evolution of cosmetic dentistry

A beautiful smile is the most attractive feature of our face. It reflects self-esteem and confidence, especially during social events, business meetings, or personal gatherings. Research studies have shown that even infants are drawn more towards people with an appealing smile. You need to feel happy and comfortable with the way your smile looks. Most of the people wish for a perfectly aligned smile. However, they are not aware of the different dental treatments and techniques that can shape, sculpt, and make the smile more attractive and appealing.

Cosmetic dentistry is an esthetic dental branch that deals with the enhancement of the teeth and gums. Usually, people with tooth staining, chipped tooth, or misaligned teeth are considered as ideal patients for cosmetic dental procedures. It is a myth that cosmetic dental therapy is a treatment option for celebrities or the people of high society only. Cosmetic dental procedures are an affordable and excellent option available for anyone who wishes to have a perfect bright smile.

There are several treatments available for smile designing such as teeth whitening, placement of veneers, crown or bridge, bonding, tooth fillings, orthodontic treatments, tooth reshaping, gum surgery, and dental implants. The type of treatment often depends upon the dental condition of the patient and their expectation for a better smile.

Cosmetic dental treatment options are suitable for a wide range of people, including adolescents, young adults, and older adults. Most of the dental insurance policies cover replacement of missing teeth with implants. However, it may not provide financial assistance for all of the cosmetic dental procedures.

Financing and discount plans are an effective way of saving money over the cost of cosmetic dental treatments. Now that you’ve got a brief idea about this vast field of dentistry let’s read further to find out more information about cosmetic dental procedures and its benefits.

What is cosmetic dentistry?

Cosmetic dentistry comprises of a wide range of dental procedures that are performed to improve the appearance of the teeth and gums of a person. The prime focus of this field of dentistry is to bring an aesthetic change in the overall smile. Often it includes improvement in color, shape, size, position, and alignment of the teeth. (1)

As compared to the ancient times where gold was considered as the best restorative material, cosmetic dentistry has evolved on a large scale.

Porcelain, acrylic resin and composite have become the trending and most natural-looking material of choice for cosmetic dental replacements.

What is the criterion for performing cosmetic dental procedures?

Usually, cosmetic dental procedures are performed in patients who want to modify their smile. Some of the concerns may include – (2)

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth staining
  • Spaces between the teeth
  • Overcrowding or overlapping of the teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • A cracked tooth or chipped tooth
  • Crooked smile
  • Gum recession
  • Excessive overgrowth of gums
  • Abnormal shape or position of a tooth
  • Developmental anomalies that may alter the shape, size, and color of the teeth

What are the types of cosmetic dental treatments?

Modern-day cosmetic dentistry involves a wide range of dental procedures that are accurately performed to sculpt your ideal smile. The type of treatment depends on the dental condition of the patient. The cosmetic dental procedures may be categorized as follows –

  • Procedures that require the addition of dental materials on the teeth and gums – bonding, veneers, crown, and gingival grafts.
  • Procedures that require removal of the tooth structure or gums – enameloplasty and gingivectomy.
  • Procedures performed to improve the tooth color – teeth whitening and gum depigmentation.
  • Procedures that is suitable for aligning the teeth – orthodontic treatments.

Let’s look at each of these procedures in detail –

Bonding

Usually, bonding is referred to as the repair of a cracked or chipped tooth. Additionally, decayed, damaged, or discolored teeth can also be repaired by bonding. The material of choice for bonding treatments is primarily composite – a material that resembles the color of the tooth enamel.

While performing the procedure, the dentist typically drills out the tooth decay or weak tooth structure. Following this, a layer of composite resin is applied onto the tooth surface and manipulated to match the ideal shape and size.

Composite resin chemically bonds to the tooth surface and often requires a high-intensity light to bond to the tooth surface. It typically blends with the tooth surface and gives it a natural appearance. Bonding is one of the least expensive cosmetic dental treatments available to the patients. It usually costs around $300 – $600 per tooth.

