Say Cheese

The advantages of facing the world with a bright smile.

(Illustration by Sebastien Thibault)

WHILE THE EYES MAY BE the window to the soul, a person’s smile may betray early signs of aging. “As people get older, several changes occur to the teeth and face in general that can make a person look older,” says Dr. Steven Lindauer, chair of the department of orthodontics at the VCU School of Dentistry in Richmond. “Teeth usually become darker and more yellow, and can move over time to become more crooked. The face also changes, meaning the lips sometimes cover more of the upper teeth and expose more of the lower teeth as people age.”

According to Lindauer, teeth whitening—including over-the-counter whitening, at-home bleaching, and in-office bleaching—can help make a person’s smile look brighter and more youthful. For more serious defects in the shape or size of teeth, or for extreme discoloration, veneers may be recommended. These artificial coverings are made from porcelain or resin composite materials and adhere to the front surface of a tooth in order to change the appearance.

Allen Jones

Steven J. Lindauer, Orthodontics

Orthodontic treatments are also a great way to maintain or regain a more youthful smile. “Alignment of the upper teeth should form a gentle curve that matches approximately the curve of the lower lip when someone smiles,” Lindauer says. “This is the positioning of the teeth that an orthodontist tries to achieve when performing orthodontic treatment.”

Current trends in orthodontia include removable aligners, which have improved significantly with digital modeling technology. They are typically more comfortable than traditional braces and can be cleaned more easily. Faster tooth movement can also be achieved for patients with minor alignment needs using newly developed, minor surgical techniques involving the use of light, lasers, and vibration.

“The most well-documented benefit of having straight teeth and a good bite is that it makes people look better and feel better about themselves,” Lindauer says. “Straight teeth are also easier to keep clean and healthy. … This can lead to more self-confidence and greater success in job interviews or other social activities.”

This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue.

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