Understanding Cosmetic Dentistry

What is Cosmetic Dentistry?

The term “cosmetic dentistry” may conjure up ideas of fake teeth or an extreme makeover. Cosmetic dentistry is actually a large umbrella term that encompasses any type of dental treatment that improves the appearance of the teeth.

This means that cosmetic dentistry can be as simple as replacing an old, stained filling in a front tooth with a newer, perfectly matched material.  It can also be as complex as completely rebuilding a broken down smile with dental implants and prosthetic teeth.  In this article, we will highlight the most common ways people use dental treatments to improve their smiles, as well as some important things you should know when considering cosmetic dentistry.

Dental Treatments to Improve the Smile

The list of actual dental procedures would be a mile long, so instead, we will describe various categories of treatments that can fall under the category of cosmetic dentistry.  Within each category are many different options to reach the desired goal.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is the simplest, most conservative and least expensive way to improve a smile.  Many people experiencing yellowing of the teeth over time.  This can be due to eating, drinking and habits that involve substances with the potential to stain teeth (coffee, tea, red wine, tobacco, etc….).  It is also a natural part of the aging process for teeth to become more yellow over time.

True teeth whitening must involve a peroxide chemical as the active ingredient and a method of application that maintains contact between the peroxide substance and the teeth.  Over-the-counter teeth whitening products that provide a good way to keep a gel or strip on the teeth can produce very effective results.  In general, professional teeth whitening contains a higher strength of the active ingredient, as well as a better method of application.  This leads to faster results with fewer complications.

Teeth Straightening

Aligning the teeth is another conservative way to improve a smile.  It places the teeth into the proper position while preserving all healthy tooth structure.  At Premier Dental of Ohio, we are proud to offer teeth straightening through Invisalign.  The clear aligners in Invisalign treatment allow you to straighten your teeth in the most discreet, cosmetic way possible.  The almost invisible material of the aligners fit the teeth so intimately that most people will not notice them at all.

A bonus of straightening your teeth with aligners is that you can actually whiten them while you straighten, using your aligners as carriers for teeth whitening gel.  Correcting crooked or gapped teeth can give someone a beautiful smile in twelve to eighteen months with Invisalign.

Composite Bonding

Composite bonding is a general term to describe the process of adding perfectly matched tooth-colored filling material to the front teeth to change their shape or size.  This conservative process requires little to no removal of healthy tooth structure as it is generally additive in nature.  Because composite bonding allows the dentist to make minor changes to the size and shape of teeth, we commonly use it to repair small chips, add length or width, or reshape a tooth with unusual or unattractive contours.

The bonding material remains at risk for chipping and breaking, so this treatment option may require patients to wear protective nightguards or eliminate habits involving the treated teeth.  (No use of teeth to hold hair pins, cut fishing lines, bite fingernails, etc….)  Another reason composite bonding is so conservative is that it is repairable.  If you do chip or break it, we can easily repair it by replacing what is missing.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain veneers are the most common dental procedures performed in the name of cosmetic dentistry.  These porcelain overlays can change the appearance of the tooth’s size, shape, color, and even position.  A porcelain veneer covers only the visible portion of the tooth, so the position of the underlying tooth does not change.  Many people opt to place veneers over each tooth that is visible in the smile.  Some cases only require veneers on one or two teeth to affect the desired smile change.

Typically, porcelain veneers require some removal of healthy tooth structure, and because a dental lab technician makes them, they require two dental appointments.  They are also relatively expensive compared to other cosmetic dental options.

Porcelain Crowns

Similar to porcelain veneers, porcelain crowns can change the appearance of teeth.  Crowns are also capable of restoring large decay and fractured teeth, as well as changing the way the teeth bite.  Crowns, In-Lays and On-Lays require more removal of natural tooth structure, so they are less conservative.  Many people opt for dental crowns when they have underlying dental problems and want to make cosmetic changes.

Replacing Missing Teeth

When missing teeth are visible in the smile, it is not pretty.  We can cosmetically improve a smile by replacing missing teeth.  There are multiple options for the replacement of teeth, and they vary widely.  The most natural-looking tooth replacement for a single missing tooth is a dental implant.

A dental implants anchorage into the jawbone and emergence through the gums like a “real” tooth give it the most natural appearance.  Replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant gives the confidence to smile and laugh widely.

Replacing Old Dental Work

Many people have dental work from decades past that includes dark silver or gold metals.  These restorations can show when you speak, smile or laugh.  We often replace old metallic dental work with new materials that match the natural teeth.  We can replace those opaque dental crowns with a grey line along the gums with all porcelain or translucent zirconia, which reflects and transmits light in a way that more closely resembles natural enamel.

If your “old” dental work is still functioning properly, the choice to replace it is strictly yours.

Important Factors to Consider in Cosmetic Dentistry

The most important factor in obtaining a successful cosmetic dentistry result is not the skill or your dentist or the treatment option you choose.  It is great communication.  Because opinions vary widely on what makes for a beautiful smile, we cannot guess what your unique opinion may be.  This is why there is never a good “one size fits all” approach to cosmetic dentistry.  We must understand exactly what your end goal is before we can deliver the result.

As with any dental work, maintenance is required.  In order to preserve your smile results, you must commit to any maintenance instructions from the dentist.  For patients who whiten, the teeth will relapse and require periodic follow-up whitening.  Those who undergo Invisalign treatment must wear retainers to maintain the new position of the teeth.  Bonding or porcelain veneers should be protected from heavy nighttime clenching and/or grinding by wearing a professional nightguard.

All cosmetic dentistry requires consistent follow-up care in the form of dental evaluations and professional teeth cleanings.

More Questions about Cosmetic Dentistry?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled dentists.  We can begin the communication process to help you meet your smile goals.