A brilliant white smile full of perfectly aligned and proportioned teeth is not as difficult to acquire as in the past. Innovations in the field of cosmetic dentistry have ensured that even the toughest dental problems can be solved, paving the way for a beautiful smile.
Most people looking to improve the appearance of their teeth begin with basic, and necessary, dental treatments such as cleaning and regular check-ups. When a person decides to go further to improve or revitalize his/her smile, he/she needs to avail themselves of the services of a cosmetic dentist or general dental practitioner who can provide effective treatment.
Today, the menu of options available to patients seeking cosmetic dentistry includes: Inlays and onlays, composite bonding, teeth whitening, dental veneers, smile makeovers, full mouth reconstruction, and even fillings and crowns. A patient's ideal treatment plan may require straightening or alignment of the teeth, which would be performed by an orthodontist.
The rationale behind cosmetic dentistry is to make the teeth and the mouth look better, often requiring materials not usually needed by a conventional dentist. A number of traditional dental services are also offered by the cosmetic dentist such as fillings.The development of using porcelain and composite material in cosmetic restoration, which is the same material used to replace old, metal fillings, has brought conventional dental fillings into the purview of the cosmetic dentist, as well.
Inlays and onlays, or "indirect" fillings, are not molded in-situ but prepared in a controlled environment and fitted on to the tooth in the dentist's office. They are used to treat tooth decay in areas where traditional fillings are not viable. They are also quite useful in fortifying and restoring function to teeth damaged by decay or earlier dental procedures. The difference between an inlay and onlay is the location and amount of tooth covered. While an inlay is affixed to the tooth's centre, an onlay can help protect a tooth from more widespread damage and covers more than one area of the tooth.
Composite bonding, another common procedure, can also be applied to filling and repairing teeth.
Sometimes the nature of the restoration requires a different type of treatment than composite bonding. Minor problems like chips and cracks are effectively addressed by composite bonding, but more major defects need more complex treatments like veneers and crowns.
Veneers, which are custom-designed for each patient, are created from a durable ceramic material and applied to the teeth to guard areas where the enamel is worn, or areas with chips and cracks, or to correct irregular setting or spaces between teeth. Veneers offer versatility in cosmetic dentistry as they solve most problems.
When a tooth has been too extensively damaged to be restored with a veneer, patients have the option of placing a crown or cap. Crowns and caps provide function for even the most heavily damaged teeth by encasing the properly prepared remains of a tooth. Dentists in general prefer to save as much of the natural tooth material as possible, removing only that which is absolutely essential to allow placement of the crown or veneer.
Some portions of the affected teeth have to be filed or ground down in order to fit in the crown or cap, which may not be the best solution, and dentists will investigate every potential treatment possibility so as to avoid any further destruction of tooth material.
Crowns are manufactured mostly from three materials - gold, porcelain, and metal encased in porcelain.
The metal-porcelain combination produces the strongest, most hard-wearing and most aesthetically pleasing crowns. As the patient ages and their gums recede, though, some of the metallic materials may be revealed requiring the use of porcelain "collars".
Crowns made exclusively out of porcelain require less space as they do not have a metal core, and are ideal for use where space is at a premium.
The use of gold crowns is usually limited to molars or for patients with a habit of tooth grinding, because while gold withstands the pressures of grinding, it will not contribute to the break down of the enamel of occluding (opposite) teeth.
When cosmetic dentistry procedures are necessary for more than one tooth, a patient has two options - smile makeovers and full-mouth restoration. Full-mouth reconstruction is a more comprehensive process, and involves a complete appraisal of the patient's needs before a smile makeover is done. While looking to improve the appearance of the teeth, a cosmetic surgeon may diagnose functional problems with the teeth and bone structure as well as the bite position or muscles around the mouth.
There are many cosmetic dentistry options available and patients should consult with their dentist about their own individual needs and wishes in order to decide on the best treatment plan to attain the best results possible.