Veneers and Crowns or bridge

The main difference between a veneer and a crown is the amount of tooth surface covered. Veneers are custom shells that are usually made from porcelain or composite. Veneers are used to cover the front surface of the incisors and canines. As compared to bonding, veneers last longer and provide a superior appealing look to the smile. (3)

Some of the dental conditions suitable for veneer placement may include –

  • Spacing between multiple front teeth
  • Chipped or cracked front tooth
  • Worn out edges of the tooth
  • Permanently stained front teeth
  • Abnormal shape or position of the front teeth
  • A crooked smile that requires minimal correction

An impression of the teeth is needed for the fabrication of veneers. Porcelain veneers require 1-2 days for manufacture. Meanwhile, the dentist may provide you temporary composite veneers. Usually, veneers are cemented to the tooth surface using a resin material which is cured by a high-intensity light.

Crowns, on the other hand, provide a full tooth coverage restoring the shape, size, and appearance of the tooth.

Some of the cases that require crown placement include –

  • Discolored tooth
  • Weak or broken tooth
  • Root canal treated tooth
  • A tooth with a large filling
  • Used as cornerstones in dental bridge fabrication
  • Tooth cover for implants

Unlike veneers, a crown can be made from resin, ceramic, zirconium, metal, porcelain or a combination of the two. Resin, ceramic and porcelain fused metal crowns provide a natural tooth-like appearance and are the prime choice for replacement. The procedures for crown placement are similar to that of the veneers. (4)

A variation of crowns is the dental bridge which comprises of a three-tooth unit. A dental bridge is a fixed prosthesis for replacement of a single missing tooth. Typically, a dental bridge consists of two dental crowns which are connected by an artificial tooth called a pontic. The two heads are placed on the teeth present on either side of the missing tooth space.

Looking at the cost factor, porcelain veneers may range from $925 – $2500 per tooth and composite surfaces may range from $250 – $1500 per tooth. A dental crown usually costs between $800 – $1700 per tooth while a dental bridge may range from $2000- $5000 for a three-unit bridge.

Tooth reshaping and contouring

Tooth reshaping and contouring usually involve alteration of the shape, length, and position of the teeth. Some of the dental conditions that may be fixed by tooth reshaping include –

  • Overlapping teeth
  • Crooked smile
  • Chipped or irregular teeth
  • Correction minor bite problems
  • Sharp edges of a tooth that may cause ulceration on the soft tissue

In this procedure, a part of the enamel is shaped, and contoured t improve the appearance of the tooth. Often tooth reshaping is combined with bonding treatments to enhance the smile of the patient.

An ideal candidate for tooth reshaping is a person with healthy teeth and adequate bone support. Tooth reshaping procedures are quick and economical. The cost for reshaping a single tooth may cost from $50 – $300.

Teeth whitening and gum depigmentation

Dental Veneers Pros and Cons

Tooth whitening is one of the most popular choices of cosmetic dental treatment. It is usually performed to remove the surface stains and improve the color of the teeth. The dentist first evaluates the teeth and smile of the patient. The patient needs to have realistic expectations with regards to the change in color of the smile.

There are several easy and quick process of teeth whitening such as over-the-counter gels or paste. However, a dentist-supervised tooth whitening treatment remains the best treatment for discolored teeth. Laser teeth whitening is an advanced technique used in dental offices. During this procedure, the gums are covered with a layer of rubber; the bleaching gel is applied on the tooth surface and activated by using a laser beam. Laser tooth whitening is considered six times more effective compared to other tooth whitening procedures. (5)

Lasers are also useful in gum depigmentation procedures. In this, the laser targets the pigment-producing cells called melanocytes and reduces the production of melanin – a dark skin pigment. It is the most effective cosmetic treatment to lighten the color of your gums. Usually, the cost of in-office and laser tooth whitening ranges from $350 – $1500. Gum depigmentation procedures cost from $1000 – $1500.

Gingivectomy and Gum grafts

Gingivectomy is a dental procedure which is performed to improve a gummy smile. Additionally, it also helps in providing visibility and access to periodontal pockets and tartar that affect the vitality of the tooth. (6)

Many medications or hereditary conditions may cause side effects in the oral tissues. Usually, it includes an extensive overgrowth of the gums. Gingivectomy helps to remove the excess tissue and allow healing of the gums.

Gum recessions is another aesthetic concern for many people in the world. It is a dental condition in which the gums pull back from the tooth surface, exposing the tooth root and underlying bone. Such an oral condition is often treated with gum graft surgery.

