Tell Me Doc – What Exactly Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
by Stephen H. Hook DDS
Westchester Los Angeles CA Dentist
“Tell me Doc – What Exactly Is Cosmetic Dentistry?”
“I’ve seen many ads for ‘Cosmetic Dentistry’; what exactly is ‘Cosmetic Dentistry’?”
The term cosmetic dentistry includes several specialized dental procedures used to enhance, improve or correct the appearance of the teeth and mouth. Typical problems such as stained, chipped, misshapen and crooked teeth can be corrected by cosmetic dentistry. Even attractive smiles can be enhanced by cosmetic procedures to soften a smile or add vigor or character to an otherwise uniform, unremarkable appearance. Some cosmetic procedures include:
Teeth Bleaching or Teeth Whitening
BLEACHING removes or reduces the staining and aging of the natural teeth, usually by applying a peroxide containing chemical to the teeth with a custom-molded carrier or stint supplied by the dentist. This type of at home bleaching usually takes several days to accomplish by one hour application of the bleaching gel daily. It is safe, economical and effective when done in this manner. The bleaching or teeth whitening process can be done faster in the dental office using much stronger bleaching chemicals and heating systems but the end results are similar and the cost is much higher with this system. In addition the rapid bleaching technique carries with an increased risk of sensitive teeth afterward.
BONDING is a procedure in which tooth colored materials are directly applied to the natural tooth enamel. Bonding can cover discolorations, repair chips, fill in gaps and reshape slightly crooked teeth. The technique can be accomplished quickly—usually in one office visit or even on an emergency basis. The cosmetic results may not be as beautiful or as durable as the next technique.
VENEERS are custom made shells of tooth colored material–typically porcelain–that are applied (bonded) to the front of the teeth. They are less involved than crowns but are still quite durable, versatile and more natural than bonding alone. Veneers are more costly than bonding and require at least two visits to the dental office to fabricate and deliver.
Tooth Contouring and Reshaping
COSMETIC RESHAPING of the teeth is a process where the contours of the teeth are retouched and altered by the dentist to give a more pleasing appearance. Smiles can be blended to be more flattering or to convey an assertive personality. Combine this reshaping with a good cleaning and perhaps bleaching, and the smile can become much brighter and go a long way towards helping someone with self esteem and in relationships. Cosmetic reshaping is usually done quickly in one visit and is combined with the other techniques of bonding, veneers or bleaching, as described previously.
One final note, these cosmetic procedures can’t lighten old fillings and crowns (caps). These usually need to be replaced for the best cosmetic result. In addition your gums need to be reasonably healthy for best results. As always, consult with your dentist for your particular and individual concerns.