Cosmetic dentistry describes a set of techniques and procedures used to enhance a person’s teeth, smile and ultimately confidence. It is widely acknowledged that the “smilemakeover” that results can significantly improve a person’s appearance leading to a more positive lifestyle, both socially and in the work environment.
A cosmetic dentist can use numerous techniques, solely or in combination to dramatically improve the teeth, gums and smile. These procedures range from simple tooth whitening to complex multiple tooth implants and full mouth reconstruction. No longer is the dental art confined to simple fillings and extractions!
The following are the main cosmetic dentistry techniques used today:
– considered to be one of the most accessible and affordable techniques, tooth whitening (or bleaching) comes in a variety of different forms. Typically this procedure involves the use of a special laser or halogen lamp and/or application of a bleaching gel of varying strengths. Several branded treatments are available including the popular “Biolase”, “Zoom” and “Britesmile”.
Optimal results can be achieved quite quickly and the technique is near painless, non-invasive and cost effective. Tooth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dental procedure available today.
– a more complex procedure, dental implants involve implanting a titanium (or similar) rod into the jawbone to act as a stable base for an artificial tooth or to provide support for bridges, crowns or dentures. Titanium is usually used as the anchor rod because it integrates well with the surrounding bone and tissue with only very minor risk of rejection. Full mouth reconstructions often employ multiple tooth implants in conjunction with other techniques e.g. bonding.
Dental implants can last fifteen years or more but are quite an expensive option at up to $2500 per tooth. Dental implantology is also a highly specialised technique so care must be taken to choose a competent, fully qualified practitioner.
– a dental veneer is a thin covering or “shell” designed to fit the outside of the original tooth to mask shape, colour and positional problems and defects. Part of the original tooth exterior is usually removed to make way for the new veneer so the technique is partially invasive. Following initial measuring and preparation of the tooth surface the veneer is “glued” into place. Veneers are usually made from porcelain, ceramic or composite materials and more recently have been made more hard-wearing than earlier versions.
The veneering procedure is usually done over two visits to the dentist with “temporary” veneers being fitted between visits. Veneering is often chosen as the treatment of choice by acting professionals and those in the media spotlight as dramatic results can be achieved quite quickly and cost effectively.
– crowns are protective covers, made from porcelain or ceramic which fit over the existing tooth to mask defects e.g. cracks and discolouration. Initially the tooth is shaped to receive the crown with the patient under local anaesthetic. An impression of the tooth is then taken and used by the dental laboratory to create the colour-matched crown. During the manufacturing process, the patient will be fitted with temporary crowns, typically for around two to three weeks. On the second visit to the dentist, the crowns are bonded into place.
Crowns are a semi-permanent solution but can be quite expensive, often exceeding $750 per tooth. A good cosmetic dentist will be able to fit crowns which are nearly indistinguishable from existing teeth and used in conjunction with other techniques e.g. implants, form the foundation for full mouth reconstructions.
– where a tooth has been lost, a dental bridge can be used to “bridge” the gap between the two remaining adjacent teeth. A bespoke structure is formed in the dental laboratory incorporating a hollow crown to support the missing tooth. This bridge structure is then bonded to the adjacent teeth, neatly filling the gap form where the original tooth was lost. Similarly to crowns and veneers, the replacement bridge tooth will be colour matched to the rest of the teeth.
Bridging is popular because it is usually a permanent solution and is less invasive than implantology. It is also less bulky than an equivalent denture.
– this is a specialised branch of dentistry that deals with moving or realigning teeth to improve appearance. This usually involves the wearing of an appliance or “brace” which gently applies pressure to the teeth to move them to the correct position. Orthodontics is often performed in the teenage years as the mouth and jaw develops but more adults are choosing this option to realign their teeth – however the process can take longer for an adult.
The initial phase of the orthodontics process involves a detailed examination of the mouth to assess the repositioning needed and any other associated medical factors. Following this, a decision will be made as to which of the many types of brace material and configuration to use. Some braces are removable and some fixed in place for a period of months – the cosmetic dentist will assess which is the best form to use for the treatment to be carried out.
More recently, new “invisible” braces have been developed e.g. “Invisalign” which perform the same job as more traditional braces but are less invasive and more comfortable to wear.
The results of orthodontics are usually permanent but the process can be quite expensive due to the multiple consultations and reviews with the cosmetic dentist. Additionally, patience is required as the process can be lengthy!
Some recent dental survey findings:
– 74% of people believe they have unsightly teeth
– 68% of people are embarrassed about their smile in photographs
– 45% of people make judgements about others by the look of their smile
– 70% of people think an attractive smile helps romantically
The techniques detailed above can create the perfect “smilemakeover” and go a long way to addressing these concerns. No longer is the art of dentistry confined to fillings and extractions!