When teeth are damaged or worn from age, accidents, diet or other factors, cosmetic dentistry patients have an array of options from which to choose a solution to restore their teeth's natural beauty. Consulting with a cosmetic dentist to determine which treatment options will work for you is the first step in getting your bright, full smile back.
In fact, the technology in cosmetic dentistry is now so advanced that many patients find their smiles looking even better than before, thanks to the use of veneers, dental implants, crowns and other treatments.
Some of these dental treatments, such as teeth whitening, produce immediate results and instant gratification. Others, like dental implants, are a longer process but can be expected to last for several years. Your options for treatment will depend on your cosmetic dentist's recommendations after a thorough evaluation of the tooth's damage, your anticipated result and your overall oral health.
The following are examples of the treatments available in cosmetic dentistry today:
Fillings are a great solution when teeth are cracked or decayed. When the tooth enamel is damaged or missing, patients may experience pain and sensitivity because the nerves inside the tooth are exposed. Once the decay is removed and the tooth prepared, the filling bonds to the tooth and acts as a layer of enamel to protect it from further damage.
The most commonly used filling material is amalgam, a silver material made of mercury and other metals. Amalgam still makes many people self-conscious as it is very visible inside the mouth, unless it is placed on the back of a tooth. It is for this reason that many patients now choose composite fillings, which closely match the natural colour of the natural tooth. Composite fillings last about half as long as amalgam and are more expensive, but to many cosmetic dentistry patients, it is worth it.
Also known as caps, crowns cover damaged teeth. Using the existing tooth as an anchor, the crown rests over top, hiding damage or decay and restoring the tooth's functionality. Most dentists perform this procedure over two visits. On the first, they will take an impression of the tooth and apply a temporary crown. Once the permanent crown is made, the temporary is removed and the permanent one cemented on.
However, many cosmetic dentists now use computer-aided design / manufacturing technology, or CAD. This allows them to create a 3-D picture of the tooth and manufacture a fitted crown right there in the office while you wait.
Bridges are an important tool in cosmetic dentistry. Used to replace a missing tooth, they help prevent further damage from shifting teeth, periodontal disease and decay in the surrounding healthy teeth. While many people feel that a missing tooth is unattractive, few realize that it could cause a speech impediment or alter the way that they bite.
Cosmetic dentists have several different techniques to choose from when using a dental bridge. They might choose a fixed or removable bridge, crowns or resin-bonded, depending on the condition of the surrounding teeth. They must be able to support the bridge; when front teeth are missing, the dentist is more likely to bond the bridge to the teeth instead of further damaging the surrounding teeth by preparing them for caps.
Bright, white teeth are the hallmark of an attractive smile. However, many otherwise attractive people find that their teeth have become dull or stained over time. Smoking, medications and certain food and drinks can all contribute to tooth discolouration. Because so many people experience this problem, there are now unlimited options available for tooth whitening, from pastes to strips to solutions you paint on with a nail polish-type brush.
Even with all of these new options, cosmetic dentistry still holds the best solution. Cosmetic dentists have perfected the laser teeth whitening process to the extent that patients can now expect instant results with minimal pain or even time away from other activities. The results can be quite long lasting with proper care.
After examining your teeth and the extent of the discolouration, your cosmetic dentist will recommend either home treatments or in-office laser treatment. The home kits are also very effective, but require a certain amount of time each day to apply. In-office whitening takes only a few hours. A whitening gel is applied to the teeth and activated by a low-level laser. This technique works well for those who have found that home whitening products cause too much tooth or gum sensitivity.
Other Cosmetic Treatments for Smile Restoration
Your cosmetic dentist might also choose to use veneers, partial or full dentures, or implants to improve the appearance of your smile. A combination of these treatments may be just what you need. Working with your cosmetic dentist, you will be able to determine the cosmetic dentistry plan to best return your smile to its natural beauty.
What can you expect of your first visit to the cosmetic dentist's office? Cosmetic dentists are just like regular dentists in that their first priority is your overall oral health. However, they specialize in restoration and cosmetic treatments designed to improve the appearance of your smile.
Cosmetic dentists often use specialized technology to examine the teeth, present options and perform the restorative work. They may use computer imaging technology to show you what your smile should look like after the treatment. Others use before and after photos to record the full impact of the restorative work for the patient. Ask your cosmetic dentist if you can see before and after photos of their other work, as well.
Many cosmetic dentists use plaster study models to demonstrate what they plan to do to the teeth. After taking a mold of your teeth, the cosmetic dentist prepares a plaster version, which they can then trim and manipulate to show you just how they will do the work that needs to be done.
Others still use temporary dental bonding to give the patient the best idea of what they can expect from the treatment. Using a temporary bond, they adhere composite materials to the teeth, allowing the patient an opportunity to see and feel the dental work before it is permanently applied. This is a very helpful option for those who are uncomfortable with dental procedures or those who just do not know what to expect.