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Smile Makeover

Smile Makeover

Featuring Articles By

Everett Heringer, DDS

updated

Even people with good dental hygiene and structurally sound teeth can be dissatisfied with certain elements of their smiles. Discoloration, misshapen teeth, and minor orthodontic issues can affect a person's appearance and self-confidence. People who are self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth and gums often find themselves hesitant to smile in public, keeping their mouths closed in photos and even covering their mouths when they laugh. Fortunately, modern dentistry offers a potentially ideal solution for these people in the form of fully customized smile makeover treatment plans.

Just as there are no two smiles alike, there are no two smile makeovers alike. Each smile makeover plan contains a precise combination of treatments designed to address the unique needs and goals of the individual patient. An experienced, skilled cosmetic dentist will be able to identify the most conservative, least invasive procedures that, in combination, will yield the most stunning results possible. In some cases, that may mean performing just a couple of treatments to produce subtle refinements to a smile. In others, a more comprehensive approach may be necessary. It all depends on the patient.

You may have arrived on this page asking yourself, "What is a smile makeover?" By the time you contact a cosmetic dentist, however, you will be asking, "Which treatments will my one-of-a-kind smile makeover include?"

Candidacy

The best candidates for a smile makeover will be in basically good oral and overall health, but be dissatisfied with certain elements of their smiles. The more specific they are in terms of what they hope to achieve through their smile makeovers, the better.

Problems That a Smile Makeover Can Address

Smile makeovers can address a broad range of aesthetic flaws. These issues include:

  • Discoloration of the teeth
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Eroded, misshapen, or disproportionately sized teeth
  • Gaps between teeth
  • Slightly crooked teeth
  • "Gummy" smiles
  • An uneven gum line

Existing Dental Conditions

The primary focus of a smile makeover is to improve the appearance of your smile rather than the health of your mouth. Therefore, if you have underlying oral health issues, they will need to be addressed before your makeover can begin. Common issues include:

  • Gum disease: Periodontal disease is a common problem that can cause bleeding, inflammation, and bad breath. If left untreated, it can eventually lead to tooth loss and jawbone degeneration. According to the WHO, about 30 percent of people over the age 65 have no natural teeth as a result of severe periodontal disease. In the early stages, your dentist can typically reverse this condition with a thorough dental cleaning. However, if the condition progresses, you may require a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and planing.
  • Bruxism: Bruxism, or chronic teeth grinding, is often a common, stress-related condition. Over time, it can lead to jaw pain, TMJ Disorder, and structural damage to your teeth. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), almost 10 million people in the US are affected by this painful condition. If you suffer from bruxism, your dentist will need to treat this condition before he or she can begin your smile makeover. Without treatment, the continual grinding will simply negate the results of your makeover and mar your newly enhanced smile.
  • Untreated decay: When you have a cavity, your dentist will place a filling. This not only helps to strengthen your damaged tooth; it also prevents the bacteria from spreading to your other teeth. If your dentist detects any cavities, you will need to get them filled before you can pursue elective treatment.
  • Severe misalignment: Smile makeovers can correct slight orthodontic issues. However, they cannot address major malocclusion (bite misalignment) or extremely crooked teeth. Various orthodontic treatments can enhance your smile and dental health. These treatments include traditional braces, Invisalign®, ClearCorrect TM, and tooth-colored braces.

Smoking

One of the main goals of a smile makeover is to remove or conceal stains, such as those caused by tobacco. If you are a smoker, however, these stains can reappear over time. Therefore, if you want to extend the results of your smile makeover, you should consider quitting the habit for good before you commit to treatment.

Realistic Expectations

Before beginning your smile makeover, you should have a good understanding of what you can accomplish through your particular treatment plan. Most dentists are able to give you a preview of what you will look like after undergoing certain procedures through sophisticated digital imaging systems.

