How to Improve Your Smile Before Your Wedding

Celebrity fave Dr. Stephanie Dumanian breaks down the most popular procedures.
Collage of four perfect wedding smiles
Illustration: Natalie Romine
Naomi Rougeau
by
Naomi Rougeau
Naomi Rougeau
Naomi Rougeau
Senior Fashion and Beauty Editor
  • Naomi writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in fashion, jewelry, and beauty.
  • She brings over a decade of experience as a writer, editor, and creative consultant.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Naomi was the senior fashion features editor at ELLE Magazine, where she also oversaw the publication's living and travel sections.
Updated Jan 08, 2024
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You've said "yes" to the dress, the guest list has been drawn up and cake samples ordered. Congratulations are certainly in order but while you're still mired in the details of wedding planning, have you given any thought to improving your smile? While the last thing you likely want is to further stretch your ever-expanding budget, consider that an improved smile will be with you long after the flowers have wilted. Whether you're simply seeking whiter teeth or a more harmonious smile, there is an option to suit every to-be-wed and as with all things wedding-related, timelines are paramount. For a full picture of how to look your best on the big day and beyond, we turned to an expert.

Few are as well versed as Dr. Stephanie Dumanian, DDS of Park Lex 60 Dental in New York. The Columbia-educated cosmetic dentist experienced the transformative power of dentistry at a young age when a dentist restored her smile by correcting a dental trauma. That formative event—and the resulting self-confidence—inspired Dumanian to help others. Renowned for her subtle approach, Dr. Dumanian's expertise is sought out by clients the world over including celebrities, professional athletes, influencers, and models. Dumanian also gives back by doing charitable outreach in Jamaica and participating in low-cost programs for those most in need.

Dr. Stephanie Dumanian, DDS
Photo: Park Lex 60 Dental

Do I Need a Smile Makeover Before My Wedding?

Your wedding and smile are as unique as you are and should be celebrated as such. If you feel comfortable with your current smile, you needn't change a thing. Most brides and grooms want to feel like the best version of themselves when it comes time to walk down the aisle, and for those who are looking to upgrade their smile, it's important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Timelines and costs all come into play and it is important to ensure you feel comfortable with your chosen dentist. That means researching their work and interviewing a few before jumping in. Here, we'll tackle the three most sought-after options plus offer some recommended products and lifestyle considerations from our expert.

What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

"Cosmetic and restorative dentistry is the term I use most because I find that often when we're dealing with cosmetic issues, there's a functional reason why things aren't looking the way we expect them to," says Dr. Dumanian, explaining that the goal is not merely to make the patient look beautiful, but also to improve their health, their quality of life and function. "The two go hand in hand, and I think that that's something I'm noticing is more on trend now [and what's driving people] to improve their smiles."

"Everyone's very focused on longevity at the moment, so it seems dichotomous to me that someone would be focused on their health and then go to one of these private equity-backed dental offices," says Dumanian, who favors a far more personal approach than the buzzy establishments popping up on Instagram. At Park Lex 60 Dental, Dumanian prefers to devote the initial visit to understanding what's important to the patient, what would make them feel healthy and happy, and what drives their decisions around dentistry to achieve an optimal result.

Most cosmetic treatments don't come cheap but Dumanian wants to set the record straight about elective procedures being deemed frivolous, citing patients who have changed jobs, gotten promotions, and even gotten married because of the work they chose to have done. "My practice is in New York City, where many people choose to spend large sums of money on the latest technologies and designer goods. Often (but certainly not always) it is a matter of priorities. All that matters is how you feel at the end of the day and I can tell you that it makes a huge change in our brides' (and grooms') lives." Then, the only thing left to do is smile.

Cosmetic Dental Procedures You Should Know

"The three most common things that people come to me for before weddings, big life events or just to improve the aesthetics of their smile in general are whitening, Invisalign, and veneers," says Dr. Dumanian. A skilled cosmetic dentist will offer a bespoke, holistic approach to ensure the best possible outcome and one should steer clear of mail-order services promising dramatic improvements at home. Cosmetic (or aesthetic) dentistry has come a long way and every practice is unique, so if blue-white teeth or piano-key veneers have put you off in the past, perhaps it's time to revisit the topic.

Whitening

Smile with white teeth
Photo: Aleksandr Rybalko | Shutterstock

What it is: In-office and take-home options for a more brilliant smile. Unlike store-bought whitening strips, customized trays ensure a thorough result (generally a peroxide solution is used). One word of caution is that some sensitivity can occur, particularly with stronger in-office treatments. "Some people prefer the take-home method because it's not as aggressive and they won't feel that sensitivity, though it generally dissipates within a day," says Dumanian. It should also be noted that the level of whiteness that can be achieved is dependent on a patient's teeth so if you're unable to achieve your desired result, veneers may be the best option.

What it addresses: Stained and discolored teeth.

Cost: Take-home options could be as little as $25 to $50 and in-office whitening can range from about $750 to $1200 depending on the system that's being used.

