How to Improve Your Smile: Oral Health, Straightening, Whitening, and More

How to Improve Your Smile: Oral Health, Straightening, Whitening, and More
profile picture of Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
How to Improve Your Smile: Oral Health, Straightening, Whitening, and MoreClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.

We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.

Table of Contents

  1. Mental Health & Your Smile
  2. Tips to Improve Your Smile
  3. Prevention
  4. Best Teeth Whitening Options
  5. Best Teeth-Straightening Options
  6. Other Ways to Improve Your Smile
  7. References

Your smile is more than just another facial trait and characteristic – it is also an important social tool. People who are dissatisfied with their smile often feel less attractive, smile less, and may experience social difficulties due to reduced self-confidence. This may also take a toll on their mental health.

If you are unhappy with your smile, you can improve it by working on your oral health and hygiene. You can also purchase cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening, veneers, and orthodontic care to make your smile more attractive.

Improving Your Smile and Mental Health

More people than you think worry about their smile and how it impacts their personal appearance. A 2007 study of people aged 15 and older in Great Britain found that:

  • 1.25 million people felt less attractive due to the appearance of their teeth.
  • Another 1.25 million reported that the appearance of their teeth had kept them from smiling and laughing in the past.
  • Nearly one million believed that the appearance of their smile had lowered their self-esteem.
  • Another one million said that their teeth made it difficult for them to meet and interact with people face-to-face.

These worries are not entirely unfounded. Research has shown that people do consider others’ smiles to be an important factor in determining their attractiveness, especially in the context of dating.

Improving your smile works to improve your mental health on two fronts: it can help you gain more confidence and may improve people’s perceptions of you.

Tips to Improve Your Smile and Keep It Healthy

You cannot have a winning smile without good oral health.

If you are unhappy with the appearance of your smile, there are several things you can do to make it look more attractive:

  • Brush your teeth regularly
  • Floss twice a day
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • See you dentist regularly
Brush Your Teeth Regularly

Brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes a session keeps your teeth clean, removing plaque and food residue that build up over time.

Brushing significantly lowers your chance of developing tooth decay, keeping your smile intact. It also freshens your breath and scrubs away the surface stains that build up on your teeth, making them look whiter.

Develop a routine for your brushing – not just when you do it but how you to it. You must scrub each area of your teeth, inside and outside, and include the gums. Brushing the gumline consistently keeps your gums strong and can prevent bleeding when you floss.

Floss Once a Day

Flossing helps to clean out the bacteria and food particles that collect under your gums, between your teeth, and in other hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. Brushing often misses these spots, so flossing is the only way to reliably remove them.

Good flossing habits will significantly reduce your chances of developing tooth decay at the gum line or between your teeth. Floss can also disrupt stains that start to form between your teeth and keep your smile bright.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates often leads to tooth decay. Refined carbohydrates (such as those present in sodas, cookies, crackers, white breads and other snack foods) have the greatest negative impact.

Balancing the carbohydrates you eat with items like cheese, meats, eggs, nuts, leafy greens and other nutritious foods will significantly reduce your chances of tooth decay. It will also ensure your teeth have all the nutrients they need to remain strong and healthy.

See Your Dentist Regularly
Many dental problems develop slowly. Seeing your dentist for regular cleanings and exams can keep the worst problems (such as severe decay and advanced gum disease) at bay. If you experience any early signs of an issue, your dentist can diagnose and treat that problem immediately before it gets any worse.

Prevention: Defense Is the Best Offense

Many imperfections in a smile are not traits you are born with. People develop problems like tooth decay and excessive wear over time. Here is what you can do to prevent this from happening:

  • Create an oral health routine. Consistency is key to keeping your mouth clean. Brush your teeth first thing in the morning when you wake up, then once again just before you go to bed. Choose a time in between to floss and stick to the same time each day.
  • Make oral hygiene easy. Some people have difficulty maintaining the motivation to brush and floss regularly. If you struggle with this problem, consider making these tasks more convenient for yourself. Keeping a disposable pre-pasted toothbrush and set of floss picks in your bedside drawer, at your desk at work, or in your car may make it easier for you to keep up with your oral hygiene needs.
  • Protect your teeth when you are physically active. Many tooth injuries happen during sports games, especially contact sports like hockey, boxing, and rugby. If you choose to participate in these types of sports, wear protective headgear, a mouthguard, or both to protect your teeth from blows and falls.
  • Address problem behaviors like pencil chewing and teeth grinding. Most tooth wear happens because of issues like these. Try to break these habits during the day by keeping yourself relaxed and mindful of what you are doing. If you grind your teeth during your sleep, invest in custom nightguard from your dentist to protect your teeth. If you habitually chew the leftover ice from a drink . . . don’t.

