Cosmetic dentistry involves maintaining and restoring optimal appearance of the mouth and smile, as well as the health of the teeth and gums. Various procedures and products are now available to assist in this endeavor and some dentists have special training in this important field.
Tooth whitening is effective in correcting many tooth discolorations so that the patient's teeth appear a healthy natural color. Teeth stained or darkened by food, tobacco use, aging or injury can be restored to a pleasing shade of whiteness in only a few short visits, or even in a single visit, to a cosmetic dentist. While at-home methods of tooth whitening may also be used, they work more slowly and tend to be less efficient than professional work.
Porcelain and composite veneers are aesthetic covers for damaged or stained teeth. Although some veneers are designed to be removable, most are permanent, bonded tightly to the teeth they protect. Veneers not only create, or recreate, the appearance of more perfect teeth, but also provide greater strength and resilience than natural tooth enamel. It is now possible for cosmetic dentists to improve their patient's appearance by:
- Making slight corrections to tooth position
- Changing shape of broken or malformed teeth
- Changing size and/or color of teeth
Because of the technological advancements in veneers and bonding agents in recent years, it is quite common for veneers to remain functional for more than a decade. In many cases, veneers remain functional and attractive for as long as 20 years.
Cavities are painful, unsightly holes in the teeth that must be filled to prevent the spread of bacterial infection. Contemporary fillings, made of a dental composite resin, are much closer in hue to the natural color of teeth than the silver previously used. This allows the tooth to be protected but still look untouched.
Other materials are sometimes used as dental filling material, including ceramics and glass ionomer. The former has the advantage of being more stain-resistant, but is very expensive. The latter is typically used either for young children or when cavities are below the gum line. Glass ionomer fillings are similar in cost to composite fillings and have the advantage of releasing fluoride to prevent further decay. On the downside, they are more prone to fracture.
A dental implant is an artificial tooth replacement designed to permanently fill the void created by a missing tooth. There are many types of dental implants, ranging from individual crowns to large scale dentures. A cosmetic dentist can ensure that the most comfortable replacement will be implanted in the most precise, functional, and aesthetically pleasing manner possible.
Dental implants, which have an extremely high rate of success and can last a lifetime, offer the following advantages over removable dentures:
- Improved appearance and comfort
- Improved speech
- Ease of chewing
- Better long-term oral health
The fact that dental implants do not require removal results in less embarrassment for patients and, therefore, increased patient self-esteem.
Cosmetic crowns are caps designed to fit over natural teeth that have broken or weakened, becoming unattractive or dysfunctional. Crowns are natural-looking tooth replacements that help maintain facial structure, reduce stress on the jaw,and fill in the gaps caused by missing teeth. There are a few significant differences between veneers and crowns. For one thing, crowns cover the entire tooth, whereas veneers just cover the front side of the tooth. For another, crowns are much stronger than veneers and can therefore function as greater protection, for example from bruxism (tooth grinding).
A dental bridge is composed of two or more crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap where tooth loss has occurred. The two reinforcing teeth, known as abutment teeth, hold a false tooth, known as a pontic, between them. The pontic will fill in the gap left by the lost tooth.
There are numerous options available to improve the overall health and appearance of the teeth and smile. Patients should consult with their dentists to decide which option best suits their specific needs and will most effectively meet their expectations.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine