If you're tired of looking at your smile in the mirror, you might benefit from cosmetic dentistry procedures. While some types of dental procedures are designed to protect you from disease and degeneration, cosmetic dentistry practices mainly serve the purpose of helping you feel more comfortable with the way that your teeth appear to yourself and others. Before you decide whether or not cosmetic dentistry is right for you, it's important to learn more about these types of procedures and how they can improve your confidence and satisfaction with your appearance.
What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry refers to the wide body of practices that are used to alter a person's teeth for cosmetic reasons. If a person's teeth aren't entirely straight but this issue doesn't cause crowding or any other issues, the process of making their teeth perfectly straight is considered cosmetic dentistry. In some cases, cosmetic dentistry procedures may also be used to resolve potentially dangerous medical conditions, but these practices are almost always performed for purely aesthetic reasons. There are plenty of different kinds of cosmetic dentistry to choose from, and only certain qualified professionals are trained adequately to perform these types of dental procedures.
What Is the Difference Between a General Dentist and a Cosmetic Dentist?
If you've ever been to the dentist for a checkup, you're familiar with the presence of a general dentist. Your general dentist is the person who takes a look at your teeth after the dental assistant is done cleaning them and performing other routine procedures, and general dentists have gone through extensive training to be able to identify and treat dozens of different tooth-related diseases. Some general dentists also perform orthodontics, which is a form of dentistry that deals with teeth that are incorrectly positioned. However, most dentists refer their patients to dedicated orthodontists, who are the professionals who usually install braces and other types of tools that are designed to change the alignment of your teeth or jaw.
While some orthodontists and general dentists perform cosmetic dentistry procedures, most cosmetic dentistry practices fall under the purview of prosthodontists. These professionals specialize in the replacement or bolstering of problematic teeth with full prostheses or partial prostheses, and prosthodontists are the types of dentists who install replacement teeth such as bridges and implants. To get the exact type of smile that you're looking for, you may need to work with a general dentist, an orthodontist, and a prosthodontist, or you may find a single professional dentist who is capable of performing all of the dental procedures that you need to be proud of your teeth every time that you show them in public.
How Are Teeth Changed with Cosmetic Dentistry?
While there are many different practices that make up the field of cosmetic dentistry, these practices all affect your teeth in one of four ways:
- Addition of tooth or gum material: Some cosmetic dentistry practices involve the addition of tooth material to an existing tooth or teeth. Teeth can wear down over time for a number of different reasons, and conditions like cavities can also leave holes in teeth that need to be filled or covered with various dental procedures. In some cases, such as missing or utterly destroyed teeth, it may be necessary to replace the entire tooth, which is a procedure that constitutes the greatest possible addition of new tooth material to your mouth. In other situations, it may also be advisable to add gum material to your mouth in the form of gum grafts. A condition calledgum recession can cause your gums to leave an excessive portion of your teeth exposed, and gum grafts can help protect your teeth and make your smile look more normal when you expose your teeth.
- Removal of tooth material or gum material: After examining your mouth, your cosmetic dentist may also find that you're a prime candidate for enameloplasty or gingivectomy. Enameloplasty is the scientific term for the removal of enamel from your tooth; in some rare cases, this may be done because your teeth are crowding to the extent that you could encounter tooth diseases, but this procedure is almost always done for aesthetic reasons. You may also want to have gingivectomy performed in your mouth, which is the removal of parts of your gums. This procedure may be necessary for certain types of gum surgery, and it is also performed when patients feel that their gums are too prominently displayed in their mouths.
- Alteration of tooth or gum material: Even if you don't want to add or remove any tooth or gum material to change the way that your mouth looks, you might want to alter these parts of your mouth with cosmetic dentistry practices. The most common way in which people alter the appearance of their teeth is with tooth whitening, but some people may also choose to pursue gum depigmentation. Unusually high levels of melanin in the gums can sometimes cause them to develop brown or black spots, and while they aren't cause for concern as they don't signify the presence of any types of disease, they can be unsightly. This issue can be caused by smoking, and if this is the case, the best way to solve excess gum pigmentation is to stop smoking. If increased gum pigmentation isn't caused by smoking, however, cosmetic dentists can use a special type of dental laser to remove the dark patches and return your gums to their normal, pink color.
- Straightening of teeth: Tooth straightening is the primary occupation of orthodontists, and this procedure is almost always performed with the help of braces. Crooked teeth are unsightly, and they can also sometimes cause serious medical conditions that can be painful or disfiguring.
What Types of Cosmetic Dentistry Practices Are There?
There are quite a few different ways that cosmetic dentists can alter the appearance of your mouth, and these methods vary in their intensity and invasiveness. Some cosmetic dentistry procedures also serve practical purposes, but others are purely aesthetic in nature and are only designed to make you feel better about your appearance. While every type of procedure that changes the appearance of your mouth is technically a cosmetic dentistry procedure, here are some examples of the types of procedures that are usually performed by cosmetic dentists:
Tooth whitening is, by far, the most common type of cosmetic dental procedure. While there isn't technically anything wrong with having teeth that aren't completely white, many people feel that having white teeth is vitally important to their overall appearance, and qualified cosmetic dentists are more than happy to accommodate this preening urge. Many over-the-counter toothpastes and products claim to provide you with whiter teeth, but none of these products produce the same pronounced effects that are the hallmark of professional tooth whitening procedures.
The traditional method of professional tooth whitening is colloquially called "tooth bleaching," but it doesn't involve any chlorine bleach, which is the substance that most people associate with the term "bleaching." Instead, the two major ingredients that are used in tooth bleaching are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, which are considered relatively safe for dental purposes. Tooth bleaching is actually different from tooth whitening since tooth whitening is a process by which you remove stains from your teeth to return them to their normal appearance. Tooth bleaching, on the other hand, makes your teeth whiter than they would be normally, which is a look that many people find appealing.
In recent years, laser tooth whitening has become more and more popular. Like normal tooth bleaching, laser bleaching involves the application of bleaching chemicals to a person's teeth. Instead of stopping there, however, cosmetic dentists who perform this procedure then blast the chemical-painted teeth with a high-energy argon laser, which activates the bleaching chemical and accelerates the bleaching process. According to experts, laser whitening is six times more effective than normal whitening process, which places it in high demand among people who want to have the whitest teeth possible.
Braces can generally fix teeth that aren't aligned properly, but in some cases, a person's teeth may have grown incorrectly or unevenly, which is a situation that braces cannot fix. In these instances, cosmetic dentists will employ a process called "reshaping" to alter the appearance of a single tooth or multiple teeth to make the appearance of your mouth more uniform and appealing.
If you decide that you want to pursue reshaping, it's very important to work with cosmetic dentists who are experts in their field. Reshaping your teeth entails the removal of enamel, which is the outermost layer of your teeth. Underneath the enamel is a substance called dentin, which, unlike enamel, is gummy and soft instead of hard and smooth. If your dentin is exposed, you can develop cavities and other types of tooth issues, so it's very important that cosmetic dentists don't entirely remove the enamel on any of your teeth in the process of reshaping.
Conventional wisdom indicates that once enamel is gone, it can never be regenerated. Some experts disagree, but it's best not to risk the possibility of removing a dangerous amount of enamel. If the dentin in a tooth is exposed to rest of your mouth, it's likely that you'll lose that tooth.
In addition to changing the way that your overall bite appears, reshaping can also fix chips and other types of damage to your teeth. Like braces, reshaping can make the appearance of your bite more uniform, but unlike braces, reshaping takes effect almost immediately, which can make it an attractive process to people who want instant results. However, unless your bite can't be fixed with braces, you should probably avoid reshaping due to the inherent risks involved in this procedure.