Best Teeth Whitening Options

For many people, having whiter teeth leads to higher self-esteem. There are many teeth whitening treatments on the market today. You can have your teeth whitened professionally, use special whitening toothpastes and try at-home whitening kits. There are also whitening kits and trays to try.

Professional Whitening Treatments

Professional whitening treatments are in-office procedures administered by a dentist. These treatments use concentrated bleach gels and special lights to lighten your teeth.

Professional whitening treatments are the most effective whitening treatments available, usually lightening teeth by several shades. They also have a significant and lasting impact on patients' mental health. A 2020 study published in BMC Oral Health found that even low-concentration professional bleaching solutions provided positive mental health effects for a full year after treatment.

Whitening Toothpastes
Whitening toothpastes use small abrasive particles to scrape away surface stains on your teeth. These toothpastes can whiten your teeth by a shade or two with consistent use. However, prolonged use may also damage your tooth enamel.
At-Home Whitening Kits

At-home whitening kits use low-grade concentrations of bleach to remove surface stains and lighten the appearance of your teeth. They are usually sold in the form of strips that are applied to your teeth for around 30 minutes at a time.

These kits are weaker than in-office treatments, but they can still lighten your teeth by several shades. They have also been shown to have a positive impact on patients’ quality of life.

Whitening Pens

Whitening pens are small handheld devices that whiten teeth using a medium-grade hydrogen or carbamide peroxide solution.

These items are convenient and highly portable, making them a great solution for whitening on the go. Because they can be difficult to handle with precision, dental professionals say that they are best used for touch-ups after more comprehensive whitening treatments.

Whitening Trays

Whitening trays are a type of at-home whitening kit. They use plastic trays and bleaching gels to whiten your teeth.

Whitening trays produce similar effects compared to other at-home whitening methods. They usually work more quickly as well. However, it can be difficult for users to control the gel during application, which may lead to a greater risk of tooth and gum sensitivity.

Best Teeth-Straightening Options

Straighter teeth can also lead to higher self-esteem and better confidence. If you want to straighten your teeth, you have a number of treatment options to choose from. They call into three general categories:

  • Braces
  • Clear aligners
  • At-home straightening kits

Metal Braces

Traditional metal braces can be used to straighten teeth and correct many orthodontic conditions, including:

  • Crowding
  • Rotated teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Crossbite
  • Deep bite
  • Open bite

Metal braces correct even severe misalignment problems with enough time, and dentists consider them highly effective. However, even dentists acknowledge how noticeable braces are.

Many people feel self-conscious while wearing them. The metal brackets also trap food easily and make it difficult to brush properly, increasing your chances of developing oral health problems.

Metal braces can be expensive, costing around $5,000 on average. The total cost of your treatment will depend on factors such as how complex your case is and where your dentist or orthodontist is located.

In-Office Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are customized plastic trays that fit over your teeth and apply moderate pressure to gradually shift them into the desired position. Invisalign is currently the leading provider of clear aligners in the North American market.

Aligners treat most of the same cases that metal braces can. Some people with very severe alignment problems may not be good candidates for treatment with clear aligners, but this is rare. When aligners are an option, many patients prefer them for the convenience, comfort, and discretion they offer.

Orthodontic treatment using aligners usually costs about as much as treatment with metal braces. Some dentists and orthodontists charge slightly more.

At-Home Clear Aligners

At-home clear aligners are products that allow you to undergo clear aligner orthodontic treatment from the comfort of your home. Some noteworthy companies offering these types of products include Byte and Smile Direct Club.

These teeth straightening kits contain materials to make an impression of your teeth as well as the packaging and shipping information you need to send to send that impression back to the provider. The provider fabricates a set of clear aligner trays you can use to execute this treatment plan and ships them to your home address.

At-home clear aligners are considerably less expensive than in-office orthodontic treatment. They are also more convenient because they do not require office visits. However, they are best suited to treating mild orthodontic problems and may not offer the same lasting results that traditional orthodontics do. Experts recommend consulting your dentist about the benefits and risks of this type of treatment before beginning to use it.

