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What to Expect from Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is a branch of dentistry that focuses on improving the appearance of teeth or gums instead of the treatment or prevention of the actual cause. Procedures used in cosmetic dentistry can correct imperfections caused by genetics, injury, environmental factors, neglect or age.

Cosmetic dentists use computer imaging technology to show patients how their teeth are likely to look after a certain procedure. Before and after images are generated before the patient commits to the dental work. This should help patients determine which procedures to choose, especially when there are several options available. For instance, an oddly shaped tooth may be corrected with bonding or recontouring. Patients should keep in mind that different procedures may produce slightly different results. Sometimes, dentists may recommend prosthodontic treatments, such as crowns or veneers, which are used to replace or cover missing structures or teeth. However, some patients are not good candidates for certain procedures. For instance, bleaching may not be recommended for those with periodontal disease.

Conditions that Can Be Treated with Cosmetic Dentistry

The type of procedure used generally depends on the imperfection that need to be improved. The imperfections that can be corrected with cosmetic dentistry generally include:

Discolorations and stains. Superficial tooth stains may be caused by smoking, beverages or foods. Stains from food and drinks tend to cause yellow or brown stains whereas smoking makes teeth grey. The use of the antibiotic tetracycline or certain other medications can cause deeper stains in developing teeth when used by a young child or by a mother during pregnancy. This often causes a grey discoloration. Excessive fluoride use in young children may result in similar discolorations or white spots on teeth. It is also normal for teeth to yellow with age. Other possible causes of discolorations or stains are genetics or root canal treatment. Stains from drinks, food or age tend to respond well to bleaching. However, deeper discolorations, such as from smoking or tetracycline use, may require bonding to mask the stains. Dentists may sometimes also recommend veneers or crowns, which are a type of prosthodontic dentistry.

Misshapen or uneven teeth. Many people have a tooth or a few teeth that are noticeably shorter, longer or have a different shape than the surrounding teeth. The teeth may also have unsightly grooves, pits or bulges. Recontouring can remove these imperfections by cutting away and reshaping the enamel of the teeth. But, some patients may not be good candidates for this procedure and may require veneers or bonding instead. Dentists may also recommend crowns for some patients.

Cracked or chipped teeth. Minor cracks or chips in the tooth surface may be repaired with bonding or veneers. If too much of the tooth is damaged, prosthodontic treatments, such as onlays, inlays or crowns, may be used.

Spaces between teeth. Some individuals have gaps between their teeth that they find disturbing and unappealing. Small gaps can be treated using bonding or veneers. However, braces or retainers may be required for large spaces or crowded or crooked teeth.

Excessive or uneven gums. There are people who show a large amount of gum when they smile or their gumline may be uneven from one tooth to the next. Cosmetic surgery on the gums or bones can repair this imperfection.

Types of Procedures Used in Cosmetic Dentistry

A number of procedures is available to modify the appearance of the teeth and gums. Bleaching and bonding and are amongst the most popular and the most affordable cosmetic procedures. Different types of prosthodontics, such as veneers, crowns, inlays or onlays, as well as orthodontics, such as braces, can also have cosmetic benefits. The types of cosmetic dentistry techniques include:

Bleaching. In this procedure, peroxide is used to whiten and brighten stained or discolored teeth. Bleaching can be done in the dental office or at home with over-the-counter products. However, patients should always speak with their dentist about the use of any bleaching product.

Bonding. A composite resin of the color of the tooth is sculpted onto the tooth and hardened with a special high-intensity blue light. It is then polished to look like a part of the natural tooth. Bonding enables you to mask broken, chipped, cracked or stained teeth and to close the gaps between teeth. Moreover, this procedure may be used to protect a portion of a tooth root exposed due to receding gums. Material used for bonding can also be used in tooth restoration to repair cavities as an alternative to silver amalgam fillings.

Recontouring. This technique is also known as enamaloplasty or simply contouring or reshaping. In this quick and painless procedure the dentist removes and reshapes tiny portions of the enamel of a tooth. This enables the dentist to change the shape, length or surface contours of a tooth or make small adjustments to the position of the teeth. Recontouring may be used to repair misshapen, chipped, crooked or overlapping teeth. This cosmetic dentistry procedure is often combined with bonding. Unfortunately, not all patients are suitable candidates for recontouring. The tooth needs sufficient enamel to safely cut away while the pulp of the tooth may not be too shallow.

Gum surgery. This procedure is also called gingivoplasty, crown lengthening or a gum lift. Gum surgery alters the shape and the size of the gums by cutting away excessive gum tissue.

Potential Risks Associated with Cosmetic Dentistry

To modify the teeth, many cosmetic procedures use artificial materials which may crack, chip or fall off, or may not match the color of the nearby teeth exactly, or may appear a different shade in certain light (e.g., in a nightclub). Some of these materials may also require specific care. In addition, some people experience sensitive teeth after a cosmetic dental procedure. You should also know that some of the procedures, such as bleaching, may take weeks or even months to produce satisfactory results.

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