While traditional dentistry focuses on oral hygiene and preventing, diagnosing and treating oral disease, cosmetic dentistry focuses on improving the appearance of a person's teeth, mouth and smile.
In other words restorative, general and/or family dental practices address dental problems that require necessary treatment, whereas cosmetic dentistry provides elective - or desired - treatments or services.
A smile can be the most eye-catching feature of a face.
With dentistry's many advances, you no longer have to settle for stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth. You now have choices that can help you smile with confidence.
Even the most subtle change in your smile can make a dramatic difference in the way you look and feel about yourself. Talk to your dentist about the options most suitable for you, what your expectations are and the dental fees involved.
Some options are:
- tooth whitening (bleaching) brightens teeth that are discolored or stained. Bleaching may be done completely in the dental office or the dentist may dispense a system for you to use at home
- bonding can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, broken, cracked, stained, or have spaces between them. With bonding, tooth-colored materials are applied, or bonded, to the tooth surface
- enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel. The process, which often is combined with bonding, usually is quick and comfortable and the results can be seen immediately
- inlays and onlays: also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays made from porcelain or composite materials are a long-lasting yet cosmetic way to provide a "filling" to teeth with tooth decay or similar structural damage. Whereas dental fillings are molded into place within the mouth during a dental visit, inlays and onlays are created in a dental laboratory before being fitted and adhesively bonded into place by your dentist
- veneers are thin custom-made shells designed to cover the front side of teeth. Made of tooth-colored materials, veneers are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped or worn, permanently stained, poorly shaped or slightly crooked
- dental bridges are false teeth, known as a pontics, which are fused between two porcelain crowns to fill in the area left by a missing tooth. The two crowns holding it in place that are attached onto your teeth on each side of the false tooth. This is known as a fixed bridge. This procedure is used to replace one or more missing teeth
- dental implants are artificial tooth root replacements that are used as a part of prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry in order to compensate for tooth loss. Often the result is not only an enhanced smile, but also a more youthful appearance, since missing teeth cause the face to collapse, making you look older.
- braces are not just for kids. Orthodontics may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly. If your dentist thinks you should see a specialist for treatment, he or she will refer you to an orthodontist.
One mistake people make is going to their family dentist or the dentist down the street for this type of work. In reality, only a small percentage of dentists are artistic enough to create a beautiful smile design. You need to understand that dentists tend to be technician-types. They chose dentistry as a profession because they like to fix things. And that is what they're taught in dental school. You break a tooth-a dentist fixes it.
To do a beautiful smile makeover, a dentist needs a passion for beauty and a personality that loves to create things of beauty. Only 1% or 2% of dentists have this artistic inclination. Those that do will pursue additional training after dental school to learn the skills necessary to create smiles - special bonding techniques, training in color manipulation, an understanding of the special materials that are used in this highly specialized area of dentistry.