Cosmetic Dentistry – A Time for Change
As spring and summer approach and the world renews after such a long and historic winter it just may be time to put a fresh face and new smile on life. Appearance can be changed through cosmetic enhancement and today expectations are higher than ever before. In many instances, the most dramatic esthetic effects can result from smile enhancement.
Small steps can be taken to make quite visible changes to your smile, your dental health and consequently your well-being. Bigger steps will of course be necessary to accomplish larger more encompassing changes and goals. In any event, how you feel has a lot to do with how you look and vice versa.
Join us as we review the many issues and changes available to you for cosmetic dental change.
Is What You See, What You Get?
Here’s a little about a lot. “Cosmetic” derives from ancient Greek (kosmetike) meaning “the art of dress and ornament” and from (kosmeo) “to order, to arrange, to rule, to adorn, to equip, to dress, to embellish.” Cosmetic — as in dentistry — relates largely to external or superficial; pertaining only to the surface or appearance of something. But there may be more to it, for surface change may require more than you see, and as we will see, can sometimes require a lot of change beneath the surface.
Cosmetic is also not to be confused with aesthetic. Aesthetics, commonly describes the study of sensory or emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste. Aesthetics could be said to describe how you feel and the value you place on a cosmetic change.
What Is A Cosmetic Dentist, What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
Arguably Cosmetic Dentistry has been around since dentists started restoring and replacing teeth, in effect changing smiles. In essence any dentist is a cosmetic dentist. All dentists during their formative years in dental school are educated and trained to do treatment procedures cosmetically, for after all form follows function and function follows form.
But today Cosmetic Dentistry has almost become a specialty within dentistry. What has driven the change is a “Chicken and Egg” story. Nevertheless, we are living in an exciting era in dentistry, an era focused on facial beauty. And the demand for change is not only high but is, for the most part, now technically achievable. Today more than ever before, the healing arts are able to provide cosmetic change to meet the public’s ever increasing expectations.
Many general dentists and dental specialists and their medical counterparts have taken many continuing education courses and studied cosmetic change in detail. There are academies, associations and study clubs devoted to this particular endeavor.
It all starts with a “Smile Analysis,” which is crucial to the process of cosmetic enhancement and change. There are multiple elements that make up what leads to that special end result we call “a smile.” When the curtain goes up and the lips part, the show that goes on display is not just those pearly whites. Just think of all the actors on this particular stage: teeth in all their various aspects, shapes, colors and sizes; gum health and gum line, framing the teeth and smile; tooth alignment, spacing and bite; jaw relations upper to lower; and all within the context of the big picture — your face, including eyes, lips, skin and more. When complex cosmetic enhancement is being contemplated all these elements need to be borne in mind, because changing one thing can change everything.
Choosing The “Right” Cosmetic Dentist
In choosing the right “cosmetic dentist” you must do your due diligence. The first step may well be identifying the fact that you want or need cosmetic dental change. The second is identifying the dentist to do it and then asking the right questions. Most dentists who have taken special training in this area will be happy to tell you about their experience and show you pictures of their cases. A smile analysis may be a good place to start.
Skill levels of dental health professionals can and do vary. Cosmetic dental change may require the knowledge, skills and combined experience of a dental “team” especially for a more radical smile change.
Cosmetic Dental Change — A Compendium
People have different perceptions of what represents a beautiful smile, both dental professionals and you. For some it involves natural tooth appearance, just whiter; for others it may involve the creation of evenly aligned and very bright teeth. And for others yet, the alteration of tooth shape by making teeth larger, the edges more balanced or the teeth and gum line more proportionally balanced — these are but a few of the options available today.
What follows is a review of the many areas and techniques that have been summarized for your convenience. Please review them for further details and what might be right for you.
Basic hygiene: Brushing and flossing will remove dental (bacterial) plaque and together with a fluoride toothpaste will protect your teeth against decay — the most basic everyday cosmetic protection. It doesn’t get more basic than this.
