Although a patient may have no dental pain, no cavities, no gum disease and no missing teeth, they may still be unhappy with the appearance of their teeth. This is not uncommon and studies have found that 1/3 of North American adults are unhappy with their smile! Many of the following can be problems with one’s smile:
Teeth have spaces between them
Dark colour or stains
Too much gums showing (“gummy smile”)
Teeth are pushed forwards
Tiny chips in teeth
Teeth are rotated and too close together
Cosmetic dentistry deals with fixing these problems by improving the appearance of a patient’s teeth, gums and overall smile. Cosmetic dentistry is sometimes referred to as “esthetic dentistry.”
How to Improve Your Smile?
Improving your smile starts with a complete oral assessment. The dentist must be certain that you have no cavities or gum disease and no soft tissue lesions before looking at the appearance of your teeth. Functional concerns will always come first when creating a treatment plan for cosmetic dentistry. The dentist will ask questions to find out what part of your smile you feel could be improved. The way you bite your teeth together will be looked at carefully, and usually impressions will be taken to create stone models of your teeth. Dental photographs may also be used to pinpoint exactly what you would like to see changed.
Finding the Treatment Plan Best for You
Whitening your teeth is the treatment of choice for removing minor staining and discolouration. Teeth whitening can whiten your teeth by 5-7 shades. Changes larger than this will require a different treatment plan. Whitening kits work using a bleaching agent applied to the tooth in a gel. The gel penetrates the tooth and uses oxygen molecules to remove deep stains. Whitening agents have a high success rate at improving the colour of one’s teeth. Occasionally, tooth sensitivity may result from using whitening agents. Tooth whitening should only be used in conjunction with regular cleaning appointments and does not act as a substitute for good oral hygiene. Major causes of tooth staining include: smoking, excessive coffee or tea consumption, and inadequate brushing/flossing.
For patients with “long teeth” or a “gummy smile,” the main problem is usually the shape of the gums and not the teeth themselves. The dentist may refer these patients to a periodontist (a gum specialist) who would either increase the amount of gums over the teeth by placing a “gum graft” (for people with “long teeth”), or reduce the amount of gums around the teeth (for people with a “gummy smile”).
Gaps between front teeth can be fixed in many ways. The “direct” method of closing gaps is done with white filling material which is bonded to the teeth and shaped to close the gaps, following the natural curves of the teeth. The dentist is able to do this in a single appointment. The “indirect” method involves removing a small amount of tooth structure from the teeth which have gaps between them, and then taking an impression of the teeth which is sent to a dental lab. At the dental lab, dental technicians use the impression to make either veneers, crowns, or bridges (depending on what was decided by the dentist) which are then sent back to the dental office. The dentist then will try-in the lab-made restoration and if the patient is happy with the appearance, the dentist will cement it. The “indirect” restorations made at the lab are usually longer lasting, have better colour/ shape matching, and look more natural than the “direct” restorations. However, “indirect” restorations generally cost more and require more time to make than “direct” restorations. Both methods can also be used to fix discoloured, chipped or rotated teeth.
Sometimes braces or Invisalign® tooth movement are needed when patients have teeth that are very far from normal position. The dentist may refer these patients to an orthodontist who will move the teeth to a better position. After this is completed, the dentist will re-evaluate the patient’s smile to see if further improvement can be made using minor tooth reshaping.
All of the above procedures can be done to improve a smile. Each patient has different needs to make the appearance of their teeth exactly what they desire, and no two treatment plans are the same. If you have questions about Cosmetic Dentistry you can contact us at Eastgate Dental where one of our many dental specialists will be happy to speak with you.