Cost

Because each smile makeover is unique in its scope, the cost of a smile makeover can vary significantly from patient to patient. Therefore, it is impossible even to estimate a cost for the treatment. In fact, the final total of your makeover will depend on numerous factors. These include:

  • Procedures performed: Smile makeovers include multiple procedures in one. The number and type of treatments you choose will affect the final cost of your makeover.
  • Advanced technology: Many dentists use innovative tools as they plan smile makeovers. For example, your practitioner may use advanced imaging technology to view your jaw and teeth. Alternatively, you may select a newer, state-of-the-art treatment. For instance, KöR® Deep BleachingTM will cost more than traditional teeth whitening. Nevertheless, like many patients, you may be willing to pay slightly higher costs to ensure outstanding cosmetic results.
  • Geographic location: The costs of dental treatment vary, depending on where you live. Because of higher overhead costs, elective dental procedures typically cost more in major urban areas on the two coasts. For example, according to the Fair Health Consumer cost comparison service, in-office teeth whitening in New York City often costs at least $100 more per tooth than in upstate New York.
  • Dentist's experience: A cosmetic dentist who has years of experience and a reputation for outstanding results may charge more than a less knowledgeable practitioner.
  • Sedation: Although smile makeovers typically involve minimal discomfort, you may be feeling anxious about your treatment. Many dentists offer sedation options that can help you relax in the dental chair. These options could include nitrous oxide, oral sedation, and IV sedation. The cost of sedation is not typically included in the initial treatment estimate.

Payment

No matter what the specific cost of your smile makeover, most dental practices offer several possible methods of paying for your treatment. Your dentist and administrative team will help you find a payment option that fits your budget.

Dental Insurance

Because smile makeovers are not medically necessary, they are not covered by insurance. However, you may be eligible for partial coverage if part of your makeover has a restorative purpose. For example, a crown can enhance the appearance of a tooth. It can also strengthen the damaged outer structure and restore functionality. In that situation, your insurance plan might cover the cost of a new crown. Your dentist can provide more information about any procedures that might be covered by insurance. Additionally, his or her administrative staff can help you file a claim and get the most benefits from your insurance plan.

In-House Financing and Special Offers

Many cosmetic dentists offer affordable payment options. Often these include fixed-interest and no-interest repayment plans with approved credit. Additionally, you may be eligible for one or more special offers. For example, some dentists offer a discount if you pay in full for your makeover, prior to beginning treatment. You should discuss these financing options and inquire about any discounts at your initial consultation.

Third Party Financing

In addition to in-house financing, you may also be eligible for third-party financing. Institutions such as Compassionate Finance® exist specifically to fund elective and non-covered medical procedures. These medical financing companies often offer low, fixed, and no-interest financing options with approved credit. Additionally, many banks and financial institutions will lend money for cosmetic dentistry. Your dentist's office may be able to recommend a reputable lender in your area.

How to Choose a Dentist

Choosing the right dentist is perhaps the most important step you can take toward ensuring the best possible aesthetic results. To be sure of your decision, you should talk to several cosmetic dentists. Then you can choose the practitioner who best suits your needs and personality. When interviewing these dentists, there are several important factors to consider.

Accreditation

First, you should always choose a dentist who is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). This institution requires its members to undergo rigorous, advanced training. When you choose a dentist with this accreditation, you know you will be treated by a competent and experienced practitioner.

You should be aware that membership in the AACD is not the same thing as accreditation. Membership simply indicates that a dentist is interested in further training. To ensure good cosmetic results, choose a dentist who is specifically listed as an "Accredited Member." Alternatively, you could choose an "Accredited Fellow" in the AACD. To earn a fellowship, a dentist must receive even further training. Additionally, he or she must demonstrate continued clinical excellence.

Your dentist will need to integrate multiple procedures and design a unique treatment plan just for you.

Experience

For optimal results, you should select a dentist who has performed numerous smile makeovers. This treatment involves extensive planning. Your dentist will need to integrate multiple procedures and design a unique treatment plan just for you. Therefore, a dentist who routinely performs isolated cosmetic procedures may not be the best choice for a smile makeover.

Most dentists offer galleries of their work. When you are interviewing a dentist, ask to see pictures of past smile makeovers. Ask yourself:

  • Do these patients have natural-looking smiles?
  • Would I be satisfied if my smile looked like this after treatment?
  • Are these photos well-lit and taken at different angles?

Procedures Offered

You could include a wide range of procedures in your smile makeover. Not all dentists offer all treatments. Therefore, you may narrow your search if you are interested in a specialized procedure, such as minimal-prep veneers or KöR® Deep BleachingTM.

Cosmetic dentistry procedures involve minimal discomfort. However, if you suffer from dental anxiety, you may want to choose someone who offers sedation dentistry. For cosmetic treatments, dentists usually do not use general anesthesia. Instead, they offer nitrous oxide, IV sedation, and/or oral conscious sedation. If you are particularly interested in one of these methods, look for a dentist who routinely offers it to patients.

