About a year ago, Lisa Young began going through a divorce. Married 10 years and out of the dating game for longer, she found herself reevaluating her life, looking at her assets and liabilities, and examining what she needed to change. One of those things, she decided, was her teeth.
‘You have a good smile,’ dentists would say, ‘but your teeth are too big for your mouth,’” recalls Young. “So I knew they needed to be fixed, especially if I was going to be dating.”
Her two front teeth were especially bothersome, so she went to see Jessica Emery, DMD, owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft in Chicago. After six months of conversation with Dr. Emery and evaluating the substantial investment it would require, Young decided veneers were her best option. The process took several more months, but her new smile was finally completed in June—and she’s thrilled with the new way she presents herself to the world.
Young is just one of many women in their 40s to 60s who are seeking out cosmetic dental work at a higher rate than the same age range did even a decade ago.
“For sure, I’m seeing an increase,” says Dr. Emery, who falls into that demographic herself. “When I look in the mirror, I feel age has crept up on me—and there are so many women who are feeling the same.”
Dating (Again) as One Motivation
Like Young, many women in this age range are feeling drawn to cosmetic surgery because they are dating again. While photos for online dating profiles are obviously important at any age, they’re even more important for those over 50, says Julie Spira, a relationship expert who works with OurTime, an online-dating site for singles ages 50 and up.
Showing photos of you being active (aka, not a couch potato) is key, but images of you smiling also play a huge role. According to a 2017 survey from Match.com, 37 percent of singles judge a date based on their teeth or smile. So if your pearly whites are a little less than, whether crooked, chipped or even just discolored, it can be a major turnoff—and the same goes for smiling without showing your teeth in your photos.
“It’s almost like somebody wearing sunglasses—what are you trying to hide when you don’t smile?” poses Spira.
Annie J., a receptionist in her 40s who lives in Alabama, hid her smile for years. She’d always been embarrassed about the space between her front teeth, and “if I smiled for pictures, I felt like [my bad teeth] were the first thing people saw,” she says. After going through a divorce several years ago, she says the time was now or never to get her teeth fixed. After getting six veneers on her front teeth, she found the courage to join an online dating site, complete with a smiling profile photo.
Only a month after she had the work done, she met the one she calls “her person”—and the rest is history.
“The veneers absolutely helped me get back out there,” she says. “We all have things we’re embarrassed about, and you can cover most of up under clothing—but if you’re not comfortable with your smile, you can’t just put a sweater on.”
Is Getting a Smile Makeover Worth It?
Revamping your smile doesn’t come cheap: A full set of veneers will run you $8,000-$10,000 on average. Cost is a major reason why younger women aren’t having as much work done on their teeth, says Brittany Westerman, DMD, a cosmetic dentist at Singing River Dentistry in Florence, Alabama. Women in their 40s and 60s are her biggest customers.
“They’re the ones who can finally afford it,” says Dr. Westerman, who follows most of her patients on Facebook. She feels a sense of pride when she sees new profile photos posted after patients have improved their smile.
There’s a lot to be said for how smiles play into first impressions. Nearly half of American adults believe that a smile is the most memorable feature after meeting someone for the first time, according to an American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey.
For those who don’t need veneers (or can’t afford the price tag), one option is clear aligners, which are significantly cheaper at around $2,000, says Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD, lead dentist at SmileDirectClub. Whitening treatments, whether done professionally or through at-home kits, are good in general for this age group, as their teeth have endured years of drinking staining beverages like coffee, tea and wine, he adds.
After years of putting off doing things for herself, Young says finally making time to fix her teeth felt like the fulfillment of a long-held desire.
“There was always things that had higher priority—whether it was fixing something on the house, etc.—so it almost seemed selfish in a marriage to spend money on myself,” she says. “But now that I’m divorced, I feel like it’s a priority.”