Cosmetic dentistry is dental treatment which enhances and improves the appearance of the gums, teeth, mouth, and smile. Many dentists who practice general dentistry and family dentistry are also highly qualified as cosmetic dentists. Often times there is overlap between medically necessary dental work and procedures that are strictly cosmetic. While there will be variances in specific experience, schooling and training cosmetic dentists have extensive knowledge of a range of procedures that can be used to improve the appearance of the smile. Cosmetic dentists typically work in tandem with skilled dental lab ceramicists who use extremely high quality materials to provide results that improve dental health while also maximizing the beauty of the smile.
There are two formal fields of dentistry that can be considered somewhat cosmetic in nature. Prosthodontics is a dental specialty that focuses on restoration and repair of missing or deficient teeth and the treatment of a variety of maxillofacial disorders. Procedures performed by a prosthodontist will greatly improve the appearance of the smile, but they also serve a functional/medical need. As such, they are not considered elective cosmetic dental procedures. The same is true of treatments provided by orthodontists. Orthodontia is the other formally recognized dental field involving cosmetic dentistry. Orthodontic treatments (braces are the most common) alter the appearance of teeth and smile, but are generally performed with the goal of fixing improper bites and increasing the overall healthy functioning of the mouth and jaw.
In some cases, orthodontists, prosthodontists, and dentists with general and family dentistry practices will tailor their practice to the improvement of the smile for cosmetic purposes. Other times they will offer cosmetic dentistry procedures as a compliment to preventative dental care. The services of cosmetic dentists are important, as feeling confident about the beauty of your smile can greatly improve self-esteem. Talking with your cosmetic dentist about your overall smile is the best way to learn about the procedure or procedures that may help you to improve the general appearance of your teeth, gums, mouth and smile. There are many different dental treatments that can be performed by a cosmetic dentist. The three main types of cosmetic dentistry treatments are:
- Procedures that require the addition of dental materials to the gums and teeth. Examples of this type of procedure include crowns, caps, bonding, gum grafts, and veneers.
- Procedures that require the removal of dental material from the gums or teeth. Examples of this type of procedure include enameloplasty and gingivectomy.
- Procedures, such as teeth whitening, which enhance the appearance of the teeth and smile without adding or removing dental material.
Sometimes multiple procedures are performed to provide maximum improvement in the overall appearance of the smile. Often times this process is referred to as a smile makeover.
Tooth sculpting, involves the shaving and removing of tooth enamel to improve the appearance of the teeth. This technique is useful in fixing chipped teeth, uneven teeth, and oddly shaped teeth. Tooth sculpting is also called tooth reshaping. Tooth sculpting is a relatively quick cosmetic procedure with stunning results. It is sometimes done as a precursor to the application of crowns or veneers. Tooth sculpting has an artistic element to it; be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.
Another option for reshaping the teeth is through a cosmetic dentistry procedure known as bonding. This process requires multiple steps and a keen eye for detail. During bonding, the teeth are specially prepared and then a composite material, which acts like the enamel naturally found on teeth, is applied to the tooth’s surface. The composite material is sculpted into the proper, aesthetically appealing shape and is then hardened and polished. Tooth bonding has an artistic element to it; be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.
Veneers are used by cosmetic dentists to restore and repair damaged teeth as well as to improve the overall appearance of the smile. Veneers are available in both porcelain and other composite materials. They are incredibly thin and are made in a dental lab to match molds taken of the patients teeth. The veneer is bonded directly onto the prepared tooth surface and will typically last for about 20 years. Teeth with stubborn stains may be coated with veneer to improve appearance and veneers can also be used to fill gaps and create a more uniform appearance of the teeth. The application of veneers has an artistic element to it; be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.
Gingivectomy is a procedure performed by cosmetic dentists to improve the appearance of the smile. In some cases it may be medically necessary in order to promote proper oral hygiene. Sometimes this procedure is referred to as gingival sculpting or a gum lift. It is useful in correcting “gummy smiles” and for re-sculpting the gum line to give a more even look to the teeth. Re-contouring the gum line has an artistic element to it; be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.
