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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Secrets to a Bright Smile After 50

Jul 02, 2013 09:40PM ● By Mickel Malek, DDS

Having a zest for life combines with a positive attitude to play a huge part in aging. Grumpy people seem old before their time, while exciting people with vitality age far more respectably. Smiles age just as the rest of one’s appearance does. The good news is that the many treatment options available to today’s dental patient will keep smiles youthful for a lifetime. This should be the time to become proactive, now that young families have been raised and some constraints have been removed. Health, wellness and a youthful appearance are priorities of many baby boomers. With just a few simple changes, a beautiful smile is available to anyone.

Whitening teeth is a simple way to dramatically and quickly change one’s appearance. Whitening can be accomplished with treatments that whiten the teeth or with placement of porcelain veneers. Today’s whitening treatments provide better results and less post-operative sensitivity. An in-office system usually takes about one hour. Results are instantaneous and long-lasting, depending on habits such as coffee, tea, red wine drinking. Whitening is recommended when teeth have yellowed through the years, but are uniformly the same color. Whitening is not recommended when teeth have been stained gray from medications such as tetracycline. In that case, porcelain veneers may be a better choice. Veneers cover the front of tooth similarly to the way an acrylic nail covers a fingernail. The teeth can be cosmetically altered so that they are a better shape and color and tooth size can also be changed so that unwanted spaces are filled in.

Smoothing chipped teeth is a very benign way to improve an imperfect smile. Jagged edges garner negative attention, and simple smoothing and evening out can give the teeth more youthful curves. Teeth have gentle curves when they first erupt. With time, we grind them down, giving the edges aging, flat surfaces. A simple enameloplasty (tooth reshaping) can be accomplished with working just a few minutes per tooth.

Polishing teeth after a dental prophylaxis is another way to brighten by eliminating surface stain. Coffee, tea and other tooth staining culprits can leave unsightly marks that are easily polished off during a regular tooth cleaning (prophylaxis) by a dental hygienist.

Gummy smiles are easily corrected by simple gingival contouring. This procedure uses a laser to trim the tissue, which gives the appearance of larger, more youthful teeth.

Crooked teeth can be straightened in different ways. The traditional and conventional straight wire treatment would be familiar to most patients. Brackets are bonded to the teeth and the teeth are moved by use of a wire threaded through the brackets. New on the orthodontic scene is a series of aligners (think bleaching trays) that are changed out every two weeks. They create subtle movement that allows a patient to straighten teeth without using brackets and wires. Adults are great candidates for this new solution. Orthodontic treatment also cures problems associated with uneven midline, narrow arches and crowding, which can make a smile less than vibrant. Simple, painless treatments that can remake a smile in just a few short months are available at very reasonable cost.

Treating gingivitis and periodontal problems will eliminate swelling, bleeding and the halitosis this situation creates. Non-surgical treatment modalities can prevent most of the sensitivity and recession that periodontal treatments have caused in the past. Newer, less invasive methods are keeping patients very comfortable while problem areas heal.

Eliminating antiquated restorations such as amalgam or gold and replacing them with state-of-the-art, tooth-colored restorations is another way for patients to improve dental health. New bonded fillings preserve the tooth’s surface, as well as health and appearance.

Today’s dental patient has a plethora of options available. A dental practitioner can help decide what is best for each particular situation. A new, beautiful smile is just a dental visit away.

Dr. Malek, a graduate of the University of Michigan with top honors in advanced prosthodontics, is the owner of Smile Spa, 2498 E. River Rd. Contact him at 520-529-8000 or

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