Cosmetic Dentistry

What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry is the business of improving the appearance of a patient’s smile, while the prime focus of traditional or family dentistry is on oral hygiene and health. Semi-annual cleanings with a regular dentist allow you to prevent, diagnose and treat any oral problems, like cavities or gingivitis, while cosmetic dentists address esthetic issues.

In many cases, a smile is the first thing that’s noticed about a person. Simple improvements can raise a patient’s confidence and self-esteem by making him or her look younger and happier.

Cosmetic dentistry can be used to simply whiten teeth or give a whole smile makeover.

What Does a Cosmetic Dentist Do?

Aligners: Many adults would like straighter teeth but don’t want to make the commitment to getting metal braces. This is understandable, so orthodontic aligners are frequently used for adult teeth straightening. They’re also used to close gaps between teeth or tilt teeth into a straighter position. Because aligners aren’t as noticeable as braces and can be removed for social events. they are very appealing to adults. In most cases, aligners tend to work faster at straightening teeth compared to braces.

Patients will get a series of removable trays fitted to their teeth that are worn for about 20 hours a day for a couple of weeks until the dentist advises them to move on to the next set of trays. Depending on the extent of changes being made to a patient’s mouth, this treatment can take as little as six months or as long as a couple of years. The effectiveness of aligners depends on the skill of the cosmetic dentist and how compliant the patient is when wearing them.

Bleaching can be done in the dentist’s office or at home.

Bleaching: As people age, it’s common for their teeth to change color. This could be due to medication or a lifetime of smoking or drinking coffee, red wine or acidic soft drinks. Bleaching is the chemical process used to whiten teeth or minimize the appearance of stains, usually using hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. It’s typically fairly affordable and can be done either by your cosmetic dentist or at home. If you opt for in-office whitening, your dentist will apply a whitening gel to your teeth and you’ll stay in the office for about an hour with a heat light on your mouth to increase the effectiveness of the gel. If you’re trying whitening treatments at home, your dentist will supply you with mouth trays that you’ll fill with prescribed whitening gel. Your dentist will give you a schedule and guidelines to follow. The process may cause some tooth sensitivity that will go away within a few days, and the results can last up to two years.

Bonding: Bonding is the most common way to treat chipped teeth. This tooth-colored material can replace missing pieces of tooth, as well as fill in gaps between teeth or be used as a natural-colored filling for cavities. In some cases, bonding can be applied to the outside surface of a tooth to reshape it or make it look whiter.

Crowns: Crowns are porcelain covers used to protect damaged teeth, especially after root canals. They cover the entire tooth, restoring the tooth’s original shape and appearance before the trauma. A well-done porcelain crown should be virtually unnoticeable to anyone who doesn’t know it’s there.

Gum surgery: Receding gum lines is a very common problem, mostly due to periodontal disease or rough tooth brushing. One form of cosmetic gum surgery enhances the appearance of the gums by grafting skin to bring the gum line further down onto the teeth. Alternatively, there are also cosmetic gum surgeries designed to minimize the appearance of gums in people who have “gummy smiles.” This condition happens when teeth appear too small due to an excessive amount of gum showing when they smile.

Inlays and onlays: Inlays and onlays are applications of tooth-colored composite materials to a tooth. Inlays are typically used as an alternative to dark fillings so they’re less noticeable. Onlays are like crowns, as they are applied to a tooth’s exterior.

Reshaping teeth can help with a slightly uneven bite.

Implants: Dental implants are often used to replace missing teeth. There are two parts of a tooth: the part you see and the portion that’s embedded in the bone. The part you don’t see is called the root. A dental implant fixes an artificial crown into the gum and bone. After a couple of months, the implant fuses to the bone just like the root of a natural tooth does. Implants can be used on a single tooth or multiple teeth.

Reshaping: Tooth reshaping is a simple procedure that can give your smile a makeover in just one session. If a patient is unhappy with his or her chipped, overlapping or even slightly crooked teeth, those teeth can be contoured or reshaped. This can be purely cosmetic or done to correct problems with an uneven bite.

Veneers: Veneers are very similar to bonding. Usually used to fix misshapen, discolored, gapped or crooked teeth, these thin pieces of porcelain or plastic can dramatically change the appearance of problem areas. In some cases, veneers are used as an alternative treatment to crowns because the procedure isn’t as expensive. They may not look as natural as crowns, which is why they’re best for minor imperfections.

How to Find a Cosmetic Dentist

Searching for the right cosmetic dentist can be overwhelming, especially if a patient has never had any cosmetic work done before. Before looking for a dentist, it’s important for a patient to determine exactly what he or she would like changed and what the ideal results would be. Questions for patients to ask themselves include:

  • What is not ideal about my smile?
  • How natural do I want my teeth to look after a cosmetic dental procedure?
  • Do I want my teeth straightened?
  • Am I satisfied with the color of my teeth?
  • Am I satisfied with the state of my gums?

Ask family or friends if they’ve had any cosmetic dental work done.

After deciding what cosmetic work you would like to have done, ask family and friends about any cosmetic dentists they’ve seen. Being able to see the results of a dentist’s work in person will be a much more accurate representation of a cosmetic dentist’s work than looking at photos. If your friends and family haven’t had any cosmetic dental work done, the next step would be to discuss concerns with your traditional dentist and ask if they have any referrals. Once you the right cosmetic dentist, it’s important to look at before and after photos of previous patients. Some cosmetic dentists may have these photos on their website, but some may just have before and after  photos in their offices so patients can see them when they visit for a consultation.

What to Expect During a Consultation

A consultation is a no-pressure patient visit to a cosmetic dentist’s office to discuss what kind of work he or she would like done. It also gives the patient an opportunity to learn more about the dentist and his or her experience. Just because you schedule a consultation does not mean you’re obligated to undergo cosmetic surgery. It may be beneficial to have a few consultations with different dentists to see who the best fit is. This is the ideal time to ask  about before and after photos and any continuing education that the dentist partakes in. These questions can help you be sure that they are credible and knowledgeable about the latest technology in the oral care industry. During a consultation, a dentist may be able to use computer imaging to show patients what the results of any procedures may look like. This is where price, timeline and treatment options might also be discussed.

Before any cosmetic work begins, most cosmetic dentists require an oral exam to make sure any esthetic problems aren’t being caused by an underlying health issue. During this exam, the dentist may also offer other recommendations for treatment. After this, patients can begin discussing the course of action with their dentist.