Technology

Advanced technology can make your dental treatment more efficient, effective, and comfortable. You may want to look for a dentist who uses one or more of the following tools:

  • Digital x-rays
  • Intraoral cameras
  • Cone beam imaging
  • CEREC® (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics)
  • Computer imaging
  • Soft and hard tissue lasers
  • Air abrasion devices
  • Panorex X-rays

Personal Connection

Finally, it is important to find a dentist with whom you feel comfortable. Since you may have to space out your various procedures, smile makeovers can last several months or more. Therefore, you want a dentist that makes your treatment comfortable and enjoyable. Additionally, your smile makeover will be designed just for you. You should choose a dentist who truly values your input. At the same time, he or she should never pressure you to receive more treatment than you actually need or want.

The Initial Consultation

Once you have chosen your cosmetic dentist, you will have a thorough consultation. This will give you a chance to get to know your dentist and to begin creating your personal treatment plan.

Determining Candidacy

Before beginning treatment, your dentist will determine whether you are a candidate for a smile makeover. He or she will take your health history and conduct a complete oral exam. If you have any other dental health concerns, such as the ones listed above, your dentist will develop a treatment plan to address this issues.

X-Rays and Pictures

To obtain a more comprehensive understanding of your oral health, your dentist will take pictures of your teeth and jaw. There are a number of tools that he or she might use. These imaging devices could include:

  • Traditional film x-rays: Traditional x-rays can capture images of your individual teeth, as well as larger sections of your dental arch.
  • Panorex x-rays: Panorex (or panoramic) x-rays show all of your teeth in a single image.
  • Digital x-rays: Digital x-rays are similar to traditional x-rays. However, these images are typically sharper, and they can be magnified many more times. Additionally, digital x-rays do not involve any radiation exposure.
  • Intraoral cameras: These tiny cameras are attached to a handheld wand. With minimal discomfort, the doctor can take highly detailed pictures of individual teeth.

Discussing Goals

You and your dentist will also discuss your goals for treatment. He or she will explain the various procedures that may be included in a smile makeover. Together, you will decide which treatments are most suited to your needs and goals.

Creating the Treatment Plan

Following the initial appointment, you will typically have several other consultations. At each of these visits, you and your dentist will continue to develop your unique treatment plan. These appointments will also give you the chance to ask questions and voice any additional concerns.

Preparatory Procedures

If you have any dental damage, your dentist will create a plan to address these issues first. Common preparatory procedures could include deep cleaning for gum disease, root canal therapy, or filling a cavity.

After your dentist has treated these underlying conditions, you will discuss the cosmetic procedures. At this time, you and your dentist can decide which treatment you want to undergo first. In many cases this will depend on your preferences. However, in other situations, your dentist may prefer to perform certain procedures before others.

Creating the Mock-Up

When you have determined the optimal treatments for your needs, your dentist will create a mock-up to show what your smile will look like after your makeover. There are several ways in which he or she may create the mock-up. A wax-up is a physical, three-dimensional model. Your dentist will carefully craft this model, so that it accurately reflects the future shape and color of your teeth. In some cases, you may even be able to try on the wax-up. Other dentists may create a digital three-dimensional model of your teeth. They will display these images on a chairside computer. Many times, they can manipulate the images to show you how your smile will change through the course of your treatment.

Case Acceptance

If you are dissatisfied with the appearance of your mock-up, you can request changes to your treatment plan. Together, you and your dentist will alter your plan so that it is more in keeping with your goals. Once you are happy with the proposed plan, you will accept the case. Then your dentist will schedule you for the first stage of your treatment.

Commonly Combined Treatments

Smile makeovers can include a wide range of cosmetic dentistry procedures. Because these treatments are tailored to meet your individual needs, the combinations are seemingly endless.

Porcelain Veneers

Porcelain veneers can have dramatic results, and they can truly transform your appearance. Therefore, they are one of the most popular treatments to include in a smile makeover. These thin shells of porcelain will be custom-made to match the shape of your teeth and the natural color of your smile. Your dentist will remove a very thin layer of porcelain from the front of your teeth. He or she may complete this step with a buffing tool, a laser, or an air abrasion instrument.