Other Ways to Improve Your Smile

If you are still not satisfied with your smile, there are other treatments you can try to make it more attractive. You can research:

  • Cosmetic dentistry
  • Veneers
  • Botox
  • Dentures and bridges
  • Mouth exercises
Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentists are dentists who use treatments like tooth whitening, implants, crowns, and other procedures to improve the appearance of your smile.

Although cosmetic dentistry is not a professionally recognized specialty, dentists who advertise themselves this way are exceptionally skilled at creating beautiful smiles for their patients. They are adept at combining several different treatments to achieve the results you want, making it possible for them to restore even severely damaged teeth.

Veneers

Veneers are thin shells that are placed over your natural teeth to disguise their shape, size, positioning, or color. They can be made of porcelain, resin, or other light-colored dental materials.

Veneers provide excellent results, and they are less invasive than treatments like crowns and bridges. They are also a convenient solution to mild misalignment problems, especially if just one or two teeth are out of place.

However, veneers also have several drawbacks. To place them, your dentist must shave off a thin layer of your tooth’s enamel. This permanently alters the tooth. Veneers may also stain and break easily, especially if they are made of porcelain.

Botox

If you feel you show too much of your gums when you smile (also known as a gummy smile), Botox injections can help. These treatments control the size of your smile and reduce the amount of gum that shows when you grin. This rebalances the elements of your smile and keeps people’s focus on your teeth instead of your gums.

Treating a gummy smile with Botox injections is convenient, causes minimal pain, and produces immediate results. These benefits make it a preferred treatment for many patients with this condition.

Dentures and Bridges

If you have missing teeth, you can use dental prosthetics like dentures and bridges to fill the gaps in your smile.

These tooth replacement options look just like real teeth, so observers will not know that they are not a natural part of your smile. They also provide additional function, helping you chew and speak more easily.

Mouth Exercises

Certain exercises for the lips, mouth, and jaw have been shown to produce improvements in muscle elasticity, lessen the appearance of facial wrinkles, and improve blood flow to the lips. These things may make your smile look more attractive to others. The exercises may also boost your confidence, making you more likely to smile when you are genuinely happy.

The effects of these exercises have not been studied as thoroughly as most other smile improvement options. While they may help, they should only be considered after other options have failed to produce the desired results.

References

Enhancing Facial Aesthetics with Muscle Retraining Exercises-A Review. (August 2014). Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.

The impact of orthodontic treatment on quality of life and self-esteem in adult patients. (June 2015). European Journal of Orthodontics.

The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and 'whitened' teeth. (February 2008). British Dental Journal.

Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontics: Surveying the User Experience. (August 2020). Journal of the American Dental Association.

Orthodontics at Any Age. (2022). Canadian Dental Association.

Efficacy and safety of over-the-counter whitening strips as compared to home-whitening with 10 % carbamide peroxide gel--systematic review of RCTs and metanalysis. (August 2015). Clinical Oral Investigations.

The change of teeth color, whiteness variations and its psychosocial and self-perception effects when using low vs. high concentration bleaching gels: a one-year follow-up. (September 2020). BMC Oral Health.

Influence of teeth on the smile and physical attractiveness. A new internet based assessing method. (March 2013). Open Journal of Stomatology.

Braces Cost. (2022). CostHelper.

The effects of at-home whitening on patients’ oral health, psychology, and aesthetic perception. (December 2018). BMC Oral Health.

Dental work can boost self-esteem. (October 2007). British Dental Journal.

Botulinum Toxin for the Treatment of Gummv Smile. (June 2017). The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice.

Tips for Good Oral Hygiene and Healthy Smiles. (May 2017). UI Health: University of Chicago Illinois.

Tooth Whitening: What We Now Know. (June 2014). Journal of Evidence Based Dental Practice.

Cosmetic Dentistry. (2022). Ontario Dental Association.

The win-win of whitening pens: Whitening pens tap into a market that's crazy for a nicer smile. (December 2016). RDH.

Psychological effects of aesthetic dental treatment. (Journal of Dentistry). September 1998.

Protecting teeth from damage with mouthguards. (February 2014). Dental Nursing.

Brushing and Beyond: Key Oral Health Tips for Anyone with a Smile. (2022). MouthHealthy.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

TOP