Have you ever been told, “You have such a lovely smile”? A genuine smile can turn the plainest face into an expression of joy and life and brighten someone else’s day. Unfortunately, the operator of said smile – the mouth – is featured very prominently on the human face, so when our smiles are chipped, cracked, stained or crooked our lovely smiles become our biggest source of self-consciousness.
Luckily, advances are being made in fixing smiles every day! Cosmetic dentists are in demand for their magic touch on deformed molars, with new treatments being developed for extensive repairs such as dental implants or purely cosmetic work, such as enamel whitening. Below is a sneak peek at both areas.
Let’s face it: we are terribly vain creatures – and one of our most self-conscious parts is our teeth. Teeth are supposed to be white, but several culprits in the American diet can change that. The American Dental Association lists coffee, tea, red wine, tobacco products, and soda as elements that stain the enamel responsible for keeping our gnashers shiny. Even if you manage to avoid these products for most of your health-conscious life, your teeth are still vulnerable to trauma, disease, and old age, which can wear down the enamel covering. When the enamel is thinner, the layer underneath, dentin, shows through. Unlike its shiny white neighbor, dentin is yellowish.
But before you swear off opening your mouth in public forever, don’t despair! Help awaits, in the form of enamel whitening or, as it’s more commonly known, tooth whitening. Tooth whitening is incredibly cheaper than most dental procedures, non-intrusive, and can be done in a matter of hours to weeks. As a matter of fact, it is also the most popular cosmetic dentist procedure: according to the American Association of Orthodontists, almost 90% of patients ask for teeth whitening.
The basic theory is this: you decide your pearly whites are too “Aztec gold” for your liking, so you go to your dentist, who prescribes a mixture of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which is basically a bleach solution, which is applied to your teeth after carefully placing a shield around your gums.
The Oral Health Foundation estimates a chair-side procedure to take less than an hour. However, most people will use the out-of-office treatment, where the dental team will set the mouth guard at the first visit, and they will continue applying the whitening solution at home for the next three to four weeks.
I say “theory” because, with any widely used practice, people tend to adapt and change it to make it easier, cheaper and to fit the exceptions of the practice. There is now a laser version – yes, a laser – that makes the procedure even faster, within a matter of minutes, and for those searching for an economic option, many variations of whitening strips and solutions are sold over the counter.
Before you jump at the shining white beacon of discount whitening strips off eBay, talk to your dentist. The longer the procedure, the lower the concentration of the whitening solution. The at-home kits will have the lowest, but they will also be slightly acidic. The chairside procedure has the highest concentration of bleach, but with your dentist literally right there – chair-side – the chances of things going wrong are pretty slim. Since teeth change color for many different reasons, you also want to make sure the teeth whitening process will actually work on your teeth.
Chipping or losing an adult tooth can be incredibly painful, but also embarrassing. Sporting a black hole front and center where a tooth should be can lower the self-esteem of an outgoing, confident person and isolate them indoors. Capping, crowns, root canals, dentures – we’ve come up with many ways to fill in the gap. The latest advancement in tooth replacement is the method of dental implants.
Dental implants are described by Cosmetic Dentist expert Dr. Marc Lazare as “an excellent permanent solution to severely damaged or missing teeth.” A dental implant consists of two parts, an artificial tooth and anchoring root, installed in minor surgery. The root is a biocompatible titanium post that is placed inside the jawbone under the gumline. This piece anchors the new tooth tightly as the remaining bone grows around it. The new tooth is attached to the top and is customizable to match the patient’s other teeth. Dr. Lazare has seen great success with both the installation and use of dental implants: in fact, because the implant actually encourages bone growth, it functions, looks and feels like a natural tooth! There are different types of implants being developed but for now, there are two approved types.
- Endosteal implants: this more popular method involves installing the titanium post in the bone first. The bone heals around it and secures it in place, making it ready to attach either a singular tooth or a bridge to connect to multiple artificial teeth.
- Subperiosteal implants: this type of implant is installed between the gumline and the jawbone, designed for multiple teeth to be screwed in as needed. As the gums heal, they secure it in place on the jawbone.
Obviously, there are some factors to consider before replacing all your teeth with titanium. Because it is an invasive procedure, overall patient health needs to be good, plus the amount of tissue and tooth in the gum area that may need to be removed. Bone density is also important: it’s difficult to install an implant into the bone that doesn’t exist! The Mayo Clinic lists some other important health considerations, but also reports that dental implants are an efficient, secure way to keep your smile!
Ask Your Dentist
Your smile is important! A genuine grin has been proven to both improve mood and to be contagious. If your teeth need a “facelift”, ask your dentist about your options. As dentists continue to discover new treatments, those options will increase! Now that’s something to smile about!