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Beaming Confidence 

Healthy teeth generate positive impressions

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Your smile matters. Spokane dentist Stanley Sargent believes people make their first impressions within seven seconds, and their teeth say a lot.

Whether someone is looking for a boost to their self-esteem or an aesthetic edge in the workplace, Sargent says local dentists offer a variety of options for promoting healthy and attractive teeth.

“We can give you that Hollywood smile,” he says.

With a bushy mustache atop a broad smile of his own, Sargent, of Spokane’s Grand Corner Dental, does indeed make a friendly impression. He offers an outstretched hand, and his wide grin reveals an array of neat, white teeth.

Sargent points out the unintentional signals a lackluster smile can send to employers, customers or friends.

“If you’re not taking care of your teeth,” he says, “they are wondering what else you’re not taking care of.”

HOME CARE

Fortunately, the front line for a healthy smile is cheap — a sharp smile starts at home by keeping your teeth clean and avoiding sweets that damage those pearly whites. The worst offenders, Sargent says, are sugary, carbonated sodas and sports drinks.

“It’s acid and sugar,” he says. “It’s a double whammy.”

He recommends looking for sugar-free drinks without the acidic bubbles of carbonation. If you are going to indulge in a sugary drink, get it over with — nursing a drink keeps teeth bathed in damaging sugar and acid longer.

Most people don’t realize tooth decay is driven more by the number of exposures to sugar or acid than by the overall amount, Sargent says.

Electric toothbrushes offer ease and superior cleaning power, but don’t forget: “There’s no replacement for flossing,” Sargent says.

COSMETIC PROCEDURES

Sometimes, however, clean teeth just aren’t enough. If time and decay have taken a toll on a smile, Sargent and others practicing modern dentistry offer lots of options. There’s no reason to accept a smile that doesn’t make you happy.

“The simplest, easiest thing you can do to improve the look of your teeth is to whiten them,” he says.

Sargent adds that most of his patients find whitening to be a satisfying improvement, noting that lightening teeth beyond what is usually natural is becoming more popular as more people want the “Hollywood smile.”

The next stage of dental correction involves braces, either traditional wire braces or clear plastic Invisalign braces, he says. Sargent, one of the first general dentists in the country to certify with Invisalign braces, says many of his patients have found the removable option comfortable and convenient.

Even straight teeth don’t look great if they’re marked by now-obsolete black amalgam filings. In addition, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says those older filings can expand and contract, creating tiny cracks in teeth. New composite filings can strengthen the tooth while looking natural.

To get started, Sargent recommends replacing filings on the bottom row of teeth, which are much more visible when talking or laughing. He suggested patients then move on to the upper row as they desire.

Porcelain veneers offer the opportunity for dramatic changes to the shape and color of teeth. Patients can achieve significant improvements in color, alignment and overall appearance.

“We can literally manage anyone’s smile,” Sargent says.

While cosmetic dentistry can carry a whiff of vanity, Sargent says it can be life-changing. One of his patients says she spent years considering corrective options, all the while teaching herself not to smile in public. Finally, she decided to undergo corrective work.

“I’m like a different person,” she says. “It changed me. ... It has just been wonderful.”

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