BY December 9, 2011

Buying a Better Smile

I’m in the market for a smile makeover. It’s not that my smile sends people packing, but it needs work—thanks to a misguided leap into the family swimming pool when I was a teenager.

I was left with one front tooth chipped and another so badly damaged it required a root canal. Over the years, I noticed a color shift and jagged edges that drive me nuts.

For all the worrying about our physiques and fussing with our hair, studies suggest that our smiles make the most lasting impressions.

In this age of modern cosmetic dentistry, I don’t have to grin and bear my less-than-perfect smile. The list of high-tech corrective options varies from noninvasive tooth whitening and Invisalign braces to more permanent fixes such as porcelain veneers and ceramic implants. Here’s a sample of what is locally available:

Veneers: A sliver of porcelain bonded to the front of a tooth, as opposed to a crown or cap that covers the entire tooth. Price ranges from $1,200 to $2,200 per tooth, depending on the complexity.

Dental Bonding: Uses composite material to fill in small defects such as chips, spots and gaps between teeth. It isn’t recommended for major smile makeovers. Price ranges from $300 to $1,600 per tooth.

Invisaligns: Clear, removable trays used instead of metal wires to straighten your teeth. Price ranges from $5,000 to $7,700 for a complete case.

Ceramic Implant Restorations:Dental implants are artificial roots placed in your jaw to anchor replacement teeth. Price ranges from $1,800 to $3,000 (includes crown and abutment).

Teeth Whitening: Several cosmetic options are available; price ranges from $300 to $1,000—the less expensive option being take-home trays versus in-office whitening procedures such as Zoom Teeth Whitening.

Armed with this knowledge, I stopped procrastinating and consulted with cosmetic dentist Dr. Brian Olitsky, who operates Smile Design offices in Bonita Springs and Naples. As the name suggests, his practice is devoted to dental makeovers.

His wife, Erin, met me at the door to determine what kind of results I was after. It might seem counter-intuitive, sitting in the office of a cosmetic dentist, to say I didn’t want a noticeable change. Truth is, I’ve grown accustomed to my face. I told Erin I wanted “my” smile, only brighter and healthier.

“That’s what they all say—until they realize they can have a movie star smile,” she said. “Then almost everyone wants super-bright, white teeth.”


It’s a challenge to temper star-struck visions, but I had faith they would keep me from diving off the deep end. Olitsky sized up my teeth, checked for coloring and cracks, and assessed my bite. He recommended upper veneers, along with Invisalign braces on my bottom teeth. The braces could take as long as two years, but veneers are a relative quick fix. Three appointments, three weeks apart for a dazzling smile.

Before diving in, I spoke with another cosmetic dentist, Dr. James Massa from Naples. He is also highly trained in bite and TMJ disorders, which cause sufferers to grind their teeth. In addition to correcting neuromuscular issues, Massa specializes in rebuilding damaged teeth. He told me he could take my picture, image it into a computer and then e-mail me a photo showing how I would look, post-procedure (a testament to the blending of art and science). “A revolution in ceramics gives us the ability to make life-like teeth,” Massa said.

These clearly aren’t your grandma’s dentures. New techniques and composites have increased demand. A 2007 survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found cosmetic revenue topped $2.75 billion in 2006, up 15 percent from the previous year. Two-thirds of patients were female, 53 percent between the ages of 41 and 60. One in every 10 patients nationwide was older than 60. At Smile Design, Olitsky estimates the majority of his patients are 60 or older. “Every single person we treat says, ‘I wish I had done this sooner,’” he said.


In Southwest Florida, tooth whitening and veneers are top cosmetic dental procedures. Bonding, crowns and tooth implants are alternatives your doctor might consider as well. As for me, a new, improved smile is in my future. I decided to go with veneers for my upper teeth and Invisalign braces for my bottom teeth. I did hesitate, wondering if I’m too old to wear braces—but I realized I’m not getting any younger. The beauty of the tray system is that it is removable for those occasions when I don’t want to be seen wearing braces. To say I’m excited about the veneers is an understatement. Once it sinks in that you can correct your smile almost overnight, well, it kind of makes you wish you did it … yesterday.

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