Considering how many times your photographer/family/friends will be shouting "Smile!" at you on your wedding day, it's only natural to want to ensure that those pearly whites look their absolute best. "Brides most commonly are concerned with how their teeth will photograph on their wedding day," says Michael Apa, D.D.S., of Rosenthal Apa Group. "Chipped, cracked, discolored, and stained teeth are some of the most common issues we deal with prior to a bride's wedding." Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do throughout your engagement to ensure that near-perfect smile is possible. Whether you need a few months of at-home TLC or a full professional overhaul, here are nine things dentists wish they could tell you the minute you get engaged.
1. Go for a Consultation
First things first: Get your butt into the dentist's chair. Depending on what you want to do to your teeth, it's important to get the process started early, so you're not scrambling right before the wedding. Veneers can take two to three months, and orthodontic treatments like straightening and realignment can take up to a year. "At least give it about a year before the big day," says Timothy Chase, D.M.D., of SmilesNY. "Touch base with a cosmetic dentist early on and see what your options are." Check in first with your regular dentist, who may refer you to a specialist.
2. Get a Cleaning
"You wouldn't wax a car without cleaning it. You shouldn't whiten your teeth without cleaning them either," says Dr. Chase. This will also help you see what, exactly, you need to do professionally and what you can take care of at home.
3. Start Whitening
Don't leave whitening until the last minute! The whitening process generally takes takes at least one to two weeks, depending on your desired results, so it's important not to try to cram it in. "One of the biggest mistakes a bride can make before her big day is professional whitening the day or night before," says Sarah Coleman, a dental hygienist and Arm & Hammer Oral Care Product Specialist. "This is generally not recommended in case of accidental exposure to the gum tissue, which can cause gingival irritation." If you want to whiten at home, Dr. Apa suggests The Apa White Duo, which is the closest thing to a professional treatment on the market.
4. Maintain Your Oral Health at Home
There's a lot to think about in the months leading up to your wedding, but treating your teeth the right way should be a priority. "The best thing a bride can do for her teeth at home is to maintain her oral health during these busy times," says Coleman.
5. Follow the White Smile Diet
"Munching on crunchy snacks like apples or celery is as effective as a brushing," says Emanuel Lyliev, D.D.S., director of the New York Center for Cosmetic Dentistry. "Raw fruits and veggies are loaded with fiber, a natural abrasive that can help clean teeth. Avoid foods that are dark and sticky—the worst culprits for staining—such as red wine, coffee, barbecue sauce, or balsamic vinegar."
6. Watch Your Toothpaste
"Avoid toothpastes with abrasive ingredients like silica, especially if you have sensitive teeth or you don't have much stain buildup," says Dr. Lyliev. Look for things like Kaolin clay and bentonite clay, which are the safest, most effective, and least abrasive toothpaste ingredients for polishing off surface stains.
7. Be Mindful of Your Mouthwash
Mouthwash may make your morning breath more bearable, but it can also harm your teeth. "The alcohol in mouthwashes dries out dental work such as composite bondings. It can also weaken the overall tooth structure, so it's best to rinse with a natural formula that is alcohol-free," says Dr. Lyliev. A colorless mouthwash is best for your keeping pearly whites gleaming.
8. Sip Smartly
"Sip your coffee or latte through a straw to avoid direct contact with teeth, which helps prevent staining," says Dr. Lyliev. Go ahead and add bendy straws to the list of things you'll need to keep in your purse for the next few months…easier to do that then gasp give up caffeine.
9. Consider Quick Fixes
Even if you don't go for a major overhaul, there are certain things you can do the day of to make your teeth look perfect, says Dr. Lyliev. Stay away from gold jewelry, which tends to bring out yellowish tones, while simple sparkly earrings can make your teeth appear whiter. A true red lipstick shows off your pearly whites the best, and rose, pink, and sheer colors also offer a good contrast. Steer clear of magenta, which can make teeth look yellow. If you have any minor defect in your smile (such as a stain or crack), wipe a small dab of petroleum jelly over it, which will help diffuse the aberration in your photos.