Make Over Your Mouth.
From a mere cleaning to tooth whitening to "smile design," a trip to the dentist can be a cosmetic experience these days.
'Smile Design' continued...
This is a surgery that can be done in the dentist's office, whereby the gums
are pushed up so that more of the teeth show. "Surprisingly, there isn't
much pain," Bellen says. "It's a fairly minor surgery."
You can also have your teeth shaped any way you want them to be. Bellen says
that lengthening and rounding the edges of your front teeth can actually make
you look younger. A lifetime of chewing (and especially of nail biting) wears
down your teeth. Even after a facelift, worn teeth can add
years to your appearance.
To shape a tooth, a cosmetic dentist may bond a resin or porcelain veneer or
crown to it. Resin bonding is the older method. "It still is good and used
a lot today," Malone says, but it doesn't last as long as porcelain, the
Resin may, in time, wear out or become discolored, whereas porcelain
doesn't. The other difference is that resin bonding is done in the dentist's
chair, usually in one visit. For a porcelain veneer, a mold is sent away to a
dental lab to be made, then bonded on later.
In addition to shaping teeth attractively, a cosmetic dentist can give you
pouty lips. "We take profile photographs of the lips," Bellen says,
"If somebody wants a fuller lip, we can actually increase the bulkiness of
the veneer," so that it pushes the lip outward.
Tetracycline stains can also be covered with veneers. "When tetracycline
[a commonly used antibiotic] is given as a child, it tends to stain developing
teeth," Bellen says. "It happens in bands -- striations across the
If your molars are a mess of metal fillings, that can be fixed by grinding
them down and capping them with new porcelain crowns.
The Architecture of a Smile
Bellen says a cosmetic dentist can do just about anything needed to improve
your smile, but he stresses the work must be carefully planned. "I go
though a pretty detailed evaluation before I start any work at all," he
Your bite -- the way your teeth fit together when your mouth is closed -- is
an important consideration. "You can put porcelain on everything and not
pay attention to the bite, and have everything break down," Bellen
That means that before any veneers or crowns go on, your teeth may need to
be realigned, and you may even need jaw surgery. "I, as a cosmetic dentist,
will diagnose and plan the treatment," Malone says. Then he may involve
other professionals, such as an orthodontist or an oral surgeon.
When teeth need to be realigned, it's usually an orthodontist who takes care
of it. And you may not need braces. Many people can have their teeth
straightened with the Invisalign system, which uses clear plastic
"aligners" to gradually move the teeth around. Although it is widely
accepted, "You cannot use Invisalign for every case that you can use braces
for," Malone says.