In the case of missing teeth a dental bridge can be constructed by a cosmetic dentist. The purpose of this structure is to, literally, “bridge” the gap between two healthy teeth. To create a bridge your cosmetic dentist will make two crowns for the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. The two healthy teeth used to anchor the bridge are called abutment teeth. In between the abutment teeth the cosmetic dentist will anchor a false tooth. Cosmetic dentists can choose from false teeth made from porcelain, gold, alloys, or a combination of these materials. Dental bridges must be custom made and carefully fitted. The process often requires multiple visits to the cosmetic dentist. Be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Bite reclamation is a process used to open up the bite of patients who have diminished the vertical dimension of their smile. This damage results from long-term tooth grinding and excessive wear on the teeth and causes the mouth and smile to take on a shortened, stunted appearance. A cosmetic dentist can “open up the bite” to improve the appearance of the face, smile, and jaw.
Bite reclamation has an artistic element to it; be certain to choose a cosmetic dentist with experience using this technique. Most cosmetic dentists will provide you with a portfolio showcasing ‘before and after’ pictures to illustrate their skills.
Dental fillings were once only available in materials that look unnatural within the mouth. Amalgam, gold, and other metals, while functional, can be somewhat unsightly. Cosmetic dentists offer more aesthetically appealing fillings, such as those made of porcelain and composite materials. These can be permanently bonded to the teeth as an alternative to unsightly amalgam fillings.
The most common cosmetic dentistry procedure is tooth whitening. According to the American Dental Association there are four basic options for tooth whitening:
- In-office bleaching is performed by a general dentist, a family dentist, or a cosmetic dentist in the office setting.
- Non-dental whitening procedures are administered in tooth whitening offices that do not provide other dental services. Malls kiosks, spas, salons, and office buildings offer non-dental tooth whitening.
- At-home bleaching involves the use of bleaching products provided by a dental professional, however these products are applied by the individual in their own home.
- Over-the-counter whitening products do not require prescriptions from a dentist. They are available in a wide variety of grocery and drug stores.
Regardless of the type of tooth whitening procedure that you are interested in, the ADA recommends having a thorough dental checkup before beginning tooth whitening.
Cosmetic dentists offer a variety of highly effective methods of in-office tooth whitening methods. The cosmetic dentist will apply a highly concentrated peroxide gel to the teeth. This gel can cause burns to gums and surrounding tissue if not applied properly. As a precaution, the cosmetic dentist will carefully apply a paint-on rubber dam to the gums before coating the teeth with the peroxide gel.
The entire process usually takes about one hour during which time the cosmetic dentist will perform several applications of the peroxide gel. It is usually left on for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Depending on the specific system of tooth whitening being used, a bright light may be used to accelerate the effects of the bleaching gel.
Sometimes patients’ teeth stains are extensive and internal in nature. These stains are often caused by exposure to tetracycline and overexposure to fluoride. If your dentist diagnosis your tooth discoloration as the result of stubborn, internal stains the dentist may recommend a multi-step deep bleaching approach. This type of bleaching involves multiple visits to the office for a variety of procedures; however it may be the most effective option for some people. Considering the number of visits and the amount of customized products required for a deep cleaning protocol the cost can be considerable.
Tooth whitening is often a part of an overall smile-makeover. In certain cases, such as the insertion of veneers, tooth whitening may be necessary to give all the teeth a uniform appearance.
Although cosmetic dentistry is not formally recognized as a specialty within the field of dentistry, there are two credentialing agencies that serve to regulate the cosmetic dental industry. The American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA) was founded in 1976 to ensure the proper continuing education of dentists practicing cosmetic dentistry. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) is an international organization dedicated to the art and science of cosmetic dentistry. The AACD was founded in 1984 to promote the highest standards and continuing education of dental professionals practicing cosmetic dentistry, as well as to act as a credentialing agency within this dental specialty. Membership in either or both of these agencies indicates a high level of commitment to the field of cosmetic dentistry.
