Certified Kiss-able

You're never fully dressed without a perfect smile. Treat your teeth with these tips.

When you smile, the whole world smiles with you.

Just the act of smiling can make you feel better. But it’s hard to smile when you’re trying to hide stained, cracked or unhealthy teeth. Your dentist can partner with you to help make sure your smile is both healthy and appealing.

You probably already know that cigarettes, coffee, tea, soda, red wine and even berries stain your teeth.

But just because your teeth are stained doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy, says dentist Dr. Rita Frazier, with offices in Virginia Beach and Norfolk. “You could have a lot of stains, and your gums could still be basically healthy.”

But you do need a professional cleaning before trying to bleach your pearly yellows. “Whitening products work, but they won’t go through plaque and they won’t go through stains,” Frazier says. “Whitening products work better if your oral hygiene is better. I won’t even begin to whiten someone’s teeth unless they’ve gone through hygiene (a professional cleaning).”

If you tried bleaching a few years ago and had to stop because your teeth were sensitive, give it another chance. New whitening products work even for patients whose teeth were too sensitive to earlier agents, she says.

Getting your teeth professionally cleaned more often will help fight stains, she says.

Give yourself at least a 24-hour break from red wine and other staining foods and drinks after you get your teeth whitened—either at home or in your dentist’s office, she says. After whitening treatment, the pores of your teeth are more open. So if you go back to your merlot right away ... “You’ll walk around with purple teeth,” Frazier says.

As for soda, remember it is an acid and will cause rampant decay, Frazier says. So don’t sip all day. “If you’re going to have a soda, drink it all at once and be done with it,” she says. Then brush your teeth. Remember, though, that bleaching won’t work on crowns, bridges or fillings, Frazier says.

If you do in-office bleaching, you can get trays and whitening product for home use to maintain your bright smile, Frazier says.

If bleaching isn’t enough, bonding and veneers can camouflage and whiten says dentist Dr. Lisa Marie Samaha of Port Warwick Dental Arts in Newport News. Samaha works with KOR Whitening, considered to be the safest, deepest, brightest whitening technology available.

Bonds and veneers also can reduce unwanted spaces between your teeth—without braces, Samaha says. If your teeth are chipped or cracked, tooth-like materials can be bonded to the enamel so no one will notice, she says.

If your teeth are crooked, crowded or protruding, six-month braces or Invisalign clear orthodontic braces for adults can straighten your teeth in months rather than years, Samaha says.
Crowns, veneers, bonding, inlays and onlays can also strengthen and restore worn down teeth and restore symmetry to your smiling face, Samaha says.

In addition to cutting back on staining foods and drinks (you already quit smoking, right?!), good oral hygiene will help keep your smile bright and healthy.

Although a bright smile looks healthy, you want true dental health that comes from healthy teeth and gums. Frazier and many other dentists recommend the Sonicare electric toothbrush for home care. Don’t forget to floss properly either.

“People are becoming more and more conscious about how a person’s smile appears,” Samaha says. “Rotten teeth and swollen gums are very unattractive, will interfere with one’s ability to get and keep a good job, and both are contagious diseases.”

That’s right. You can catch tooth decay and gum disease from other people.

“Although not realized in the past, the word is getting around that tooth decay and gum disease are infectious,” Samaha says. “With growing awareness, the look of your teeth might just keep you from having that smile that we refer to as ‘certified kissable.’”