Polish “Em” Spick and Span: A visit to your friendly dental hygienist to remove unwanted scale and stain masking an already natural smile may be all that is necessary to renew your smile. This is good for staining caused by coffee, tea, wine and other stains “outside” or on the tooth surfaces.
Home Whitening: Includes whitening strips, “paint-on or brush-on” whitening, lozenges and even whitening gum. The most basic over-the-counter products are available in drugstores. These professionally unsupervised techniques, containing carbamide peroxide, real bleaching agents at low concentration, are the least expensive ways to improve and whiten your teeth. Be careful to follow the manufacturers’ instructions carefully and don’t over do it.
Professionally Supervised Whitening: You may try this at home under the direction of your dentist who will make you professionally fitted clear plastic trays designed to fit over your own teeth. With the appropriate whitening “gels,” generally carbamide peroxide 10% solutions applied for 30 minutes twice a day you can achieve a cosmetic difference for yourself. Slow but sure, this may take about six weeks to get the change you want.
Professional Whitening: Performed in your dentist’s office with special precautions to protect your gums and other oral tissues, this one time technique uses high concentration bleaching agents (35-45%). It might just give your smile the “wow” you want in short order.
Teeth Whitening: The above shows the power of professional teeth whitening.
Dentistry by Dr. Richard Whalen
Beyond Basic — Cosmetic Dentist to the Rescue
Let’s Bond: Changing the teeth themselves is literally in the hands of your dentist. Minor changes can be accomplished by bonding “composite” resin to chipped or discolored front teeth.
Bonding: Highlights the cosmetic capabilities of new bonding materials.
Dentistry by Dr. Jeff Brucia
Tooth Colored Metal Free Restorations for Back Teeth: Today’s modern techniques and materials allow replacement of missing tooth structure, which bonds directly to tooth substance, not only matching tooth color exactly but actually strengthening the teeth.
Porcelain Veneers: Simply stated a veneer in dentistry is a thin layer of dental porcelain restorative material, that replaces tooth enamel. Provided your teeth are basically in the right position within the jaw structure, these remarkable life-like restorations can truly change a smile — cosmetic dentistry that really makes a difference.
Porcelain Crowns: A variation on the porcelain veneer, but basically used when more tooth structure has been damaged by decay or trauma, porcelain crowns replace the visible “crown” of the tooth in the most cosmetic way.
A More Integrated Approach to Cosmetic Change
The Magic of Orthodontics: The “Original Smile Makeover” as we’ve called it, is the most, and may be the only effective means of correcting malocclusions (mal-bad, occlusion-bite) and teeth in poor position. Orthodontics is the specialty in dentistry concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of malocclusion. Using a variety of 21st century techniques, including traditional “braces,” clear aligners and more, orthodontics allows movement of teeth into correct and functional positions. This either improves cosmetics and function (your bite) by itself or lines the teeth up properly for restorative dental techniques discussed above.
Cosmetic Options for Replacing Missing Teeth
There is nothing more devastating to a smile than lost or missing teeth. There are multiple ways today to replace missing teeth both functionally (biting, chewing, speaking and laughing) as well as cosmetically.
Dental implants are perhaps today’s ultimate tooth replacement systems providing “stand alone” teeth, unconnected to other teeth. While a dental implant replaces the root of a tooth, the crown atop the implant (the tooth you see in your mouth) is an exact replica of a natural tooth. Therefore implants provide for cosmetic tooth replacements, emerging through the gum tissues just like natural teeth, and can be made to match the neighboring teeth exactly. You’d never know they’re not your own, then again — they are.
And In the End
We are always a bit perplexed when we see the dowdy “before” pictures right next to the great “after” ones. You know, the ones with the new hairdo, the cleanly shaven guy, and the girl with the fresh lipstick smile, but let’s face it — they do make a difference. These changes truly are cosmetic, and as we have illustrated dentistry can do its part. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it’s how you feel when you show it. Even if you smile when you’re on the telephone, you will touch the person on the other end of the line.
And in the end…the love you take is equal to the love you make.
Review Date: 2/1/2010
Reviewed By: Dr. Garry A. Rayant, Editor-in-Chief, Dear Doctor, Inc.