Since the 1990s, cosmetic or aesthetic dentistry --- focusing on improving the appearance of a patient's teeth and smile --- has been gaining in popularity. While cosmetic dentistry should not take the place of annual dental checkups, improving your smile can lead to increased confidence and overall well being. In addition to porcelain veneers -- porcelain shells that cover the front of your teeth -- you have several cosmetic dentistry alternatives.
For cracked or chipped teeth, dental bonding is a quick alternative to porcelain veneers. The dentist applies a resin to your tooth that matches its colour. The dentist hardens the bond with a special high-intensity light then shapes and polishes it. Often, you can choose dental bonding as a second step after teeth whitening.
You can have your teeth whitened within an hour at the dentist's office, or you can do it yourself. In the office, the dentist applies a bleaching gel to your teeth and activates it with a light. Since your teeth are sensitive after the procedure, be careful not to drink anything too hot or cold. For a week, also avoid anything that could stain your teeth, such as coffee or dark-coloured soft drinks.
While there are choices for home use, you should still consult your dentist to ensure safe treatment. You can use custom-made trays, which you fill with bleaching gel. You slip these trays over your teeth and wear them for several hours --- typically overnight. In about two weeks, you will see improvement. You can also use whitening strips, which you apply over your teeth. After about 30 minutes, you remove and discard them. The number of applications varies depending upon the specific product.
Braces provide both a health and cosmetic benefit. Rather than just mask overbites, crooked and misaligned teeth, braces correct them and prevent health problems. An orthodontist bonds brackets to teeth. The professional then threads arch wires through these brackets, which manipulate the teeth into the correct position. Depending on the severity of problem, braces can take months or years of treatment.
In addition to traditional metal braces, you have options that are more aesthetic: tooth-coloured and clear. These options are popular with adults who want the benefit of teeth straightening without the obvious look of metal braces. The results are the same: a healthier and more appealing smile.
Missing Teeth Replacements
If you have gaps in your teeth, you can also choose temporary and permanent teeth replacements. For a temporary replacement, a flipper requires just one or two visits to the dentist's office. From photos and an impression, the dentist makes a lightweight flipper, which you snap into place.
Implants are a more permanent and costly solution to missing teeth. The dental surgeon inserts an implant, which is akin to a replacement tooth root, below your gum. The implant fuses to the jawbone. Once the surgical site heals, which usually takes six months, the dentist prepares an aesthetic crown and places it over the implant for a polished, completed look.
- 1-800-Dentist: The History of Cosmetic Dentistry
- Cosmetic Dentistry Guide: Dental Bonding 'Alternative to Porcelain Veneers'
- Animated-Teeth.com: Using Teeth Whitening Strips Products (Crest Whitestrips ®) Advantages/Disadvantages/Managing side effects
- DocShop.com: Orthodontic Braces
- Dentistry.com: The Flipper -- A Whale of a Tooth Replacement Option