When your teeth don't look their best, it can be a blow to your self-esteem. We're accustomed to movie stars with blindingly white and perfectly straight teeth, models with jaw-dropping smiles. Sure, that's all a mostly air-brushed reality, but for many of us, we feel so self conscious about our teeth that we avoid smiling all together.

In fact, I have a friend who almost never talked without covering her mouth with a hand because she was so distressed by the condition of her teeth, and another friend who refused to smile even in photos with his children because of a chipped tooth.

Stop letting the condition of your teeth and smile keep you from enjoying life the way you'd like to! Ideally, we'd all be able to feel completely confident even with "less than perfect" teeth. But, here in the real world, we sometimes need some help to feel confident, so if that's the position you find yourself in here's how you can find the best cosmetic dentist.

Before you even entertain the notion of cosmetic dental surgery, make sure to do your homework--thoroughly! We're talking about your teeth here and their health plays an enormous role in the overall health of your body, and the wrong dentist can do damage while trying to help.

One of the best ways to find the best cosmetic dentist is to look for special certifications. For instance the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies offers several prestigious (and hard to earn) credentials. Dentists must prove themselves under rigorous conditions.

Another thing to look for is MAC affiliation which is another rigorous program indicating you've found a dentist who may have earned the credentials to be considered a best cosmetic dentist.

After looking into specialized credentials, affiliations, and certifications, start asking friends and family for their recommendations. The more extensive the cosmetic dental surgery they've had, the more interested you should be in their experience with the dentist they selected. It's especially helpful if they've had exactly the same cosmetic dentistry work done that you'd like to have done.

Ask specific questions like, "Did he cause a lot of pain while working in your mouth?" or "Did you take advantage of her specialized sedation techniques for fearful patients?" It's easiest to know what to ask if you've taken a look at the dentist's website before talking with a friend who's worked with that dentist--that way you can ask questions based on any specific specialties mentioned on the website.

Next, because finding the best cosmetic dentist is often impossible without meeting several dentists, make sure to set up consultations with any of the dentists you're considering. This is an easy way to narrow down your list, and it's good to be able to compare and contrast several, so meet with at least three cosmetic dentists before making your decision.

During your consultation, the dentist may show you computerized "afters" of what you'll look like--this can be very helpful to understand how the dentist sees your problems and the solutions they offer. Also make sure to view the cosmetic dentistry before and afters binder and pay attention to problems similar to yours. Ask questions about those before and afters (like, "how long did this procedure take?") and listen carefully to the answers.

After each consultation, make notes--so far, which one is the best cosmetic dentist? This will help you remember every meeting. It can also help you find new areas of importance that you weren't aware of before. For instance, maybe you hadn't realized just how important it was to you that the dentist be personable until after meeting with a dentist who was decidedly *un* personable.

Once you've been to at least three consultations with cosmetic dentists, take a look at all three treatment plans, your notes, and your needs. Of course, you should consider the cost of cosmetic dentistry, but don't make that the most important consideration--it's far better to pay a little more for a smile that you'll be delighted with than to skimp and regret it. You may also find that with some dentists, cost is at least a little negotiable, so don't be afraid to ask for if they can match a quote you received.

When you've almost decided who was the best cosmetic dentist, run a Google search to see if there are any online reviews. This will help you find out if there are any red flags that you should consider before making your final decision. But remember, people are 7 times more likely to complain after a bad experience than to post a review praising a good one, so one or two negative reviews and no positive ones isn't necessarily a bad sign unless those reviews contain information that's particularly bad (i.e. a definite danger sign might say "The dentist billed me for twice the original quote and didn't do any of the work before skipping town with my money").

If you're having trouble deciding between two or more cosmetic dentists and you're not sure who's best, ask the dentists you're considering. Tell them who else made the cut and ask them to explain how they're different and how they're similar. Ask them to tell you what's especially great about their competition and what you should watch out for. After all, they're experts in what makes a best cosmetic dentist, so why not take advantage of that expertise?

By following these steps, you'll find the best cosmetic dentist for you and you'll have a smile you're proud of in no time. The cosmetic dentistry process will take a lot less time than you'd think and in the end its well worth it when you feel that boost in confidence. You'll smile more, and feel much more comfortable around strangers. Depending on the issue you're dealing with, you may also find you speak more clearly or that you're able to chew your food more thoroughly (which means better nutrition for your body). In other words, the benefits you'll reap well outweigh the time and cost considerations for most people because cosmetic dentistry is truly valuable for your health and self esteem.

Enjoy your smile post cosmetic dentistry surgery and don't forget to take oodles of photos of the new you!