Cosmetic Dentistry: A Primer

Cosmetic dentistry is a term for professional oral care that focuses in improving the appearance of your mouth, teeth, and smile. The procedures under this branch of dentistry are elective rather than essential, therefore, are not primarily focused on oral health. In some cases, it also provides restorative benefits such as making regular cleaning easier, reducing bruxism or teeth grinding, and improving your confidence through a whiter, brighter smile.

Dentists who practice cosmetic dentistry require specialized training in one or more areas of dental medicine, as well as in cosmetic procedures. Most cosmetic dentists are also orthodontists.

How it differs from general dentistry

Over time, your teeth can begin to yellow, move out of alignment, chip and crack, or have a thinner enamel. When any of these happen, you go to a cosmetic dentist to resolve the problem. They offer a variety of procedures available that can be tailored and combined for your specific needs.

Cosmetic dentistry typically involves the addition of dental materials to the teeth or gums to improve its overall appearance. This process involves the removal of tooth structure or gums for a more symmetrical look, straightening the teeth to improve the general appearance of the face. Superficial treatments are also utilized to whiten teeth or depigment gums. Cleaning, fillings, root canals, extractions, and other similar procedures that focus on your dental health all fall under general dentistry.

Unlike general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry is not recognized by the American Dental Association as a formal specialty area of dentistry.

The cost of cosmetic dentistry procedures depends on what needs improvement, the materials used, and of course, the severity of the case.

The following are the different functions of cosmetic dentistry:

1. To fix damaged teeth

Worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment, abnormal spacing, and chips and cracks in your teeth can be fixed by dental veneers made from a composite resin, a filling material that mimics the color of teeth or porcelain. These veneers are placed over the front of your teeth to recreate its natural look. There are two types of veneers — traditional porcelain ones, which can last 10 to 15 years with proper care; and composite veneers, which may last up to five to seven years. In some cases, teeth may have to be shaved down to make them look more symmetrical upon application of the veneers. These are also known as inlays and onlays, also used as indirect fillings for teeth with mild to moderate decay, or when there is not enough tooth structure to properly support a filling. If the tooth cusps are not damaged, the inlay is placed directly onto the tooth surface. When a greater portion of the tooth or the cusp is damaged, an onlay is used directly to cover the entire tooth’s surface.

Aside from veneers, dental crowns are also used in cosmetic dentistry to improve the appearance of damaged teeth. They are tooth-shaped caps that are placed over your teeth that do not just improve their look; they also restore their shape, size, and strength.

2. To replace missing teeth

More than being a cosmetic concern, missing teeth are a general oral health problem. You may have problems chewing or suffer from speech impediments, depending on how many teeth you’re missing or where in your mouth the gaps are located. Dentists may suggest either a dental implant or a dental bridge to replace missing molars and incisors.

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that provide a permanent base for fixed, replacement teeth. Implants use an abutment, a connecter that is attached to it and supports the prosthetic tooth. Implants are usually indistinguishable from the natural teeth that surround them, and once the bone and the supporting tissue fuse to the implant, they are permanently secured into place. Diligent oral hygiene is required to clean plaque and food debris from the area.

Dental bridges, on the other hand, are used to bridge gaps between missing teeth. They are supported by the natural teeth around them or by implants.

3. To align crooked teeth

Teeth can be healthy and strong, but crooked teeth can make you self-conscious about smiling and may be the cause of jaw pain and headaches. When teeth don’t line up well inside the mouth, the jaw will overcompensate by moving in strange directions and angles just to make chewing and talking more comfortable.

If you are looking to straighten your teeth, you may opt for braces or clear alignment trays to adjust your teeth’s position. There are many types of braces available, depending on how severe your misalignment is.

4. To get a whiter, brighter smile

Teeth whitening is a quick and noninvasive way to make your teeth a shade or two lighter. You have three options: in-office whitening; professionally dispensed take-home whitening kits; or over-the-counter teeth whitening products.

An in-office whitening procedure requires your dentist to apply either protective gels or rubber shields to guard your gums while applying bleach to your teeth. A special light or laser might be used to enhance the effects of the whitening agent. They may be costly, but they are definitely more efficient with a higher concentration of whitening agent compared to over-the-counter options.

Both take-home whitening kits and over-the-counter teeth whitening products are do-it-yourself procedures. The kits are available either from the drugstore or your dental clinic. Make sure to discuss the steps with your dentist to ensure that you will be doing it right.

The Cost of Cosmetic Dentistry

While most insurance providers do not cover the cost of cosmetic dentistry, considering all options for improving your smile by consulting your dentist. The best way to know if you can afford cosmetic dentistry or other dental practices is to get a complete estimate from your dentist and speak with the financing department about your options. Kyrene Family Dentistry frequently deals with these cases and will be able to provide a rundown of the financing options available to you. Call us today or fill out our online form.