Cosmetic dentistry can be used to greatly enhance and improve the overall appearance of the smile. It is very important to select a cosmetic dentist with the skills and expertise to provide high quality results.
The term family dentistry refers to the field of dentistry that serves as the primary line of defense against dental problems and abnormalities. Also commonly called “general dentistry,” this type of dental care is primarily preventative in its approach to oral health.
The term family dentistry refers to the field of dentistry that serves as the primary line of defense against dental problems and abnormalities. Also commonly called “general dentistry,” this type of dental care is primarily preventative in its approach to oral health. In order to become a practicing family dentist the individual must complete an undergraduate degree, pass the Dental Admission Test, and then complete a dental school program. Dental school training for family dentists averages 4 years, and upon successful completion the individual will have a full understanding of general principles of dentistry. Students must pass National Board exams in order to graduate from dental school and receive a degree either as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD.) Upon graduating from dental school the dentist may immediately begin practicing as a family or general dentist. Some dentists continue with postgraduate education in a field such as orthodontics, endodontics or pedodontics, among others.
Family dentists are qualified to treat patients of all ages, both children and adults. Selecting a family dentistry practice is a great choice for families because children get to know the dentist and hygienists from a young age. In many cases, a nervous child will be comforted by the knowledge that their dentist also takes care of mom and dad’s teeth.
The main goals of family dentistry are the promotion of good oral hygiene habits and the prevention of dental problems and abnormalities. Dentists practicing family dentistry focus on preventing, diagnosing and treating problems of the teeth, gums, jaw, and face. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) individuals should be seen by a family dentist twice each year. Bi-annual visits to the family dentist allow for routine cleanings which are necessary to remove the buildup of plaque and tartar. These cleanings can play a key role in preventing tooth decay and promoting overall oral health. Regularly scheduled appointments with a family dentist also give the dentist a chance to check for and fill cavities and monitor gum health. Cleanings are often performed by a dental hygienist who works under the supervision of the family dentist.
Family dentists often use radiographs to locate cavities in teeth, as well as to check for other tooth and maxillofacial problems. When the family dentist can find problems early enough, minor treatment administered in the family dentistry office is likely all that will be required. Dental problems that go undetected and/or untreated tend to worsen and develop into more serious conditions. In these cases restorative procedures such as root canal, implants, or crowns may be necessary. In addition to effectively preventing dental problems, family dentists can provide treatment and referrals to specialists when necessary.
A family dentist and the dental hygienists and dental assistants in a family dentistry practice play a big role in helping people to maintain proper, effective oral hygiene. Regular visits to a family dentist allow for necessary deep cleaning and for screenings for cancer of the mouth and gums. Seeing the dentist is important for children as the family dentist can monitor their developing bite for signs that orthodontia may be needed.
Selecting a family dentist is an important decision because oral health affects overall health and well-being. You should choose a dentist with whom you and your family will be comfortable. Ask prospective family dentists about the types of procedures and treatments that they typically perform, as well as what their process is for referrals. You may also wish to discuss pre-medication and comfort measures, and the use of dental lasers as an alternative to drills.
Costs for dental procedures vary widely and you should discuss them openly with your dentist. Family dentistry offices accept a range of dental insurance plans and coverage differs across policies and providers. The family dentistry office staff should provide you with assistance when determining what treatments and procedures are covered. In many cases preventative procedures and treatments administered by a family dentist will be covered (at least partially) by dental insurance providers.
In many cases family dentists also perform cosmetic dentistry. Sometimes family dentists who also perform cosmetic procedures label their offices as family and cosmetic dentistry practices. If you are interested in a smile makeover or in specific cosmetic dentistry procedures you should first consult with your family dentist. In most cases procedures that are performed for cosmetic purposes are not covered by dental insurance; however there are often cases where a procedure can be both restorative and cosmetic. Your family dentist can provide you with information when considering these procedures. If your family dentist does not perform the dental procedures that you desire, he or she will be able to refer you to a qualified cosmetic dentistry office.