When your teeth are prepped, the dentist will take impressions, using traditional methods or digital imaging. Most dentists will then send these images to an off-site lab, where technicians will custom-fabricate your veneers. However, some practices now use CEREC technology to create veneers in the office for same-day placement. No matter which method your dentist uses, you will receive highly lifelike veneers. The specially designed porcelain offers incredible durability, as well as a lifelike translucence and sparkle.

When your veneers are finished, the dentist will etch the surface of your teeth with a mild acid solution. By creating more surface area on your teeth, he or she also creates a stronger bond for the dental material. Finally, he or she will attach the veneers with dental cement.

Problems That Veneers Can Address

Veneers can correct a wide range of aesthetic issues. Among other functions, they can:

  • Reshape your worn or proportionately small teeth
  • Close small gaps between your teeth
  • Cover up chips, cracks, and other minor surface damage
  • Conceal discoloration, particularly dark intrinsic stains
  • Make adjustments to slightly crooked teeth

With veneers, you can choose exactly how many teeth you wish to address. You might choose to have veneers placed on only one or two teeth. Alternatively, you might want to enhance all the teeth that show when you smile.

Minimal or No-Prep Veneers

Some dentist also offer minimal-prep, or no-prep, veneers. Common brands include LUMINEERS®, VivaneersTM, and Durathin®. These veneers are similar to traditional veneers, but they are much thinner. Therefore, your dentist will need to remove very little enamel, if any, before placing the porcelain. Minimal-prep veneers are a reversible procedure. If one of your restorations comes off, you will still retain full dental functionality. However, because they are so thin, they are not suitable for all cosmetic needs. For example, they may not be able to conceal dark intrinsic stains completely. Your dentist will recommend the best type of veneers for your smile makeover.

Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening is another popular procedure to include in a smile makeover. The treatment is quick, convenient, and involves minimal discomfort. At the same time, it can have dramatic results for your smile and self-confidence. There are several types of professional teeth whitening, and your dentist will help you select the right type for your needs.

In-Office Whitening

Traditional whitening treatment can dramatically lighten extrinsic discoloration. It can be administered in the dentist's office or at home. If you choose in-office treatment, your dentist will apply a peroxide-based whitening gel to your teeth. Some dentists will then shine a specially formatted blue light on your teeth to activate the gel. The material will then penetrate your dental enamel to break apart the bonds between stains. Typically, your dentist will remove the gel and reapply a new layer several times during the course of a single treatment. In-office whitening usually takes about 45 minutes, and it can whiten your smile by 4 to 8 shades.

Your dentist may recommend office treatment if you suffer from dental sensitivity. You may also choose in-office care if you desire instant results.

At-Home Whitening

At-home treatment can achieve comparable results to office-based care. Your dentist will outfit you with a set of custom-made whitening trays. You will fill the trays with whitening gel and wear them every day for about two weeks. Typically, you will leave your trays on for 30 to 45 minutes a day, although overnight options are also available. At-home treatment may be a good option if you are trying to stick to a budget. However, it will take longer to see your final results.

KöR Deep Bleaching

KöR is a revolutionary new form of whitening that can permanently lighten your smile by up to 16 shades. Additionally, it can address both intrinsic and extrinsic stains. By combining in-office and at-home treatments, your dentist can actually restore your teeth's ability to absorb oxygen, leading to long-lasting results. Because KöR Deep Bleaching is so new, however, only a select number of dentists offer this treatment.

Dental Bonding

Dental bonding, like veneers, can correct many types of aesthetic flaws. Your dentist will lightly etch the surface of your teeth to create more surface area and a stronger bond. Then he or she will apply dental resin to the front of your teeth. Your practitioner will carefully select the shade of material that most closely matches your smile. While applying the resin, he or she will sculpt it so that it looks natural and covers up all cosmetic flaws. When the dentist has achieved the desired results, he or she will harden the material with a curing light. Finally, he or she will trim away any excess material and polish your teeth to give them a natural shine.

Problems That Bonding Can Address

Bonding can treat many of the same concerns as porcelain veneers. These include:

  • Stains
  • Chips
  • Small cracks
  • Misshapen or worn teeth
  • Spaces between teeth
  • Minor alignment issues

Bonding can be a great alternative to veneers, especially if you are on a budget. On average, the cost of dental bonding per tooth is approximately a third of that for veneers. Although resin does not have the same natural sparkle of porcelain, when an experienced dentist performs the procedure, the results will still be beautiful and lifelike.

