although I did discover him via an article I wrote where I needed a dentist as a source. I was so impressed with what he had to say about teeth and anti-aging (check out the March issue of FLARE) that I booked in for a consult, even though I'd been thisclose to booking in with one of his high-profile competitors who was always being quoted by the media.
Well. Let's just say that media mentions don't necessarily mean that person is "the best." The dentist I didn't go with would've charged me $10,000+ and made me sacrifice six to eight perfectly healthy teeth, because I only ended up requiring just two veneers in total (they only do them in twos). Meanwhile, he would've had my mouth looking like Sigourney Weaver's:
See how the front six teeth stick way out, and the sides are all receded back? Looks terrible, but it's a real danger with the wrong cosmetic dental work. Too many people are being automatically advised to replace the front six or eight teeth with veneers, instead of their dentists taking the time to customize an appropriate solution that works with the natural curvature of their smiles. When Dr. Philips whipped out some kind of drafting tool to calculate how much my teeth differed from the "ideal" height and width of my teeth measurements, I was sold. It really should be that scientific. (He told me, for example, that with my teeth, my choices were doing just two veneers—or the entire upper 14 teeth. Anything else would've been Sigourney-like.)
The other thing that's important is word of mouth, and also looking at examples of the dentist's work. You know to run, not walk, if you're seeing veneers that look either weirdly perfect or not perfect enough. It's a fine balance.
CREATIVE WAYS WITH PORCELAIN VENEERS
So here is where I show you what I had done specifically. I don't have a great close-up Before photo, but you can kinda see the problem in this pic:
Keep in mind that copious amounts of red wine were consumed, so my teeth were looking more grey than usual at this point! But aside from that, the teeth on either side of my two front ones (technical name: lateral incisors) were stubby little things with old bonding on them that was starting to discolour... plus they had rotated over the years so they were no longer aligned in a nice curve beside my two front teeth. NOT CUTE.
Here's an after shot (which you've seen before from this vid):
It's not bragging if I say he did a good job, non? And I get compliments on my teeth all the time now? I'm just sayin'.
The two veneers were a perfect colour match—which is a skill in itself—and size. Part of the reason it took me eight months to get all of this done is because I'd been sent (by one of the many dentists I'd seen prior to Dr. Philips) to an orthodontist for a retainer that would re-align those two problem teeth. Turns out this was completely unnecessary and I might as well have buried $1,000 in a hole in the ground, because veneers can be fashioned to build up teeth where you need them, instantly. Oh well... live and learn.
All of this was accomplished in just three visits.
THE LOWDOWN ON TEETH-WHITENING
Many of you have asked about this one, and to be honest, I'm still not sure what to tell you. Before you get veneers, you should always whiten your teeth to the level you're happy with, because the veneers won't respond to whitening treatments. Plus, you should get comfortable with the idea of regular whitening anyway, because your teeth will naturally get darker with age—and so if you have veneers, you'll have a matching problem at some point regardless.
The question is whether to have it done professionally or at home. I had professional custom trays made, which you wear for three hours at a time for about a week before the veneers go on and then once a month thereafter for maintenance. They cost around $500, with a tube of bleaching gel about $60 (you'll get about two uses per tube). It worked for me—but I have ALSO seen great things with plain old Crest Whitestrips. (And on that note, I have some very exciting Whitestrips news to share with you in about a month or so, so sit tight.) My plan is to test both and then I'll be able to tell you, either way, what works best for me.
WHY GUM AND TOOTH RESHAPING KICKS ASS
A little-discussed aspect of all of this cosmetic dentistry stuff is the amazing, incredible things that can be done with lasers these days! Such as reshaping your gums so that your smile reveals more tooth and less gum, as in the pic above. They freeze you first, so while the idea of what's actually happening is pretty... gross... you actually can't feel a thing. I had the gumline above my two stubby little teeth reshaped, so that the veneers could be larger in order to fill out my smile.
Also awesome: I'd always had a slight gap between my two front teeth and had been told I'd need to wear a retainer at night for life to counteract it. (Sexy!) So apparently all of the dentists I'd been seeing were either clueless or liars, because Dr. Philips immediately determined that it was because my bottom teeth were too tall and hitting the top teeth, creating the gap. He simply reshaped them to be shorter, and voila! I was able to retire my retainer forevah. I'm still in awe that no other dentist was able to figure out such a simple fix. Buyer beware!
So there you have it—my epic dentistry post! And a second pic with my hair in a side bun!
Hopefully this has answered some of your burning questions, but tell me...
Are you happy with your smile or would you consider having "work" done?
For those of you who've had any type of cosmetic dentistry, how was your experience?
What works for you guys in terms of teeth whitening? Do you go pro or no?