Smile for Life

Benefits of Cosmetic Dentistry Extend Beyond Pretty Teeth

By Gina Gallucci-White | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 11.27.15 – Lifestyles, People & Places

When you hear about cosmetic dentistry, you may think the procedures are just to improve a person’s outward appearance. What many don’t realize is the services often greatly benefit a person’s body and mind as well. “We look at the mouth as the door to the rest of your body,” says dentist Dr. Michelle Wear of Premiere Dental Arts in Frederick. “If you have a healthy mouth, you have a better chance of having less health issues down the road, too.”

When teeth are crooked or misaligned, it can lead to an unhealthly mouth and medical issues. “A lot of time food gets trapped in between the teeth,” says Dr. Nils W. Olson, a Frederick dentist. “You can’t really clean them. You are more prone to get tartar on the teeth where you can’t keep them clean and so that’s where people often develop gum disease because of the tartar that accumulates. If they can’t keep food from getting caught in between their teeth, then they can develop tooth decay and get cavities around the teeth because of the difficulty of keeping them clean.”

Gum disease has been associated with other health risks, such as having a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes and other systemic health issues. “Anywhere there is inflammation in your body is a link to some of those other systemic diseases,” Wear says.

Invisalign and porcelain veneers are popular ways of correcting crooked teeth, which helps improve a person’s bite, resulting in less wear and tear on the teeth. “People who can’t chew their food well also can’t digest their food as well,” Olson says. Once teeth are properly aligned, a person will be able to chew their food comfortably. Wear recalls one patient had crowded teeth on his lower jaw. After having cosmetic procedures, he relayed to her that he was so thrilled to be able to take a bite out of a piece of pizza and leave a perfect U shape in the remaining slice.

Recently Olson has seen more patients whose enamel is eroding due to acid reflux, grinding and consuming acidic beverages like energy drinks and sodas. The layer underneath the enamel, known as dentin, wears seven times faster, causing deep pits and holes in teeth causing pain. Depending on the damage, a crown, veneer or bonding may be used to correct the issue.

Botox is widely known as a method to smooth wrinkles but Wear says it can be a good therapeutic method for treating patients with temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).

“Because [the jaw muscles] are clinching or grinding the teeth, muscles can get very inflamed and painful,” Wear says. “By using a small amount of Botox in those facial muscles, it relaxes the muscle. They can still function and eat and chew and smile and have facial expressions, but they can’t clench and grind as hard. It relieves the pain, the inflammation in the muscle and helps that they are not damaging their teeth as much because they aren’t grinding and clinching. It works great. I’ve had it on myself. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it.”

Besides physical benefits, improving a person’s smile can also greatly benefit his or her mental health by boosting self-esteem. “Remember the expression, ‘The eyes are the window to the soul?’” Olson asks. “Others have said, ‘A smile is like a light in the window of your soul,’ indicating the heart is its home. What it means to me is that people feel that if they can comfortably smile when they are engaged with other people, they have a deeper connection with them. When somebody tells a joke and they start laughing and all of the sudden they cover their mouth up because they are self-conscious about their smile, it’s almost like throwing cold water on yourself because now all the sudden that self-consciousness totally interrupts the positive feeling of the engagement with other people. That kind of confidence—allowing people to experience joy in the moment—are foundational to helping people feel good about themselves.”

Frederick dentist Dr. Politimi Mantzouranis chose to practice cosmetic dentistry because it mixes two of her favorite subjects, art and science. “To me, the mouth is kind of like the white canvas board that I can go on” and create, she says. “I just get a lot of pleasure out of being able to mix the two together and give results that make differences in people’s lives.”

Each dentist has years of stories to tell of how cosmetic procedures brought so much happiness to patients that they burst into tears and professions of gratitude. Mantzouranis remembers a patient who spent her life not smiling because she was so self-conscious of her teeth. The patient had a hard life growing up but was now helping others in similar difficult situations. Mantzouranis volunteered to give her a smile makeover. “The moment that she looked in the mirror and she saw outwardly the woman that she felt she was inwardly, of course, she started crying and my whole entire staff started crying,” she says. “When you give somebody their smile, they look at themselves different. They feel empowered. … The best advice we give [patients after they leave the office is] when they are driving to make sure they keep their eyes on the road and not the rearview mirror.”