Are you considering getting some cosmetic dental work done? Before you plunk down the big money, there are certain things you should know about this type of dentistry that will not only benefit your health but also save you a lot of money.
Although there are dentists and dental offices that specialize in performing cosmetic dentistry, it should be noted that there is no such thing as a “Cosmetic Dentist” as the American Dental Association (ADA.org) only recognizes 11 areas of dental specialties ; Dental Public Health, Pediatric, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics.
Because of the growing market of people who want “cosmetic” (or restorative as it’s properly called) dentistry done on them such as bleeching, contouring, esthetic partials, veneers, porcelain crowns, teeth reshaping, caps, etc., there are those dentists who are trying (and succeeding!) in exploiting their patients by getting them to pay more money than they have to for procedures which, in many cases, can be done by a regular dentist (crowns, bridges, caps) for a lot less money.
The bottom line is don’t just assume you need to see a “cosmetic dentist”; have a regular DDS or DMD dentist examine you first and if they can’t help you, have them recommend a dentist who specializes in restorative dentistry.
Four Most Popular Types Of Cosmetic Dental Work
Porcelain Veneers – It is a known fact that veneers (porcelain laminate veneers, technically) are gaining in popularity, especially among wealthier folks. Veneers are very thin porcelain ‘false fronts’ for your teeth. They are custom-made from a meticulous mold of your teeth, which are then applied directly to the fronts of your teeth to produce instant perfect whiteness. They are most often used to cover stains that cannot be removed through other methods, to fill in gaps, and to cover surface damage. In the world of cosmetic dentistry, porcelain veneers are just about the most expensive solution. Prices vary considerably, depending on the renown of the dentist you use and where you live. Expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per tooth. While some people have all their teeth done, the vast majority who choose this option have just their front six teeth done (top and bottom). This translates to a total price tag of $4,800 to $12,000.
Professional Tooth Whitening – These days tooth whitening is the most popular form of cosmetic dentistry, by far. Millions of Americans have this procedure done every year. The process involves applying a gel mixture containing about 35% hydrogen peroxide directly to the teeth via a mouth tray (similar to mouth guards worn by football players). Your dentist then uses a plasma arc light or laser to quickly heat the hydrogen peroxide, which then oxidizes the stains on your teeth. You usually have a choice between having the teeth whitening done in the dentist’s office, or using an at-home system that he or she devises and manages. The in-office procedure is more expensive, but is also quicker and often produces more whitening. At-home systems are slower and may not produce as much whitening, but they are less costly. In-office whitening will run you $450 to $1,200, while at-home systems generally add up to $300 to $750.
Tooth Shaping – This type of procedure is becoming popular as a way for people who have generally good teeth to fine-tune their smiles. Some people have long teeth or maybe their canines are too sharp for their liking. A very simple and relatively inexpensive procedure in the pantheon of cosmetic dentistry at just $30 to $70 per tooth, the entire process is painless and can be finished in as little as thirty minutes and one office visit. The dentist uses an instrument to essentially file or sculpt the teeth in question to the agreed upon shape. Only bits of enamel are removed, and the tooth’s nerve is not disturbed, so no pain is involved.
Gum Lifting – Gum lifting is another increasingly popular form of cosmetic dentistry. A small portion of the gum line (usually the upper gum) is removed in an effort to make the gum line appear uniform. You’ve probably seen people with ‘gummy’ smiles, where the upper lip exposes most (or at least too much) of the upper gums. This procedure reduces the amount of gum showing when a person smiles, as well as making the gum line even across the teeth. Gum lifts are done tooth-by-tooth, and involve a mild local anesthetic to deaden the nerves in the gums. Patients generally report only very mild discomfort for a day or two after the procedure. This can be a fairly expensive procedure, depending on the number of teeth that need to have the gums above reduced. A gum lift will set you back $70 to $200 per tooth.
Making Cosmetic Dental Care More Affordable
Most people who get cosmetic dentristry done these days pay out-of-pocket for this service. This is because very few dental insurance policies cover so-called “elective procedures”, even though some of these procedures (ie. braces, dentures, root canals) would be considered anything but “elective” by most people. However, there are a couple of steps you can take to reduce how much you will pay for cosmetic-related dental procedures, especially if these procedures are not covered by your existing dental insurance coverage;
(1) By far the best way to reduce what you pay for cosmetic dentistry is to shop around. Don’t be taken in by fancy newspaper advertisements of glowing testimonials about how much better a person feels about themselves after they’ve went to this dentist or that dental office, do some old-fashioned comparison shopping. Start by going to a dentist that you trust and after explaining to them the type treatment you’re looking for, ask them what your options are and how much they will cost. Then if you need to go somewhere else for treatment, ask your dentist for a referral.
(2) Another easy way to save money on cosmetic dentistry is to enroll in a discount or reduced fee dental plan. These plans allow members to save 15%, 20% and in some cases as much as 25% on any cosmetic procedure done by a dental specialist (Periodontist, Orthodontist, Oral Surgeon, etc). The problem with these type of plans is that unless you live in or near a large-size city, the chances are that you’ll find few if any specialists in your area who will accept a discount dental plan, so before you join any plan, make sure that plan has at least one orthodontist, periodontist and oral surgeon within a reasonable driving distance from where you live.
Choosing A “Cosmetic Dentistry Friendly” Plan
But how do you know which discount dental plan is best for you and your specific cosmetic dental needs? There can literally be dozens of plans to choose from, each one with their own participating dentists, monthly premiums and dental fee schedules, so it can be easy to pay too much for a plan. The National Association of Dental Plans (NADP.org) reports that 68% of all buyers pay too much for their dental coverage which is why its a good idea to shop around for the plan that’s best for you.