We all want a whiter and brighter smile, but despite our desire to put our best one forward, a trip to the dentist ranks up there with our yearly taxes on our list of things we avoid doing. That’s why Michael Apa has done the unthinkable: The cosmetic dentist has turned his office into a place you'd actually want to visit, sharing beauty-focused treatments and tips like the following three pointers to make caring for your teeth an actual pleasure.
1. Perfectly Straight Teeth are Not the Goal
Much to the chagrin of the orthodontist who saddled you with a metal mouth in middle school, Dr. Apa swears that lining your teeth in precise, parallel columns won't do you justice. "Super-straight teeth stick out in an asymmetrical face, and only about one percent of the population has a symmetrical face," he says. "When I design something for a person—whether braces or veneers—I look at the left side versus the right side, the positioning of the eyes, chin, and jaw," Dr. Apa says. "Then I move each tooth into a place that mimics, but doesn't conflict with, the asymmetries of the face. This makes the client's face appear more symmetrical overall."
2. You Can Get a Face-Lift—From Inside Your Mouth
Dermatologists aren't the only white-coats who can help you with sagging. "Teeth control the lower third of your face," says Dr. Apa. And if they recede, that may highlight droopy skin around your cheeks and mouth. "Over time, many people experience a collapse in this area from wear, grinding, or clenching," he says. "So I can add specialized veneers or crowns to their teeth, which plump up the surrounding skin and lips, lifting the appearance of the face."
3. Mouthwash Isn't Your BFF
Think all that swishing is saving you from tuna breath? Check the label. Dr. Apa says that alcohol-spiked rinses can do more harm than good. "They dry out your mouth," he says, adding that you want to have a decent amount of saliva production, as it's basically like hitting the self-clean setting in your mouth: The more saliva you produce, the less food particles and bacteria stay put. Plus, alcohol solutions can "dehydrate gums, causing them to recede." Thankfully, there are alcohol-free varieties: Apa White Rinse ($25; apabeauty.com) has antibacterial peppermint oil and cavity-preventing mineral hydroxyapatite.