Many people are unhappy with their smiles, due to the shape of their teeth or because of missing, chipped, or discolored teeth. Cosmetic dentistry can help them regain their self-confidence and improve their smiles through different techniques. And that’s not all. Often, esthetic dentistry helps improve oral health as well.
But can cosmetic dentistry help you?
Some of the improvements not only enhance the look of your teeth, but they can also improve your health by ameliorating a bad bite, for instance. Oral problems can often be solved with cosmetic repairs.
A popular chemical process that is used to whiten teeth, bleaching has come into its own. Discoloration happens in the enamel of the teeth and can be caused by many factors, including medication, coffee, tea, smoking, or because of heredity or even simple aging. Bleaching can often remove the stains and whiten the teeth and can be performed in the dentist’s office or at home under dental supervision. Home processes require longer periods of time, and you’ll need to have a custom mouthpiece made by your dentist to ensure that all surfaces are properly exposed. Whitening in the dental office may require one or more visits of 45 minutes to an hour each.
This form of restoration uses a tooth-colored material that fills in gaps or changes the color of the teeth. Applied to the surface of the tooth, bonding resins can repair chipped or slightly decayed areas, close spaces between teeth, or cover the entire outside of the tooth to change the shape or color. Bonding lasts several years but is more susceptible to staining and chipping. For small cavities, bonding resin may be the material of choice.
Sometimes called caps, crowns cover a damaged tooth to restore it to its normal shape and appearance. Because it is a costly procedure, crowns are normally reserved for cases where other techniques would be less effective. Although they require a larger time commitment, they also have the longest life expectancy of all esthetic restorations.
To change the color or shape of your front teeth, your dentist may recommend veneers—thin pieces of porcelain or plastic that cover the front of the teeth. An alternative to crowns, they are used on uneven surfaces or when teeth are chipped, discolored, poorly shaped, unevenly spaced, or even crooked. Often used for the same problems bonding addresses, veneers may take more time, as porcelain veneers are fabricated in a laboratory. They do, however, have a longer life expectancy and their color is more stable than bonding.
Contouring and reshaping
A single session is all that’s needed in most cases to reshape and contour a crooked tooth, chipped or irregularly shaped teeth, and sometimes even overlapping teeth. It is also commonly used to change the length and position of your teeth. Small problems with your bite can also be corrected by contouring or reshaping your teeth. This procedure is often combined with bonding. If you need subtle changes to your otherwise normal, healthy teeth, this procedure may be for you.
Making the decision
Speak with your dentist to determine which restoration procedure will best meet your needs. The condition of your teeth will make a significant difference in which procedure is recommended, as well as the result you desire. Ask questions. What will the changes look like? What will the treatment entail and what should I expect during the treatment? How will I maintain the look of my restoration?
Your dentist may have a “smile book” to help you decide on the aesthetics of your new smile. Every patient has different goals when it comes to cosmetic dentistry and it’s important to communicate these to your dentist.
Your dentist will be able to answer any questions you have about cosmetic, restorative procedures that will improve your smile. Just ask!