An overview of cosmetic dentistry
Two thirds of Americans actually believe that a good smile can make the difference between an employed and a jobless person. In any job competition, a good smile increases your chances of getting the job. The first thing people note in your personality is your smile and the smile has a profound effect on the people you meet.
Unfortunately, not every one of us is born with a Cleopatra smile. And of those are born with good smiles, some may have different problems which can mar their smile. Some of the main factors which can deteriorate a good smile are:
- Poor Oral Hygiene: One of the main reason for deteriorating an already good smile is neglect of good oral hygiene. The results can be various - from an unseemly pale color to caries, cracks, gum recession, bad odor, loose teeth, and finally lost teeth.
- Tobacco and liquor: use of tobacco in any form, and use of liquor will gradually stain your teeth.
- Medication: Continued use of certain medication can cause dental problems including a pale coloring.
- Disease: Prolonged disease can affect color of your teeth directly and through gastric acidity.
- Accidents: can take place during sport and otherwise which can affect teeth. Unfortunately, it is the front teeth, the most prominent teeth which are involved in accidents.
- Genetics: some people have hereditary predisposition to have crooked or misaligned teeth.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for each of the various situations. Dental cosmetic of early times has now developed into a very scientific profession - cosmetic dentistry - and supported by advances in physics, chemistry, metallurgy and the associated industry. Cosmetic dentistry has a solution for all your cosmetic needs. At the same time, there is a sincere advice. While the dental professionals will willingly do what they can to meet your aesthetic needs, you must observe two things:
- Avoid the above causative factors where possible. Especially taking care of regular brushing and flossing at least twice a day using a soft brush.
- Regular inspection and cleaning visits to your dentist.
Short animation about various cosmetic dentistry procedures. Duration: 1:15
Teeth Whitening and Bleaching
This is one of the most frequent cosmetic services provided by cosmetic dentists. Teeth get pale or stained due to various reasons, and require frequent professional or domestic whitening procedures. Teeth whitening kits are available for use at home.
Professional Teeth whitening
A cosmetic dentist performs this type of whitening. Before scheduling your appointment for teeth whitening, your dentist will first prepare whitening trays for you by making an impression of your teeth. The trays are then filled with a potent bleaching agent and placed over your teeth. Polymerization of the bleaching agent is activated with the help of a special light source. To prevent your gums and cheeks from accidental bleaching, your dentist will place a protective coating over them such as Vaseline or cocoa butter.
Home whitening can either be done by using a formula and whitening trays provided by your dentist, or you can buy home whitening kits from the market. Although home whitening is economical but has drawbacks. The ready-made trays which come in the kit may not fit your teeth properly and the chemical may leak on to gums and discolor them. The result is not as effective as professional whitening because for safety reasons the chemical used must be very dilute.
In case the results of whitening do not satisfy you, or you do not want to visit the dentist for repeated whitening, veneers are another option. Veneers are very thin resin or porcelain shells which are bonded to the front of teeth. The outer surface of your teeth needs to be trimmed slightly for creating room for the veneers. Porcelain veneers resist staining and can give you a beautiful smile for many years. Porcelain reflects light almost like your natural enamel does, and look very natural. Because of their strength porcelain veneers demand less of a trimming of your enamel. Veneers can not only cover stained and discolored teeth, they can also be applied to rectify the following conditions:
- Worn out teeth
- Badly shaped teeth
- Broken / Chipped teeth
- Teeth with gaps
In addition to porcelain, veneers can also be prepared from tooth colored composites, which have the added advantage of being producible at the dental chairside.
Veneers are not advised for those patients who have unhealthy teeth, teeth with large fillings, weakened by fracture or any other reason. Patients in the habit of clenching and grinding teeth are also not recommended for veneers. In such cases beautiful crowns or caps can be placed on teeth which look very attractive and at the same time strengthen your teeth. Crowns are thin caps custom made for each tooth. Your teeth are trimmed slightly to accommodate the thickness of the crowns and then patterns of the teeth are taken and sent to the lab for preparation of the crowns. Once, the crowns are ready, the teeth are cleaned, roughened, and the crowns affixed. Crowns can be of porcelain, metal alloys or a combination of both. Porcelain crowns resist staining, look very good, and are in popular demand. The most popular types are E-max and Zirconia.