When to schedule: Dr. Dumanian recommends scheduling any whitening procedures from one month to two weeks before your wedding. You also want to make sure your teeth are healthy before you begin as something like bleeding gums can cause staining since whitening opens the pores of your teeth. If you must drink coffee in the few days following, add a copious amount of milk (use a straw), and avoid red wine.

Invisalign

Invisalign clear aligner
Photo: Linguist | Shutterstock

Looking to get straighter teeth, faster, and more effectively with no wires or brackets? Invisalign, which works with a series of clear aligners, is the discreet way to go. In addition to better function, straighter teeth will also whiten more easily. According to Dumanian, "When teeth are crooked, they cast a lot of shadows. Someone might not have discolored teeth, but because of the position in their mouth and the way the lip casts a shadow, they can appear a lot darker." In terms of invasiveness, more complicated cases can involve IPR to create space for crowded teeth to expand.

What it addresses: Crowded or misaligned teeth.

Cost: Pricing for Invisalign with Dr. Dumanian is an all-inclusive fee that ranges from $7,700 to $10,000 depending on the complexity of the treatment. "I don't like to nickel and dime patients, so you can come to me as much as you like over a three-year period," says Dumanian. The cost also includes Vivera retainers, which are the highest quality retainers that are 3D printed and laser cut. All details are kept in a database so if you do have some minor movements, you can return to that original scan and get your teeth back into position.

When to schedule: Treatment time varies from as little as 4 to 18 months. "I always tell people, even if you're not going to be done with Invisalign in time, you can still get enough of an improvement before your wedding to look better," says Dumanian, who can pause treatment with retainers then resume post-wedding if you're in a pinch.

Veneers

Veneers
Photo: Natali Kuzina | Shutterstock

As the name implies, veneers are thin, expertly sculpted layers of porcelain that are placed atop teeth to improve appearance and in some cases, to prevent damage to the tooth surface. "We want a white, bright, full smile, but we want it to look natural," says Dr. Dumanian, who often adds tiny divots or dents in veneer cases that could fool even the most trained eye. "The goal is to see layers of color with veneers because that's when we're going to get the most harmonious look." Dumanian also dispels the notion of veneers being an invasive procedure, ranking them alongside Invisalign. "I'm probably removing between half a millimeter and a millimeter of tooth structure [to prep the surface]," she says.

What it addresses: Whitening, straightening, lengthening, or closing of gaps in teeth in a relatively short time frame, without the need for orthodontics. Veneers can also offer an alternative to other cosmetic procedures by creating more lip fullness, fuller cheeks, and diminishing nasolabial folds.

Cost: $2,500-$5,000 (per tooth). The veneers in which Dr. Dumanian specializes are hand-layered, full-bath porcelain, and for consistency of color over time, generally, 10 veneers are done on the most visible teeth.

When to schedule: Dr. Dumanian can complete a veneer case in about one month, which includes a considerable amount of time spent looking through inspiration photos and creating a Trial Smile, which patients can wear to get a sense of the real deal and make any tweaks. "We are custom designing from the beginning and there are no surprises," says Dumanian.

Also, if you planning any sort of cosmetic procedure such as injectables, you'll want to complete those first as it can affect how your lips sit and the amount of tooth that will be revealed when smiling.

How to Improve Your Smile At Home

"Crest White Strips work," admits Dr. Dumanian, aware that not everyone can hop on a plane to visit her NYC practice. "They're not so custom, so if you have longer teeth, they may cut off a little bit and you may not get a full whitening approach." To get the best results with any of the aforementioned treatments—or simply to ensure your smile remains in tip-top shape—there are a handful of other considerations to keep in mind detailed below.

Put Down the Lemon Water

Embracing the viral morning hot water and lemon trend? You'll want to put down the mug, or at least reach for a straw. According to Dr. Dumanian, this highly acidic tonic (the same goes for popular juice cleanses), can wreak havoc on your precious tooth enamel. "Patients have come to me after a year doing this and I'm like, what happened to you? The enamel is gone," says Dumanian. If you simply must, Dumanian cautions against brushing immediately after drinking and combatting potential damage with something alkaline such as dairy. If you're looking for something with similar metabolic, glycemic, and anti-inflammatory benefits, Dumanian suggests vinegar pills.

Avoid Charcoal Toothpaste

One of the hottest ingredients in everything from skincare to oral care, charcoal is renowned for its purifying abilities. That said, it's highly abrasive, and anything abrasive is not going to be great for your teeth. In terms of the least abrasive, most natural toothpaste that has fluoride in it, Dr. Dumanian favors Sensodyne Pronamel as it has so few ingredients.

Keep it Clean

If you're going the Invisalign route, it should be noted that aligners must be worn about 22 hours per day, and brushing them with toothpaste should be avoided as doing so can cause micro-abrasions in the plastic which can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Lovely. Dr. Dumanian is a fan of the ultrasonic Zima dental cleaning pod. Its sleek design makes it unobtrusive in any decor and per Dumanian, it does double duty: you can even use it to clean your engagement ring. The company also offers a handy UV light-powered carrying case for sterilization on the go.

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