I have bad teeth and I'm not wealthy...is there a way to improve my smile?
November 22, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I have bad teeth and I'm not wealthy...is there a way to improve my smile?

I'm in my late twenties and I've spent my entire life with bad teeth. I have a small mouth and had 8 adult teeth (along with my wisdom teeth) pulled to give me some room, but my bottom teeth are still crowded to the point of one tooth jutting in front of the rest.

On top, I have stains on my very large front two teeth (from antibiotics) and my teeth are a variety of sizes, so typical braces wouldn't give me a lot of help here in terms of perfecting my smile.

I've actually only had one cavity in my life, despite the fact my teeth are so crowded it's hard to floss...so structurally, I've had good teeth, they just suck and my smile suffers.

If it were possible and somewhat affordable, I would have them all capped to a similar size or pulled and a "nice" smile installed...but is that possible? Do people actually have this done? What does it cost, roughly, to get a new smile? I don't make enough money to have a ton of disposable income, but if it was the kind of thing I could save for over a couple of years, I would do it.

Hivemind, what are the nuclear options for improving the look of my teeth?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Having them pulled and a nice smile installed is called getting dental implants, which is insanely expensive -- from what I've heard, a minimum of $1000 per tooth. And I'm not sure how many dentists would pull perfectly good teeth on a 20-something. No flossing and only 1 cavity? I would kill for teeth that good.

Have you looked into Invisalign? I think that or regular braces should be your first step, and then you can get veneers or have your teeth ground down to the same size. Finding a local dental school would be a good way to get reasonable dental care and talk to someone about your options.
posted by jabes at 1:37 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

If there are any dental schools near you, you could go in for a consultation there. One of my colleagues got improvements to his teeth later in life at a dental school (there were caps and implants and I don't even know what involved). He was very happy with the results, but they still took years and a fair bit of money, I think.

If it helps you, I hadn't noticed his bad teeth until he talked about the changes because he was so nice and had such a kind smile.
posted by ldthomps at 1:40 PM on November 22, 2011

I had the antibiotic stained teeth look for most of my life. And a crowded mouth. And teeth removed to make room. I learned from a young age to smile with my mouth closed.

About 4 years ago, I was gifted the dental work to fix them up. My smile is now awesome! It's made such a difference in my life. At the time I was gifted the dental work I thought "gee, if they just gave me this much cash I wouldn't spend it on dental work!" But now, having had the work done, I can say it was worth every dollar and I am saving for repairs, should I need them.

I had crowns, caps & veneers on about 16 teeth plus a gum lift. I went to the best dentist in my city and there was not much change from $25k.

One thing I discovered is that you can go to a cosmetic dentist and get a visual and financial quote. One dentist I consulted took photos then enhanced them to show what my smile would look like after the work was done. That was really helpful. The consultations with quoting dentists cost me about $175, but that was written off by the one I eventually went with.

Good luck. If you can afford it's a worthwhile investment in yourself.
posted by Kerasia at 1:40 PM on November 22, 2011

This is maybe pretty extreme, but since you asked for the nuclear option: my husband just got out of the US Army, after spending most of his twenties there. They provide complete dental care, and even braces, veneers, and other cosmetic dental options (if your CO can guarantee that you'll be non-deployable for three years), no charge.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 1:44 PM on November 22, 2011

I'm not sure where you live, but here in NYC one can get veneers from NYU dental school for around 3000 (my friend was a dental student there and said the results they got for the patients there were awesome and as good as the 10000 private dentist version of the procedure). Also, one can get financing for the whole thing through a bank-- the school sets it up, and he says it's not so hard to qualify. If you're nowhere near here, I imagine somewhere in a major city near you there is an option like this, and probably for less $$$. Call around local dental schools and ask.
posted by devymetal at 2:04 PM on November 22, 2011

My husband just did this - he got 6 vaneers and we pay for it in care credits - it's a reasonably small amount each month, but the difference in his smile and confidence is enormous.

Full disclosure: my mom is the billing manager for the office, so we don't pay the full amount that others would be charged. But care credit is a thing almost everywhere, and you can use a cafeteria/flex plan to pay them too so it's pre-tax.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:12 PM on November 22, 2011

My neighbor had an enormous amount of work done and went on a very low-cost payment plan over a period of five years or so. (He's also dentist-phobic so there was lots of "gentle dentistry" stuff too.)

As ldthomps said, I didn't notice the difference at first because he's such a happy dude with a happy smile. His smile seemed brighter but I thought he was just unusually happy. However, for him, it was worth every last penny, he loves his repaired teeth.

Some of it he paid for out of his flex spending account, not sure how much.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:19 PM on November 22, 2011

Invest in a whitening procedure done by a dentist or hygienist. These procedures work much better and more quickly than the OTC products and is gives the best value for money. Try that first, at least. Any dentist using any technique will give you noticeable improvements

If you are still not happy, then peruse the other parts of cosmetic dentistry.
posted by dantodd at 5:44 PM on November 22, 2011

Think about medical tourism. The savings will more than pay for your trip/vacation to Bangkok/Costa Rica, and the quality of care is excellent.
posted by cyndigo at 8:07 PM on November 22, 2011

I had (still have, to some extent) one front tooth jutting out crookedly and and the other front tooth very stained, and looking very pushed back compared to the one that was sticking out.

The dentist did something for me I never knew was possible. I'm sorry; I don't know what this is called, but he shaved some of the jutting out tooth down so it doesn't seem to be sticking out so far and then he put some kind of 'stuff' on top of the one that seemed pushed back, which also covered up the staining. It was covered by my (Canadian) dental plan (I don't understand how this is possible, but it was) and it only cost about $250 anyways. My mouth doesn't look perfect, but it's much, much better.

The dentist offered this when I asked what I options were for fixing my teeth, besides braces and veneers. Who knew? I hope you can find someone who call do such a thing for you. And maybe someone else here can explain what kind of cosmetic procedure this was? I didn't ask a lot of questions; I was just thinking - go ahead and try this, it can't turn out worse than it already is.
posted by kitcat at 2:21 PM on November 23, 2011

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