A more economical alternative to veneers is bonding. Teeth which have lost some part or are in need of reshaping can corrected with bonding. Bonding is superior to veneers in case where the defects are larger. Tooth colored composite resin is applied to teeth where needed, and can then be sculpted to shape. Resins are available in various colors and can be made to match the original color of teeth. Cosmetic bonding is economical, but there is a snag. Resins can get stained rather easily by liquor, tobacco, and certain foods. One should avoid liquor and tobacco, and be careful with what one eats.
Inlays and onlays
These are like fillings but prepared and shaped outside the tooth. For this the tooth is prepared and then impression is taken. The inlay or onlay is prepared to this impression, and then cemented in place. The inlay goes into a cavity and the onlay, as the name suggests sits on the tooth structure. For this reason, the onlay may be made somewhat like a crown.
Dental bridges are another way to restore your smile as well as to restore functionality of teeth. Bridges are used to restore the gap created by one or more adjacent teeth. Just like a bridge on a river, a dental bridge normally takes support from two healthy teeth on either side of the gap. The necessary number of artificial teeth (pontics) are made on a structure and attached to crowns placed on the support teeth. Thus, it becomes necessary to prepare the support teeth for the crown. Trimming the support teeth for crown placement has the effect of increasing the chance of sensitivity. Bridges can be made without crowns in which case the artificial teeth, or the pontics are directly bonded to the support teeth. These are called Maryland bridges. A Cantilever attachment is used when support is available only on one side, e.g., in replacing a rear molar. Modern trend for bridges is to support them on implants.
Other services to give you a beautiful smile
You cannot enjoy a beautiful smile unless you have perfectly healthy teeth and gums. A good dentist will provide many other services which are not strictly cosmetic, but more in the line of health care. These services are aimed at ensuring that you not only maintain excellent physical and dental health, but you also enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting smile. Some of these services are:
Inspections and Cleanings
Regular inspections and cleanings are perhaps the most important service provided by a dentist. It is a known fact that despite your best efforts at brushing and flossing, plaque may start accumulating at some points, especially in the back surfaces and between the teeth. Inspections twice a year are recommended very strongly. When you go for an inspection, the professional dentist will not only be able to clean the plaque, but will also detect any other wrong tendencies which may cause disease or discomfort later. For example, he (or she) may see signs of fluoride deficiency. In this case your dentist can give a topical, or oral treatment to make up the deficiency.
If plaque build-up is ignored, gum disease develops. Gums, swell, bleed, and ultimately may come off the bone, forming pockets. Plaque finds a haven in these pockets and bacteria thrive, leading to the advanced gum disease. Deep cleanings involve cleaning the plaque on the tooth root under the gum flesh. Once the plaque has been removed, the root surface is left rough. A rough surface more likely to pick up plaque than a smooth surface, and hence, the root surfaces are scraped and smoothed. That is called root-plaining.
This is another rather common treatment provided by a dentist. A tooth may be extracted when it is painful and beyond restoration, it is likely to disturb other teeth (impacted wisdom teeth can do that), or when one or two teeth are left only and a full denture has to be made. Extractions are straightforward but in some cases a surgical extraction may have to be made.
Root canal therapy
Root canal treatment (RCT) is the last attempt by a dentist to save a carious tooth. Root canal therapy becomes necessary when caries gone deep enough to reach the pulp chamber - the hollow chamber running down along the length of the tooth. The infected pulp is removed, the cavity is cleaned and sealed. Pulp is required only for growth of a tooth, and in case of grown teeth, pulp can be done away with.
Mouth guards are protective plastic shells provided by a dentist (or bought from the market) which are worn over the teeth to protect them against accidental damage (eg, during sport). Night guards are similar, but worn at night to protect teeth against damage due to teeth grinding and clenching.
Sealants are applied to molars of children to protect against caries. Sealant are acrylic fluids which are applied to chewing surface after cleaning and etching them for a better grip.
Dentures are removable sets of replacement teeth. Dentures can be full or partial. These conventional dentures are now losing ground to implant supported dentures which have multiple advantages.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the joint between the lower jaw and the head and allows the lower jaw to move. Problems with TMJ called temporomandibular disorders (TMD) are also diagnosed and treated by the dentist.
How much do these treatments cost?
Dental treatments are expensive, even a simple cleaning could cost around $100. If you need a more complex treatment - like root canal therapy, crowns or veneers - chances are you'll be paying well over $1,000. If you have a missing tooth and want to replace it with implants or if you need braces, your costs can be anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000. If you need dentures you might end up paying even more then $5,000.