Cosmetic Dentistry: There’s No Reason to Hide Your Smile
Along with your eyes, your smile is the first thing a person notices when meeting you. So, when you hesitate to smile because of broken, discolored, or poorly spaced teeth, you may be sending an unintended negative message. But many people are finding they don’t have to hide their teeth any longer. With the advent of different materials and treatments, a better smile is now within reach for millions of adults. Keep in mind, though, that many cosmetic procedures are expensive, and dental insurance typically doesn’t cover the cost.
Bonding involves applying a tooth-colored composite resin to the surface of the teeth to correct chips, cracks, or tooth spacing, or to get rid of stubborn stains. First, your dentist treats your teeth with acid to make them more receptive to the resin. Next, he or she applies a thin coat of the bonding material to the tooth and hardens it using a light or a chemical solution. Additional coats of resin can be applied to fill gaps and lengthen teeth. Finally, the dentist polishes the tooth. The whole procedure can be accomplished in one visit. The cost of bonding depends on the size and complexity of the site being repaired.
Veneers also alter the tooth’s color, shape, and surface. They can be used to cover stained or chipped teeth, camouflage gaps and spaces, and make crooked teeth appear straighter without orthodontic treatment. These thin shells are prefabricated in a laboratory based on an impression your dentist makes of your mouth. Veneers can be formed out of porcelain, acrylic, or composite resin. Porcelain generally provides the best-looking and longest-lasting veneer.
Installing a veneer takes two appointments. On the first visit, your dentist will pare down the enamel so the added thickness of the veneer does not affect your bite. Next, he or she makes a mold of your teeth, which is used to craft the veneer in a dental laboratory. On your next visit, the dentist etches the surface of the enamel and attaches the veneer using a thin coat of composite resin.
Veneers can be quite costly. They are also subject to chipping, but you can count on them lasting up to 10 years if you avoid activities that are likely to break them, including biting hard objects and chewing ice. Veneers cost between $1,000 and $1,300 per tooth.
Minor imperfections in tooth length, contour, and shape can be remedied by removing small amounts of enamel from the surface and sides of the tooth. Your dentist also can correct signs of wear and tear, such as chips, grooves, and ground-down edges. Recontouring is often done in conjunction with bonding. Some people experience tooth sensitivity for a brief period after the procedure. Individuals with thin enamel are not good candidates for this technique. The process can cost between $200 and $400 per tooth.
Sometimes teeth appear “too short” because there is excessive gum tissue around their bases. This problem can be corrected with a type of minor gum surgery called gingivectomy. The crown of the tooth is made to appear longer by trimming or reshaping the gum and bone to expose more of the tooth enamel. The gum line also can be trimmed to produce a more even appearance. The procedure also has therapeutic uses. A dentist may need to remove gum tissue before repairing a tooth that is broken or decayed below the gum line or installing a crown or bridge.
Source: Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.