On people’s lists of anti-aging priorities, jaws and teeth tend to get pushed way down — if they even make the list at all.
Just think about the kinds of anti-aging ads you’ve seen lately. Creams for wrinkle reduction, conditioners for fuller hair, or possibly even hormone therapy. Smile anti-aging, though? Probably not.
It’s a curious blind spot in a multibillion dollar industry, especially when clinical studies say that the size, shape, and shade of your teeth very much *do* affect how old people think you are.
That’s right. Anti-aging dentistry isn’t just about making your smile younger — it’s about making you look younger, period.
With that in mind, we’re going to be looking at:
Contrary to popular belief, the act of smiling, by itself, doesn’t necessarily make you look younger.
(In fact, there’s some evidence that shows it makes people think you’re about a year older than you actually are.)
It’s how your teeth and smile look that impacts your perceived age.
Sometimes the cause and effect are clear, like natural yellowing making your smile look older and darker, but in other cases the connection between dental changes and an aged appearance aren’t obvious when you look in the mirror.
Think of things like thinning lips or sunken cheeks — they’re both tied to your smile, and they’re both recognizable signs of aging that dental treatment can manage or even reverse.
It’s true that those signs of aging can be addressed with fillers and injections, but - all else being equal - they’re short-term fixes compared to what an appropriate dental treatment could achieve.
It doesn’t happen overnight. Like most things related to aging, the effects build up gradually, coming together over time to create an older, more weathered look.
In smiles, those effects typically come from four areas. We’ll look at how each one develops and explain how dental care can address it.
As they age, your teeth are fighting a battle on two fronts: inside and outside.
On the outside, your teeth are exposed to everyday food and beverages that naturally contribute to staining. Habits like smoking accelerate the darkening process.
Inside, beneath each tooth’s white outer enamel, there’s a structure called dentin which is naturally yellow in colour. As the years go on, the enamel thins while the dentin thickens, making teeth look visibly darker even with regular cleaning.
How can it be fixed?
It depends on the level of staining and the source of it.
Generally, surface stains can be removed with diligent home care and regular cleaning and polishing appointments. There are also options like over-the-counter or professional-strength peroxide whitening products, but - in our experience - those can be damaging to your enamel, gums, and tongue, so we don’t recommend them.
If the yellowing is coming from your teeth’s natural dentin, no amount of cleaning and polishing will restore your smile’s original brightness. In that case, veneers are your best option. They’re secured over the front of your teeth, completely concealing any visible darkening.
Like a glacier carving valleys into a mountain, wear and tear can work their way through practically any material, no matter how hard and durable it seems to be.
Over a lifetime, the natural friction from chewing wears down enamel, making your teeth shorter. Coupled with Bruxism - commonly called teeth grinding - the teeth wear away even faster. On top of that, the enamel gets weaker as it wears down, making it more susceptible to chipping or cracking.
Together, these factors can lead to a smile that looks damaged and uneven — precisely the sort of weathering that people associate with old age.
How can it be fixed?
Small chips and cracks can be repaired with dental bonding. It’s a type of tooth-coloured resin that can be shaped to restore a damaged area then securely bonded to the tooth using ultraviolet light.
Shortened teeth can also be addressed with dental bonding, but - since the resin isn’t as strong or durable as enamel - it’s a less-than-ideal long-term option for everyday use. Instead, porcelain crowns are typically a better alternative, offering high levels of durability and natural stain resistance.
In the previous section, we talked about how wear and tear can affect visible front teeth. Well, its effects don’t stop there — in fact, they’re more pronounced on teeth near the back of your mouth since those are the ones that handle the toughest chewing tasks.
That said, the *effect* is different. While worn front teeth make your smile look older, worn and shortened back teeth make your overall facial structure look older by changing how your jaws are positioned. In dentistry, this is called “posterior bite collapse”.
Worn, shorter teeth mean that your jaws will naturally want to sit closer together, giving your face a compact, sunken look. Upper and lower teeth also naturally want a corresponding “partner”, so it’s not unusual for new bite or tooth alignment problems to develop as your mouth tries to adjust to having shorter back teeth.
How can it be fixed?
If your back teeth have just become worn down but aren’t misaligned, it’s typically possible to restore their height using porcelain dental crowns.
In cases where your teeth or jaws have moved out of alignment, an orthodontic treatment like Invisalign can guide everything back into positions that help you maintain better long-term oral health and a more youthful appearance.
No matter how old you are, your teeth are gradually moving forward in what’s known as mesial drift.
In your later years, as your gums, ligaments, and underlying jaw bone weaken, that movement can quicken, resulting in too many teeth and not enough space near the front of your mouth — what’s referred to as “crowding” in dentistry.
By itself, crowding doesn’t make a smile look especially old, but - combined with yellowing or tooth wear - it can certainly contribute to an unwanted older-looking appearance.
How can it be fixed?
In most cases, crowding for mature smiles is handled the same way that it is for growing ones: with an orthodontic solution like Inivsalign or braces.
Early treatment makes a difference here. Teeth that have drifted out of position for years take more time to correct than ones that have only just begun to show signs of crowding, so being proactive about it can help you save both time and money.
Once your teeth are back in healthy (and more youthful-looking) positions, all you’ll need to do is continue wearing a retainer to keep them there.
Earlier, we touched on the idea of anti-aging dental solutions potentially providing safer, longer-lasting results compared to other popular anti-aging treatments, so let’s elaborate a bit more.
Imagine someone noticing that their cheeks were beginning to look sunken, and - unbeknownst to them - that the sunken look was being caused by something like jaw movement from worn down teeth.
With a popular conventional treatment like dermal fillers, they’d need to pay several hundreds dollars (at minimum) every 6-12 months to maintain the plump, fuller cheeks they desired.
Restoring that person’s jaw shape with crowns and/or an orthodontic treatment like Invisalign would certainly cost more up front, but the results would also last for significantly longer — around 10 years for the crowns and potentially a lifetime for the orthodontic treatment.
Other treatments, like cheek implants or a cheek lift might provide similar results and longevity, but they’d also be more invasive and could end up being much more expensive.
To be clear: this isn’t to say that conventional anti-aging treatments are bad, or that there isn’t a place for them.
Rather, it’s to draw attention to some of the lesser-known anti-aging benefits that dental treatments can provide under the right circumstances. Structural changes to the face are often related to the mouth and jaws, so addressing them from a dental perspective can, at times, more effectively “solve” the problem at the source.
The end result is that you enjoy a youthful appearance for longer and potentially save money in the long run.
Maybe your teeth are getting darker than you’d like, or you’ve noticed that they’re looking a bit uneven — if your goal is to look younger, we’d be happy to show you how your smile can help you achieve that.
Here at Glen Dental Centre, we have a team of 6 dentists with over a century of combined clinical experience. We like to think of it as getting multiple “second” opinions without having to drive around the city and rack up a hefty consultation bill.
Speaking of which — our consultations are always 100% pressure and obligation-free. We’ll give you information and professional opinions, but the final decision is always yours.
If you’re ready to make your smile part of your anti-aging approach, call us at (604) 552-2241 or contact us online.