Cosmetic dentistry is dentistry aimed at creating a positive change to your teeth and to your smile. Most think of tooth whitening or porcelain veneers, but a cosmetic dentist can provide much more.
A skilled, experienced cosmetic dentist can help to improve your appearance, your smile, even your self-esteem and confidence. Today, cosmetic dentistry has continued to evolve to where cosmetic dentists can address functional and aesthetic patient concerns.
Types of Cosmetic Dentistry
Teeth whitening can be one of the simplest and least expensive ways to improve your smile. Teeth can be bleached with in-office products in your dentist’s office or you can buy a mold and gels from your dentist to bleach your teeth at home. There are also whitening products available over the counter at retail stores for convenient at-home whitening: whitening toothpastes, rinses, and whitestrips.
Dental veneers are wafer-thin, custom-made shells of tooth-colored porcelain or resin that cover the front surface of the teeth. After removing about a half-millimeter of enamel from the tooth surface, these thin shells are bonded (cemented) to the front of the teeth, changing their color, shape, size, or length. Veneers are often called “Hollywood teeth.” Living up to that name.
In dental bonding, a tooth-colored, putty-like resin, which is a durable plastic material, is applied to the tooth and hardened with an ultraviolet or laser light, bonding the material to the tooth. Your dentist then trims, shapes, and polishes it. Bonding can repair decayed, chipped, cracked, or misshapen teeth; it is also a good cosmetic alternative to, or replacement for, amalgam or silver fillings.
A dental crown, also called a cap, fits over and replaces the entire decayed or damaged tooth above the gum line, restoring its shape, size, strength, and appearance. Crowns keep a weak tooth from breaking or hold a cracked tooth together; they can be used cosmetically to cover misshapen or severely discolored teeth. Crowns can be made from metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, resin, or ceramic.
Inlays and Onlays
Inlays and onlays, also called indirect fillings, are made from gold, porcelain, or composite materials and fill decayed or damaged teeth. Dental fillings are molded into place during an office visit; however, inlays and onlays are created in a dental laboratory and bonded into place by your dentist. The filling is called an “inlay” when the material is bonded within the center of a tooth; it is called an “onlay” when the filling includes one or more points of the tooth or covers the biting surface. Inlays and onlays preserve as much healthy tooth as possible and are an alternative to crowns.
Dental implants are titanium replacement tooth roots inserted into the bone socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw and providing a foundation for a replacement tooth.
A bridge is made of crowns for the teeth on either side of a gap with false teeth in between. A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth. Dental braces can straighten crooked or misaligned teeth and works by applying continuous pressure over a period of time to slowly move teeth in a specific direction.
There have been great advances in materials used in the field of dentistry in the past few years, with dental crowns and dental bridgesimproving by leaps and bounds.
CERAMICS OR PORCELAIN
Since the early 1900s, ceramics have been used to create dental porcelain. Through the years, the compounds have changed and been modified to provide strength, adherence, and the most natural look possible. Today’s ceramics can be blended to match any tooth and can even be created in gradient shades to match the natural aging of teeth. They’ve also grown in strength and adherence to last a lifetime without any problems.
The concept of actually securing a porcelain crown directly to a tooth was growing in popularity, but the practicality of it didn’t come to market until the 1980s with the introduction of resin cement. This bonding method strengthened the porcelain crown while attaching it to the unbreakable original tooth structure. This was a benefit not only to the strength of crowns, but to their aesthetics as well. By the 1990s, resin and ceramics had advanced to the point where not only could crowns be reliably and safely bonded to original teeth, but fixed bridges could also be created and bonded to look and function just as the original teeth had.
CAST GOLD TO ZIRCONIA
In the past, porcelain used in crowns and bridges was brittle due to its high concentration of glass particles. To increase strength, metal was added in applications such as cast gold structures with porcelain facings. Your dentist may mention names like e.max, Empress, Lava, and other brands that seem to have solved a number of problems with the strength of the teeth. However, metal decreases the translucence of the porcelain making the final effect seem less realistic. Selecting the appropriate core material for crowns has become a bit of a science and several cores are available today. Glass-infused ceramic cores are created with pure alumina, spinel, or zirconia and feature a higher proportion of refractory crystalline, which makes them look more realistic than in the past.