Gum Recontouring

If you feel that your smile is disproportionately small, it may have more to do with your gums than the size of your teeth. Extra gum tissue can obscure your teeth and even make you look several years older than you actually are. Additionally, an uneven gum line can greatly affect your smile, making your teeth look crooked or unhealthy.

With gum recontouring, your dentist can remove a small amount of soft tissue to even out your gums and give you a more proportionate smile. He or she will carefully plan out the treatment. Your practitioner may even draw a line on your gums to show you what your smile will look like after the procedure. Virtually all cosmetic dentists take a conservative approach. They will never remove more tissue than necessary. However, even though your dentist only may remove a few millimeters of gum tissue, the treatment can have a dramatic impact on your overall appearance.

Dental Contouring

If you have overly large or unusually shaped teeth, dental contouring can instantly improve your smile. During this treatment, your dentist will trim down your teeth to achieve a more pleasing shape. As with gum recontouring, he or she will carefully plan out your treatment, even drawing a line on your tooth to show the future shape of your smile. Then, your dentist will use buffing tools, surgical lasers, or an air abrasion device to remove millimeters of enamel from your teeth. Dental contouring only affects the enamel, not the underlying layers of your tooth. Therefore, it involves minimal discomfort. In most cases, patients do not require local anesthesia.

Uses of Dental Contouring

In addition to reducing the size of unusually large teeth, dental contouring can perform a number of functions. These include:

  • Smoothing small cracks or chips
  • Correcting slightly overlapping teeth
  • Smoothing uneven edges
  • Reducing pointed cusps, especially on your canine teeth

Again, most dentists work conservatively. They will not remove any more enamel than necessary to achieve stunning aesthetic results.

Orthodontic Treatment

If you have slightly crooked teeth, orthodontic care may be an important part of your smile makeover. Typically, your dentist will recommend that you undergo this treatment first, since it will affect the way that the rest of your makeover unfolds. Remember, if you have severe dental misalignment, you will need to seek treatment from an orthodontic specialist before you can undergo cosmetic treatment.

Invisalign® and ClearCorrectTM

Because smile makeovers are intended to address the appearance of your smile, many dentists will recommend the most subtle treatment available. Clear braces, such as Invisalign and ClearCorrect, are as effective as traditional orthodontic care. However, instead of using metal brackets and wires, these treatments use clear plastic aligner trays to straighten your teeth.

When you choose clear braces, your dentist will create a set of digital impressions of your teeth. He or she will use these impressions to develop your unique treatment plan. Your practitioner will even create a digital model of your mouth, showing the progression of your teeth throughout treatment.

This data will go to an offsite lab, and technicians will create aligner trays that fit snugly and comfortably around your teeth. Typically, you will switch to a new aligner every two weeks, and they will gradually move your teeth into their new positions.

Other Orthodontic Options

Although clear braces are most commonly used in a smile makeover, your dentist may recommend an alternative treatment. These could include:

  • Six Month Smiles®: Six Month Smiles uses clear brackets and tooth colored wires, so your braces will be extremely subtle, even at a close distance. Best of all, thanks to advanced planning, the treatment is much faster than traditional braces. It also uses less force, making your orthodontic care more comfortable and convenient.
  • Instant Orthodontics: Your dentist may use porcelain veneers or dental bonding to instantly improve crooked teeth. Although these treatments cannot alter your entire dental arch, they can be a great solution if you want to correct a few isolated teeth.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

Although dental fillings are most frequently considered a restorative treatment, your dentist may include tooth-colored fillings as part of your smile makeover. Old silver amalgam fillings may have started to show through your teeth, lending a gray tint to your smile. Your dentist can remove these fillings and replace them with composite resin restorations. He or she will select the color that most closely matches your teeth, so you should enjoy a whiter, more pristine smile for years to come.

Tooth-colored fillings can also benefit your dental health. Composite forms a stronger bond with your tooth than silver amalgam. Additionally, metal fillings will expand and contract with changes in temperature. Over time, this process can weaken the outer structure of your teeth. Composite does not react in this way, and these fillings can better enhance your dental health and functionality.

