A smile makeover is a type of dental treatment that is designed to correct multiple, highly visible dental problems to make a patient’s smile look fresh, even, youthful and pearly white. Generally, a “makeover” involves more than one procedure and correction of more than one tooth. It may involve in-depth restoration and reconstruction. More often, it simply addresses surface cosmetic issues to improve the appearance of the teeth that are readily seen when you smile.

The concept of the smile makeover has captured the imagination of many Americans as this type of dental encounter has become popular on shows like “Extreme Makeover” and “Ten Years Younger.” The dramatic difference in appearance after treatment makes for great television. However, this process is often more complex than what you see portrayed on TV. For example, a smile makeover using Invisalign to correct crooked teeth could take many months of treatment and multiple visits to complete.

Is a Smile Makeover Only About Fixing Aesthetic Problems?

This depends on who you ask. Many cosmetic dentists focus mainly on correcting the appearance of teeth during a smile makeover since this is faster and less expensive for the patient. However, other dentists argue that maintaining a beautiful smile over the long term requires the correction of underlying structural issues as well as cosmetic shortcomings. It is true that failure to fix functional problems may lead to tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss that will ruin even the best smile makeover. Some functional problems (such as teeth from that are worn down from grinding or chewing with a misaligned bite) can make you look older. That’s because when your teeth become shortened, your mouth will close further than it should. This leads to the formation of tiny wrinkles around your mouth and a slightly collapsed appearance of cheeks and lips. Restoring the original proportions of your teeth gives you a more youthful face shape.

Are You a Candidate for a Smile Makeover?

You may be a candidate for a smile makeover if you have more than one of the following dental problems:

  • Cracked, chipped or broken teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Large gaps between teeth
  • Extensive areas of tooth decay
  • Worn down enamel
  • Uneven or excessive gum tissue
  • Permanently stained enamel or dentin
  • Teeth that appear too small, too large or misshapen
  • Teeth that are crooked or poorly aligned
  • Unsightly metal amalgam fillings and/or metal crowns

If you have good oral health and only mild-to-moderate flaws in your teeth, you can have a cosmetic smile makeover that may be fairly quick with low levels of pain or discomfort. If you have significant dental deficits such as missing teeth and bone loss in your jaw, you will need a reconstructive smile makeover. This can be a much more extensive process involving bone and gum grafting and dental implants. Such advanced surgical procedures are often associated with significant discomfort and lengthy healing times. However, the results generally last a long time and provide a very natural result.

Consultation Tips

During your smile makeover consultation, you should discuss the following with your dentist:

  • The top concerns that keep you from being happy with your smile
  • How long you have been dissatisfied with your smile and if the problems are getting worse with time
  • Whether you are experiencing any dental pain, discomfort or oral disease that should be addressed prior to beginning a cosmetic smile makeover
  • What your ideal smile looks like (your dentist may use computer imaging software to help you visualize and communicate accurately about what you want). Your smile should match the overall shape and size of your face as well as your personal sense of style.
  • Your expectations regarding how long the results should last (this often determines what materials are used)
  • Any items (such as porcelain crowns) that might be partially covered by dental insurance

Your dentist will perform an exam to evaluate both the appearance and function of your teeth. He may recommend necessary treatments (such as for gingivitis) that should be undertaken before addressing the cosmetic aspects of your makeover. Depending on the type and extent of flaws in your teeth, your dentist may present you with an array of options for correction. Here are a few examples:

  • Professional teeth whitening – to remove or reduce staining and yellowing
  • Dental veneers – to make teeth appear white, evenly shaped and properly spaced
  • Braces (traditional or Invisalign) – to align teeth and close gaps that cannot be covered with veneers
  • Dental composite – to build up and restore chipped or misshapen teeth or to replace metal amalgam fillings
  • Porcelain crowns, inlays or onlays – to correct large areas of tooth decay and rebuild teeth (porcelain is often used in molars since it can withstand chewing)
  • Dental implants and/or implant supported bridges or dentures – to replace one or more missing teeth

Patient Results

Many patients find that a smile makeover is one of the most rewarding experiences they will ever have at a dentist’s office. Having tooth flaws corrected can actually improve the look of your entire face and make you look both younger and healthier. You will finally be able to smile at work, at home, with friends and in photos without worrying about your teeth.