In today’s culture, a great smile is a passport to personal and professional success. Yet according to a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, over half of all Americans are dissatisfied with their smiles.

Your dentist is your smile’s best friend. Cosmetic dentistry techniques have improved greatly over the past decades. If you’re unhappy about your smile, or embarrassed by stained or yellow teeth, excessive tooth wear or the appearance of dark fillings, consider one of the following options:

Bleaching and Teeth Whitening: over time, even the best cared for teeth will develop some degree of discoloration. It’s an inevitable consequence of drinking coffee in the mornings or sipping that occasional glass of wine. Bleaching is a whitening procedure that can even reverse discoloration of teeth that have undergone root canal procedures. While many tooth whitening products are sold commercially for use at home, the safest and most effective bleaching is achieved through treatments recommended by your dentist. Some of these treatments can be done at your dentist’s office while some can be done in the privacy of your home.

Bonding: Bonding is a procedure that uses dental composite resins to restore chipped or cracked teeth, fill in gaps between teeth, and actually change the shape and appearance of teeth. Composite resin is also a great alternative to traditional amalgam fillings for filling a decayed tooth. Bonding is one of the easiest and most affordable of all cosmetic dentistry treatments.

Porcelain Laminate Veneers: porcelain laminate veneers are extremely thin shells customized to fit over the fronts of your teeth. Porcelain laminate veneers are designed to cover crooked, stained or misaligned teeth. While dental veneers can be made either of composite resin or of porcelain, porcelain might be a better choice because it resists staining and looks more tooth-like. The veneer will be custom made in a dental laboratory so that it fits precisely over the tooth it’s meant to cover. It will also be closely color-matched to all surrounding teeth so that your porcelain laminate veneer looks like part of your own natural smile.

Inlays and Onlays: porcelain inlays and onlays allow you to preserve your natural teeth in situations where decay is far advanced. Previously, your only alternative might have been a crown. Inlays and onlays are a great alternative to amalgam fillings because they can be precisely matched to the color and shape of your natural teeth. Inlays and onlays are not sensitive to cold and heat like amalgam fillings. Dentists say they actually help strengthen your teeth.

Orthodontics: orthodontics, or teeth straightening, is becoming an increasingly popular procedure among adults. These days one out of five orthodontic patients is over the age of 18. Crowded and misaligned teeth are not only unsightly, they can also contribute to oral health problems. Malocclusions make it difficult to floss effectively. Malocclusions are also a leading cause of TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). Many options are available these days besides traditional metal braces. Orthodontic patients can choose among clear, ceramic or metal braces. Treatment time varies from a few months to a year and a half.