If your gum line is asymmetrical, you may want to try a gum lift. This type of procedure alters your gum line to make it appear more uniform, and it can also reduce the size of your gums if you feel that they rise too high on your teeth. Gum lifting involves the addition or removal of gum tissue, and it may also entail the restructuring of the bones in your jaw. This process is also known as crown lengthening, and it was originally used to treat gum disease. In recent years, however, this procedure has been done for purely cosmetic purposes, and unlike gum contouring, the process of gum lifting is permanent.
If you've ground your teeth for years, it's possible that you've worn away at the enamel on the tops of your teeth to the point that they are shorter than they should be. Conditions like acid reflux disease can also wear away at the enamel on your teeth. When your teeth are shorter than their original dimensions, this can cause your bite to look constrained or cramped, and when you smile, your teeth may be less prominent than they would be otherwise.
The bite reclamation process begins with a thorough exam in which your cosmetic dentist will determine the original height of your teeth. Then, since the process of bite reclamation will most likely impact some of the nerves in your teeth, your dentist will apply a local anesthetic. Lastly, your dentist will add the same material that is used in fillings to the tops of your teeth to return them to their original height. It's important to note that if you continue to grind your teeth, you will wear away at your fillings and return your teeth to their pre-reclamation height.
Dental veneers are thin porcelain laminates that are bonded to your teeth. In some instances, whitening may not produce the results you're looking for, or you may want to fill in gaps between your teeth. These veneers essentially serve as extra layers of enamel that both protect and fill out your teeth. However, to apply a veneer, your cosmetic dentist will most likely have to shave away some of the existing enamel on your teeth, and you should also note that veneers are permanent.
To begin the veneer process, your cosmetic dentist will make one or more diagnostic mockups to determine exactly how the veneer will sit on your teeth. By making these mockups, cosmetic dentists can determine exactly how a veneer will look and sound before they take on the irreversible process of adding a this layer to your teeth.
Dental implants have become more and more popular over the last decade. Implants are false teeth that are connected to titanium posts, and these posts are inserted directly into vacant tooth sockets in your jaw. These types of implants can only be used when the original tooth is missing or has been removed, which means that your cosmetic dentist may counsel you to remove a tooth if its enamel has been worn down to a great degree or if it is riddled with cavities or other types of tooth decay.As your jaw heals after the implant is inserted, the bone in your tooth socket will grow around the titanium post in the implant, which makes the implant permanent.
Dental crowns are common cosmetic dentistry tools that are used to restore the shape and strength of a tooth that has been damaged or decayed. If a tooth has been weakened by decay, a crown can keep it together, and these devices also return the original appearance of the damaged tooth. Crowns entirely replace the top part of a tooth, and they can be made from resin, ceramic, porcelain, or metal. These cosmetic solutions are generally safe and relatively inexpensive.
Other Dental Procedures
Some other common dental procedures are sometimes considered to be cosmetic, but they are usually categorized as medical or necessary to maintain proper health. For instance, braces are usually used to correct a bite that may cause crowding or other issues that can damage your teeth, but some people use braces simply to make their smiles look better. Similarly, dentures are usually necessary to chew food and maintain proper jaw health, but some people may choose to use dentures for purely aesthetic reasons. While these types of dental prosthetics are less common these days, some people still opt for bridges instead of implants. These prosthetics consist of false teeth that are connected to the two teeth on their two opposite sides, and you may find a bridge to be more cosmetically appealing than other tooth replacement options.
Find Cosmetic Dentistry Professionals Near Me
When you decide to go ahead and invest in making your smile appear brighter or straighter, it's important to work with the right people. Dr. David Ganji and Dr. Sam Ganji at The Downey Dentist have years of experience in the art of making people more satisfied with their unique smiles, and they can consult with you to determine the best way to move forward with changing the way that your teeth look. To get started, call The Downey Dentist at 562-746-0350 today!