Porcelain Crowns

Porcelain crowns can have both cosmetic and practical benefits for your smile. Your dentist will apply a crown that is a near-perfect match to the natural shape and color of your teeth. Once this tooth-shaped cap is in place, you could enjoy a vastly improved smile, a stronger tooth, and improved bite alignment.

Crown Fabrication and Placement

To place a crown, your dentist will first reshape your tooth. By removing part of your dental structure, he or she will make room for the restoration so that it can sit flush against your tooth. Many dentists will perform this step with manual tools. However, an increasing number of dentists use air abrasion instruments or surgical lasers. No matter what tools your particular dentist uses, he or she will numb your tooth and surrounding gum tissue. Thanks to this medication, you should experience little discomfort during the procedure.

When your dentist has fully prepared your tooth, he or she will take physical or digital impressions. This information will go to a dental lab. There, ceramists will create a restoration that is custom-designed for your smile. When the crown is finished and has been sent back to the dentist's office, your practitioner will attach the restoration using dental cement.

Alternatively, some dentists use advanced CEREC technology for same-day dental crowns. If your dentist employs this system, your digital impressions will feed directly into an in-office milling machine. The machine will then manufacture a crown from a block of durable porcelain. The entire process typically takes about 20 minutes, and the material looks highly lifelike. Then your dentist will attach the restoration.

Crown Materials

Dental crowns can be made from a variety of materials. Traditionally, crowns were always made of metal. However, since this material will not blend with your smile, metal is rarely used during a smile makeover. Porcelain-fused-to-metal is more lifelike. However, after several years, the metal may begin to show through the porcelain.

For the most natural appearance, your dentist will typically recommend all-porcelain, zirconia, or IPS e.max®. Zirconia and e.max are both advanced forms of dental porcelain. Zirconia crowns match the natural shade of your smile, and they are as strong as metal restorations. IPS e.max offers these benefits, as well. In addition, this material has a lifelike sheen that is unmatched by other restorative options.

Uses of Porcelain Crowns

Porcelain crowns serve numerous functions. Some of their uses include:

  • Enhancing a worn or irregularly shaped tooth
  • Covering severe intrinsic stains
  • Covering a large cavity
  • Strengthening a weakened tooth
  • Topping a dental implant
  • Restoring dental functionality and the balance of your bite

Tooth Replacement

If you are missing a large number of teeth, you may be better suited to full mouth restoration than cosmetic treatment. Nevertheless, if you are only missing one or two teeth, your dentist may be able to address this issue during a smile makeover. Additionally, he or she can often replace old synthetic teeth newer, more lifelike restorations.

Bridges

A dental bridge literally "bridges the gap" left by missing teeth. Bridges are made up of several crowns, attached to each other to form a single restoration. To place a bridge, your dentist will reshape the two teeth on either side of the gap. Then ceramists will use impressions to create a bridge that blends seamlessly with your smile. Your dentist will then affix the bridge, using crowns on the adjacent teeth to hold it in place. Like crowns, bridges can be made of metal, porcelain, porcelain-fused-to-metal, zirconia, and e.max. Some dentists also use CEREC to create same-day dental bridges.

Dental Implants

Dental implants are considered the paradigm of tooth replacement methods. Implants are small, biocompatible titanium screws, which your dentist will affix inside your jawbone. As your gums heal over approximately the next six months, the soft tissues and bone will seal around the implant posts. They will then be a permanent part of your oral structure, and your dentist can attach a custom-crafted porcelain restoration to the top of the posts.

Laser Dentistry

Today, more and more cosmetic dentists are using advanced laser technology to make treatment more comfortable, accurate, and efficient. If you are interested in state-of-the-art laser tools, talk to your dentist about this technology at your initial consultation.

Read Everett Heringer, DDS's Take: Laser Dentistry for Smile Makeovers

There are many applications for lasers in all facets of dentistry, especially the cosmetic procedures involved in a smile makeover. Read Full Article

Hard Tissue Lasers

Hard tissue lasers are designed for use on your teeth. With a high power beam of light, your dentist can quickly remove small amounts of dental material. The lasers are extremely precise, so your practitioner can eliminate only the unwanted tissues, leaving the rest of your tooth unaffected. Your dentist may use hard tissue lasers for a number of applications, including:

  • Removing enamel to prep your teeth for veneers
  • Reshaping your tooth to accommodate a dental crown
  • Prepping your tooth for a composite filling
  • Dental contouring

Soft Tissue Lasers

Soft tissue lasers can make gum recontouring much more comfortable and effective. Again, the lasers are extremely accurate. Your dentist can make tiny adjustments to the shape of your gum line. The laser will not touch the surrounding tissues, so you will experience minimal sensitivity and a quick recovery.

