Cosmetic dentistry is an evolving field of dentistry concerned with restoring aesthetic appeal to smiles that have been compromised due to miscare, injury, or congenital deformity. Cosmetic dentists have a number of tools at their disposal to craft a beautiful smile including porcelain veneers, composite veneers (tooth bonding), dental inlays and onlays, dental crowns and tooth whitening – just to name a few. These procedures often complement one another to create an attractive smile through minimally-invasive means. Cosmetic dentists are continually updating their roster of offerings to include exciting products like Lumineers, Snap-on Smile, and services like instant dental crowns. These innovations increase patient comfort and render treatment less time-intensive and as a result less cost-prohibitive.
An assessment with a cosmetic dentist will ultimately determine whether or not you are a good candidate for treatment. Factors including your budget, desired treatment timeline and outcome will dictate the course of treatment. Before any of these factors are even to be considered, an evaluation of your present oral health will be necessary. The cosmetic dentist will look for signs of conditions like periodontal disease and bruxism, and any other factors which may interfere with successful treatment. If, for instance, the patient presents with congenitally missing anterior (front) teeth that create unsightly gaps, cosmetic dentistry may not be appropriate without prior orthodontic treatment to widen the gaps. Other situations, like overcrowding teeth, can present similar problems.
The cosmetic dentist’s treatment methodology will also play a role in case selection. Issues such as large gaps can be corrected using dental bridges, but a conservative treatment approach might advocate an implant-supported crown in lieu of a dental bridge. A conservative approach to cosmetic dentistry might extend the treatment timeframe, but ultimately the results are longer lasting (tooth trauma is minimized) and aesthetically superior.
Finding a skilled cosmetic dentist is not as simple as entertaining referrals from friends and family members. Although you may have confidence in your general dentist, cosmetic treatment should be strictly limited to small problems like tooth chips.
A promising candidate should possess credentials beyond general dentistry coursework (although this is not a legal requirement to practice cosmetic dentistry). Most cosmetic dentists pursue continuing education to become familiarized with the latest industry practices and products. For instance, a dentist might choose to undertake instruction to become certified in sedation dentistry. Any additional education that the dentist has completed should be listed on their website. If they have any case studies posted, they should be reviewed with special attention to case diversity, complexity, and treatment outcomes.
The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) rewards accreditation to cosmetic dentists who have demonstrated superior talent by means of written examination and case submissions. You can search a database of accredited dentists here. AACD accreditation is rigorous and therefore an excellent indicator of skill level. However, with only 300 accredited dentists nationwide, this is more of a bonus to look for rather than a necessity.
As an additional precaution, you should always check with your state dental board for any past or current actions on a dentist’s license.
There is no fixed price for a smile makeover as each patient presents with a unique case that requires a specific combination of treatments. A set of six porcelain veneers to restore a patient’s smile might cost $9,000 whereas a combination of teeth whitening and composite bonding might yield comparable results (contingent on the case at hand) for a much lower price. The cosmetic dentist will work with the patient to accommodate their budget while preserving an acceptable level of durability and aesthetics in the final product.
The costs associated with cosmetic dental work can be intimidating; however patients need not be dissuaded from pursuing treatment. Financing is often available with incentives such as zero interest for the first year. These incentives and the actual borrowing terms will vary depending on the lender that your practitioner has partnered with. If you’re not keen on securing a loan, there are other strategies to consider. Prioritizing your dental treatment is an excellent example. If you have tooth discoloration and gaps, you might first pursue whitening and hold off on veneers until a later time.
The length of treatment will depend on the specific treatment plan your dentist has created. Restorative work requiring dental crowns or porcelain veneers is often the most time-intensive. This is because a dental lab must first fabricate the restorations before they are delivered to patients (a process that can take two weeks). If any existing issues (orthodontic, periodontal, prosthodontic, etc.) need to be addressed prior to treatment, longer treatment length can be anticipated.
Unlike conventional dental procedures, cosmetic dentistry is virtually pain-free. Certain procedures may require that the patient be anesthetized or numbed. This is typically the case during the tooth preparation stages for porcelain veneers or crowns. Special minimal preparation veneers may mitigate the need for anesthesia; however this is an option that needs to be thoroughly discussed with your doctor.
We have a collection of additional articles on cosmetic dentistry readily available. Please navigate to any pages of interest by following the appropriate links.