The cosmetic-dental-makeover craze that took off in the late nineties (a time when every Tom, Dick, and Harry, D.D.S., began peddling relatively new and untested technology) left a wake of eerily flawless smiles. Now the palpable backlash to Chiclet-like teeth has arrived, creating a demand for a more natural look, one that embraces character-defining blemishes (albeit the sexier ones, like a center gap or subtle uneven edges). Think of it like a good boob job: Your teeth shouldn't look like you've had them done. Here, we straighten out how to get the ideal ivories.

Oral Fixation readers told us how they feel about pearly (and not-so-pearly) whites.

Forty-four percent of men and 40 percent of women agree yellow teeth are the top turn-off.

Straight men (56 percent) think a gap is ugly; gay men (60 percent) say cute or sexy.

Forty-three percent of men would fix crooked teeth with braces over clear aligners or veneers.

Sixty-six percent of women would date a metal-mouth, but 72 percent won't let him down there.

According to respondents, Bradley Cooper and Scarlett Johansson have the sexiest smiles.

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Choose the Right White
A British study found that bright-white teeth are considered unattractive against darker complexions. Could be because real ones aren't porcelain-colored (when teeth are a blinding phosphorescent, it's a dead giveaway they're veneers). Like skin, teeth have certain undertones: "Whatever the tone of a person's teeth is, they'll stay in those tones even if you bleach," says Elizabeth Bakeman, D.D.S. Yellow or orange tones will fade; gray tones will get lighter. But we're talking degrees here. Getting fakes? Ask that they match the size, contour, and shade of your naturals, advises Bakeman. If you're whitening your current bite, aim for one or two gradients up from your natural hue. And if that's not enough to get you to put down the Crest Whitestrips, know that an unfortunate but not uncommon side effect of overdoing it with at-home kits is a layer of gums peeling away like a sunburn.

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Yes, You Need a Specialist
There's a good chance that the guy who does your cleanings isn't the right person to redesign your mouth. Here's what to look for when selecting a doc.

Credentials Are a Must
"Cosmetic dentistry isn't a board specialty, so not everyone has the right education," says Jack Ringer, a cosmetic dentist in Anaheim, California. "About 30 percent of my practice is redoing bad dental work." Check for accreditations from associations like the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. While not recognized by the American Dental Association, "the accreditation is held in high regard by the dental community as an accurate barometer of training in the fundamentals of cosmetic dentistry," Ringer says.

Ask for Examples
A good cosmetic dentist will have pictures and video of the work he did—just as a reputable plastic surgeon would. Be wary of a dentist who only offers up examples from generic books.

Name-Check His Education
If you need a dramatic overhaul, such as a full-mouth reconstruction or crowns and bridges on top of implants, seek out a dental specialist, like a prosthodontist. "It's a combination of aesthetics and biology," says Manhattan aesthetic dentist Jonathan B. Levine. "Changing the length or width of a tooth can affect bite and therefore function."

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Test-Drive Your Teeth
Three new ways to try on your smile before you buy.

Virtual Reality
"Women come in saying, 'Make me look like so-and-so female celebrity,'" says Kevin B. Sands, a cosmetic dentist who's worked on Robert Downey Jr. and Joe Manganiello. "Men don't seem to care. They just say, 'Make me look better.'" That's a mistake: Be specific about what you like and offer examples, then discuss how your dentist can customize that look for you. Many use computer simulations to demonstrate how a grin would look with your features (face size, shape, and bone structure all have an effect); then you can tweak it until it's right.

Free Sample
For no extra charge, many dentists will create a thin mock-up, like a mouthpiece, that fits over your teeth and lasts a few days before it cracks—enough time for you to judge your friends' (and your own) reactions. "We want to make sure the patient likes how the teeth look and function," Jack Ringer says.

Chairside Service
Many doctors, including Sands, staff an "in-house ceramist," who, after veneers are inserted, works on them for hours painting desired changes—like calcium spots or translucent edges—directly onto the porcelain.

Adult Braces & the Basics of Cosmetic Dentistry