Gum grafts are often taken from the adjacent gum tissue or the roof of the mouth. These grafts are carefully placed on the area of recession and allowed to heal for at least two weeks. During the healing period, the gum graft integrates with the surrounding gum tissue and covers the exposed tooth surface. Such procedures are invasive but very effective in improving the smile. Usually, gingivectomy costs around $200 – $400 per tooth while gum graft surgery can cost between $500 – $1200 per tooth.

Orthodontic procedures

Floss Orthodontic Braces

Orthodontic procedures are mainly performed to correct an irregular bite, jaw positioning, and joint disorders. Orthodontic treatment can help the patient to achieve correct occlusion and alignment of the teeth. Moreover, it is one of the most promising cosmetic dental procedures which restore the integrity of natural teeth.

Braces are an orthodontic appliance which comprises of three main elements, namely brackets, archwire, and elastic bands. This appliance is typically worn for a few months to a few years depending on the type of malocclusion. (7)

The first action of braces is to apply pressure and reposition the teeth into ideal positions in the jaw. Braces usually are made up of metal; however, for people who do not like the metallic look on their teeth can choose ceramic brackets and wire. The second phase of braces treatment is the placement of retainers that are required to hold the teeth in place after the completion of the procedure.

An alternative to correct minor spacing problems is the use of clear aligners or Invisalign. These appliances are custom made from a transparent thermoplastic material which maintains the aesthetics of the smile. Clear aligners usually consist of a series of 7,14 or 20 trays that need to be replaced every two weeks.

An advantage of these aligners is that they can be removed while eating, brushing, and flossing, unlike the traditional braces.

Therefore, they are highly effective in maintaining the health of the teeth and gums. Coming to the cost factor of all the types of braces, the price range may be as follows –

  • Metal braces – $3000 – $7000
  • Ceramic braces – $4000 – $8000
  • Invisalign – $4000 – $10,000

Dental Implants

single tooth implant representation

Dental implants are the modern means of tooth replacement for missing teeth in the jaw. The dental implant comes in the form of a titanium screw which is inserted into the jaw bone at the site of the missing tooth. The screw serves as the support for crown placement in the mouth. (8)

Typically, an implant requires three months to integrate with the surrounding bone and tissue. It is a permanent fix for replacing single or multiple missing teeth. An ideal candidate for implant placement is a person with good oral hygiene and no signs of periodontal disease or bone loss. The treatment plan for implant usually includes –

  • A comprehensive oral examination and x-ray consultation
  • Surgical intervention to place the titanium screw
  • Placement of abutment which provides support for the dental crown
  • Placement of the crown
  • Follow up appointments to check the stability and evaluate the success of the treatment. The cost for a dental implant to replace a single missing tooth ranges from $3000 – $4500.

Flexible dentures

Flexible dentures are the non-invasive and excellent way of replacing multiple missing teeth. It consists of a removable denture base that adapts firmly to the gums and tissues, providing comfort and natural-looking smile. (9)

Flexible dentures are custom made a dental prosthesis that differs from the regular dentures in terms of the material used. Flexible dentures are typically made from soft nylon denture base which provides space for prosthetic teeth. A flexible denture covers all the aspects of dental prosthesis which includes –

  • Comfort
  • Aesthetics
  • Functionality
  • Durability

Typically, a removable flexible denture may cost around $700 – $1500, excluding tooth extractions.

Overview of cosmetic dentistry

Cosmetic dentistry is a particular boon to all the aesthetic dental problems. It is the first step towards achieving a healthy and attractive smile. Often people are insecure about the color, size, shape, or alignment of their teeth. Such insecurities build up social barriers and take a toll on self-confidence.

Cosmetic dental procedures are tailored to improve the appearance of your smile in the most natural way possible. Cosmetic dentistry typically consists of tooth whitening, gum surgeries, bonding, replacement of teeth with implants, veneer, crown or flexible dentures, and reshaping of the tooth. Additionally, misaligned teeth or crooked smile can be corrected by orthodontic procedures.

Unlike earlier times, cosmetic dental procedures have become more comfortable and affordable. The treatment always depends on the type of dental condition and realistic expectations of the patient. If you are looking for a smile makeover, consult your dentist and choose the best suitable option for your precious smile.