Cosmetic Dentistry

COSMETIC DENTISTRY 101

Cosmetic Dentistry Overview

Not so long ago, patients had very few choices in correcting their imperfect smiles. Orthodontic treatment could correct crooked teeth, but not much could be done about teeth that were chipped, oddly shaped or discolored other than covering them with crowns, a procedure that requires a significant reduction of healthy tooth structure. Today, there are several effective, fast and minimally invasive options for improving the appearance of teeth

Teeth Whitening

How Does Professional Teeth Whitening Work?

There are two types of professional teeth whitening, both of which penetrate the enamel and dentin layers of the teeth to remove deep discolorations:

  1. In-Office Whitening: This procedure is performed in your dentist’s office. After covering your lips and gums to expose only your teeth, your dentist will apply a professional-grade bleaching agent to your teeth. He or she may shine a special UV light on them to accelerate the whitening action. Your dentist will repeat the process two more times at 15-minute intervals, and you will leave your appointment with teeth that are many shades whiter.
  2. At-Home Whitening: You can achieve the same whitening results with an at-home kit provided by your dentist, who must first create custom mouth trays for you. These trays are to be filled with professional-grade whitening gel and placed over your top and bottom teeth. After wearing them for a specified time period every day for about two weeks, your teeth will achieve the same whitening results as an in-office treatment.

Bonding

What is Cosmetic Bonding?

Cosmetic bonding is a procedure that uses composite resin, the same tooth-colored material used for fillings, to alter the shape or color of a tooth. It is placed on the tooth in its soft, liquid form and then hardened.

What Cosmetic Issues Can Bonding Correct?

Bonding can help close gaps between teeth, repair chipped teeth or reshape teeth that are too small or irregularly shaped. The procedure can also cover deep-set stains, cracks or pits on tooth surfaces.

How Is the Bonding Procedure Performed?

Bonding is a simple procedure that can be performed without anesthesia in just one visit to your dentist. First, the composite resin material is colored to match your natural teeth. Next, your dentist will place the material, which resembles putty, onto your tooth and mold it into an aesthetically pleasing shape. After the resin is hardened under a special light, your dentist will shape and buff the hard material with a polishing tool until your repaired tooth has the same enamel-like sheen as your other teeth.

Veneers

A visual inspection can help your dentist spot most oral health problems, including the following:

What are veneers?

A veneer is a thin, durable shell made of porcelain that your dentist bonds to the front of a tooth. Veneers can be used to correct the same types of issues as bonding, including broken, discolored, misshapen or widely spaced teeth. They can also be placed over slightly crooked or overlapping teeth to create the appearance of straight teeth, something that normally takes a year or more using braces.

How Are Veneers Placed?

Veneer placement begins with your dentist gently buffing away a small portion of the enamel on the teeth being treated. This is done to create room for the porcelain laminates. Next, your dentist takes an impression of your teeth, which he or she will send to a dental lab so that a skilled technician can create your restorations according to the size, color and shape specifications that you have chosen. You may be given temporary veneers to wear while your permanent ones are being constructed. When the veneers have returned from the dental lab, your dentist will affix them to your teeth with a strong bonding material.

Why Would a Patient Choose Veneers Over Bonding?

Bonding is less expensive, takes less time to perform and doesn’t require tooth reduction, so why would anyone choose veneers instead? Their durability is one reason. Because they are made of hard porcelain, veneers last five to 10 years longer than bonding. They also reflect light better than bonding and look more like natural teeth.

Visual Examination

A visual inspection can help your dentist spot most oral health problems, including the following:

Cavities

Using a tool to gently probe all tooth surfaces, your dentist can detect soft spots that may indicate decay. If caught early enough, which is often the case with patients who keep their regular checkup appointments, tooth decay can sometimes be reversed with a professional fluoride treatment.

Periodontal Disease

Like cavities, periodontal disease is detected by using a dental probe. Your dentist will use this instrument to measure the spaces between your gums and teeth to determine if gum disease is present. If gum disease is spotted at its first stage, which is called gingivitis, it can usually be reversed with a professional teeth cleaning and an impeccable at-home oral hygiene routine.

Oral Cancer

Affecting the lips, throat, head, neck and soft tissues inside the mouth, oral cancer has a high cure rate if caught early. Your dentist will visually inspect these areas for unusual sores, lumps or rough patches and palpate them to determine if swelling or tenderness is present.

Jaw and Bite Issues

A misaligned bite can cause a host of problems with your teeth and jaws, including pain the jaw joints and teeth grinding. Stress can also cause you to grind your teeth and lead to jaw problems such as TMJ disorder. At your first comprehensive oral exam, your dentist will evaluate the way your teeth meet, check your jaws for signs of stress and inspect your teeth for damage caused by grinding to determine if further treatment is necessary.

Teeth Cleaning

A professional teeth cleaning is recommended every six months, so you may want to combine your checkup and cleaning appointments for the sake of convenience. Your hygienist will begin your cleaning by removing tartar buildup with an instrument called a scaler to help prevent gum disease. After scaling, your hygienist will polish your teeth with a paste that contains mild abrasives to remove plaque and surface stains, leaving your teeth smooth and less likely to collect oral bacteria. If indicated, you may also receive a fluoride treatment that helps remineralize your tooth enamel and reduce your risk of developing cavities.

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