Top Tips for a Perfect Smile

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The perfect smile. It’s the stuff of icons from Mona Lisa to cover girls. And it’s all about the sparkling pearly whites (well, maybe not Mona’s). But achieving a bling-worthy grin is not such a simple fix for everyone.

Related Content: Eat Your Way to Whiter Teeth

How do the pros do it?

It depends on the doctor’s preferred process. One of the latest advancements is Zoom, which uses a powerful light to brighten smiles, said Dr. Brian Kantor, a New York City-based cosmetic dentist. During the procedure, “peroxide is activated by the light, causing the release of oxygen molecules, which penetrate the enamel surface and break down dark stains,” Dr. Kantor said. Because the solution may irritate gums, a gel is applied between the gums and teeth. Some people may still experience sensitivity, but it’s not painful and is only temporary, assured Dr. Kantor. The whole process takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Many practices, including that of Martin J. Zatz, DDS, in New Hyde Park, offer take home whitening kits. “I take impressions of the patient’s mouth to make whitening trays. They’re similar to a mouth guard, except thinner and more comfortable.” All it takes is a small amount of gel and two 30-minute sessions per day. It usually takes 14 days to experience full results.

Who won’t get good results?

Genetics, to a great extent, determine if teeth are receptive to whitening or not. “Permanent teeth that erupted in dark grey and brown shades are not going to whiten well, and this is caused by genetics,” Dr. Kantor said.

A patient with common yellowing from aging will generally see good results, but a patient who’s been a heavy smoker for more than 30 years probably won’t. He also cautioned that stains deep inside the tooth will not come out completely. “Remember that the entire tooth gets lighter. If you have yellow speckles, those will still be there, just lighter. But the rest of the tooth will be lighter also,” Dr. Zatz explained. But crowns, veneers and bonded fillings cannot be whitened.

Do at-home kits work?

Store-bought trays often work well for light staining, but don’t deliver results on par with trays made specifically for a patient. “I tried the strips, but they kept falling off. I didn’t find them easy to use,” recalled Chris Bein of Babylon. Another complaint is being able to see where the strips ended after the treatment is done, Dr. Zatz said. “It happens a lot with those who have a wide smile, à la Farrah Fawcett,” he said.

Eat—and drink—smart

Anything dark including: berries, dark juices, beets, coffee, tea, cola, sports drinks and red wine can accelerate the rate that teeth darken with age. Pinot noir aficionados may wonder whether switching to pinot grigio is the answer. Not exactly, Dr. Kantor said. “White wine is extremely acidic.” That acid creates rough spots in enamel, which leave teeth vulnerable to staining from whatever is eaten or drunk after the white wine. The easiest defense against the effects of wine is to drink water after. Ordering the cheese plate instead of the lava cake is also a good move. “One of the best ways to combat acid erosion is to eat a piece of cheese,” said Dr. Kantor. It’s rich in protein, calcium and phosphorus, all of which can help buffer acids in the mouth. “Cheddar is best, since it contains the highest levels of alkali. Soft cheese, like brie or feta, won’t have much of an effect,” he added.

Pick the right stick

Teeth with a yellow tinge can look whiter because of certain shades of lipstick. Colors with blue undertones, such as true red, pinks and purples, will offset a yellow cast. Think twice before swiping on orange, brown or gold-toned shades. Try Hello Sailor Lip Gloss from Lipstick Queen. The navy pout-plumping serum turns mauve on lips and its sapphire flecks make teeth appear whiter.

christina vercelletto

christina vercelletto

Christina Vercelletto is a lifelong south-shore Long Islander. She currently resides in Babylon with her husband, three children, and a morbidly obese calico. A media veteran, Christina has held editorial positions at Babytalk, Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, Woman's Day, and Davler Media. Her work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Redbook, Rachael Ray, Good Housekeeping, FamilyFun, and The Huffington Post. She's been a frequent guest on Today, The View, and Good Morning America.