News & Politics

How to Fix Your Smile

Solutions to common teeth problems.

Illustrations by Pete Sucheski.

A Gap in Your Front Teeth or a Chipped Tooth
Try bonding or veneers. “The most conservative and least costly
approach is to use bonding material,” says DC dentist Everett Schneider.
In a procedure requiring only one visit, a putty-like material is placed
on the tooth’s surface, then shaped and polished. The material hardens,
bonding to the tooth and sealing the gap or chip. While bonding is a quick
fix, Schneider warns that bonding material stains over time and doesn’t
last as long as porcelain veneers. Veneers are stainproof and, if done
well, can last 10 to 15 years. They do require a slight shaving of
existing tooth enamel, making the procedure irreversible.
Estimated cost: $200 to $500 for bonding, $1,300 to $1,800 for

Crooked Teeth
Try Invisalign or Six Month Smiles. Invisalign is an
alternative for adults and teenagers who want to avoid full braces and
need only minor to moderate tooth realignment. Patients wear clear “trays”
that are fitted to the teeth and can be removed for brushing and eating.
Certain dental problems, such as a significant crossbite or large gaps
between teeth, rule out Invisalign, says Dr. Schneider, and switching
trays—which patients typically do every two weeks—can cause discomfort.
But, he says, “there are plenty of situations where Invisalign will
produce a terrific result.” Another option is Six Month Smiles, which are
like traditional braces but the brackets and wires are clear and are worn
for half the time required of Invisalign. Estimated cost: $3,000
to $8,000.

Stained Teeth
Try in-office whitening. While whitening strips and trays are
easy at-home options, Dr. Brian Gray of McDermott, Giannini, & Gray in
DC says that in-office whitening treatments can brighten teeth in one
visit. The whitening works best on yellow or brown stains; patients whose
teeth have gray or blue tints aren’t always good candidates because the
discoloration is inside the teeth. Be aware, too, that tooth sensitivity
after treatment is common. Estimated cost: $300 to

A “Gummy” Smile
Try laser treatment. The minimally invasive procedure uses
laser technology to remove excess gum tissue that can make teeth look too
small and gums too large. General dentists can perform the treatment for
minor improvements, but it’s recommended that you see a periodontist or
oral surgeon for more radical changes, especially if your case requires
bone removal. Another option is to plump up the top lip with a dermal
filler to hide the excess gum. Estimated cost: $400 to

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