A smile is a powerful thing. It’s one form of body language we understand regardless of cultural background, age, gender, or language. We use our smiles to send a nonverbal message to those around us that we are friendly, non- judgemental, and fun to be around. It can make a huge difference in our relationships and daily interactions with people, and the ability to fully express happiness and delight can make life so much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, millions of people hold themselves back from smiling because they are insecure about the way their teeth look.
If you’re one of those people, there’s a good chance your hang-ups aren’t as prominent as you think, but that probably doesn’t make you any less self-conscious. It’s like a nasty pimple or blemish— once you know it’s there you just can’t stop thinking about it. This causes a lot of people to avoid smiling altogether or to cover their mouth out of embarrassment, and it’s something that can affect day-to- day life in a very real way. The most common insecurities? Dark or discolored teeth, broken or worn-down teeth, missing teeth, and crooked teeth. So, the question is—what can be done to fix a problematic smile?
Depending on the skill/experience of your dentist and where you live, the means for getting your teeth in a row are more abundant than ever before. Clear trays fitted to the shape of your mouth have been around for almost 20 years now, so you don’t have to worry about metal in your mouth if you don’t want to— though the traditional wire and bracket route is still the most effective method for stubborn teeth, jaw misalignment, and over/under bites.
Does insurance cover teeth straightening? Often insurance will at least partially cover the cost of braces or at-home aligners. Payment plans are common to break down the outstanding balance. If you have a health flexible spending account (FSA), the money you pay towards an alignment won’t be taxed, so you can save some money there if you plan ahead. The side benefit is that it's easier to bite and chew, and can reduce stress and tension in your jaw.
This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to improve the appearance of your smile. For discolored teeth, a wide range of options exist from whitening toothpaste, to over the counter trays, to professional whitening performed by your dentist.
Does insurance cover whitening? Not usually. This type of treatment is almost always considered cosmetic only, but do look into supplementary dental plans that can be purchased in addition to your main insurance to offset the cost of whitening and other procedures.
This cosmetic procedure is essentially a makeover for your mouth. If your teeth are too small, have jagged edges, are lopsided, worn, or are discolored beyond whitening, veneers can give you an almost perfect-looking smile if done by an experienced dentist.
Does insurance cover veneers? When it comes to veneers, insurance coverage is sort of a gray area. Whether or not your insurance will help offset the cost depends on your situation, and if the procedure is deemed necessary or cosmetic only. Broken, worn down, ‘dead’ teeth, or teeth with extensive filling or root canal work are the most likely candidates for veneer coverage.
If the purpose of veneers is to create a more balanced smile or cover up staining you’re probably on your own. Talk to your dentist about payment plans before getting started—it’s a lot easier to pay a couple hundred dollars a month than to tackle a large amount upfront. Side benefit: provides a protective layer over the enamel of your own teeth—preventing acids and bacteria from exposing the sensitive inner layers that are susceptible to tooth decay.
Tooth Restoration and Implants
There is a range of tooth restoration options that can help fill the gaps in your smile. Dental bridges and dentures are less expensive but require more maintenance. A full tooth implant is a more permanent and natural looking solution, but tends to be more costly. Your dentist can help you decide which is the right fit for you.
Does insurance cover tooth replacement? As is the case with veneers, whether or not insurance will help lessen the cost of tooth replacement really depends on the reason why you need the procedure in the first place. If you were in a car accident or have lost a tooth as a result of some other medical emergency, the chances of insurance accepting your claim are much higher (in these cases medical, not dental insurance will be the ones to foot the bill). If not, there are always payment plans and FSAs to help make the cost more manageable.
The side benefit is that restoring gaps in your smile will not only keep your existing teeth where they should be, it can also protect your jawbone from deteriorating in the empty spaces.
Deciding on Dental Work
Now, we’re not saying if your teeth aren’t 100% straight and blindingly white, you NEED to have work done. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having small imperfections like gaps and a little crookedness; these are attributes that make you YOU, and add personality to your smile. On the flip side, if there’s something off about your smile that continues to bother you and affect the way you interact with others, there’s nothing wrong with making an informed decision about a procedure that can improve your quality of life.
Here at our dental offices in Hilton Head, we’ve seen the effect these procedures can have on people’s lives and hear from our patients all the time how freeing it can be to finally let go of their nagging anxiety and worries.
If you have a dental hang-up that’s preventing you from living your best life, it might be time to see if one of these cosmetic dentistry options is right for you. There are so many reasons in life to smile—you should never let insecurities get in the way of expressing your happiness at every opportunity!