Laser Teeth Whitening

Laser teeth whitening combines traditional in-office whitening techniques with advanced technology. This combination will make your treatment faster and more effective. Your dentist will apply whitening gel to your teeth. Then he or she will use a laser to activate the gel. The high energy of the laser excites the peroxide molecules so that they can more effectively penetrate your dental enamel and break apart stains. Some laser systems could lighten your smile by up to 12 shades.

Benefits of Laser Dentistry

Laser dentistry is rapidly growing in popularity, thanks to its many advantages. These benefits include:

  • Reduced discomfort: Dental lasers eliminate the vibrations and noises that may be jarring or unpleasant. Additionally, lasers only affect the unwanted tissues. Therefore, laser dental procedures involve minimal discomfort. In many cases, you may not require local anesthesia.
  • Greater accuracy: Because dental lasers are so precise, your dentist can achieve stunning cosmetic results.
  • Minimal recovery time: Soft tissue lasers seal off blood vessels as they go. This means that you will experience reduced bleeding, swelling, and post-treatment sensitivity. Studies in the last decade have even demonstrated that lasers can stimulate more rapid wound healing in surrounding tissue. 
  • Improved safety: Unlike handheld dental tools, lasers do not transmit bacteria. Additionally, these state-of-the-art devices actually kill bacteria during treatment. Laser dentistry has virtually eliminated the risk of infection.

Timeline

The exact timeline of your makeover will depend on your aesthetic goals and the treatments you are going to receive. In some cases, it may take a year or more to thoroughly renovate your smile. In other situations, you might be able to complete your smile makeover in a single day. Typically, the more procedures you choose, the longer your makeover will take.

Whenever possible, your dentist will tailor your treatment to suit your schedule. However, it is important to remember that the results of your makeover could last the rest of your life. Before beginning treatment, you should make sure that you have enough time to achieve optimal results.

Most cosmetic dental treatments take a few months at most

One Year Makeover

Most cosmetic dental treatments take a few months at most. However, if you need orthodontic treatment, it could take 12 to 18 months to see the final results.

Six Month Makeover

If you are going to receive dental implants, it will take about six months for your gums to heal completely. Your dentist can provide a temporary restoration to wear as you wait.

Two Week Makeover

Many cosmetic treatments take about two weeks to complete. Typically, you will receive porcelain veneers, crowns, and bridges in this time frame. At-home teeth whitening also lasts approximately 14 days.

One or Two Day Makeover

Many cosmetic dentists offer 48-hour or same-day smile makeovers. In-office whitening, bonding, gum recontouring, dental contouring, and tooth-colored fillings can usually be completed in a single day. Additionally, dentists who use CEREC technology can fabricate and apply crowns, bridges, or veneers in one office visit.

Recovery

Just like the timeline for treatment, recovery time varies for each patient. In most cases, however, you should experience minimal discomfort. Any gum tenderness or inflammation can typically be controlled with non-prescription pain medication. You will typically be able to return to work and your normal routine the day after your smile makeover.

To reduce gum sensitivity, you may want to eat a soft diet for several days. If you receive dental implants, your recovery time will be a bit longer. You may need to eat a restricted diet for 5 to 7 days. You should also avoid strenuous physical activity for several days, or until otherwise instructed by your dentist.

Results

Once all procedures are complete, and your restorations are in place, you will immediately enjoy the results of your treatment. These effects could include:

  • Whiter teeth
  • A straighter smile
  • Regularly shaped, uniform teeth
  • Closed gaps in your smile
  • Fewer chips and other surface flaws
  • An overall bigger, brighter smile

Your stunning new grin could enhance your total appearance and give you a huge boost of confidence.

Functional Results

If you received one or more restorations during your smile makeover, you could enjoy additional improvements in your comprehensive oral health. These results include:

  • Increased dental functionality
  • Better bite alignment
  • A reduced risk for TMD and bruxism

Maintenance

With proper care, the results of your smile makeover could last the rest of your life. Fortunately, maintenance is easy and typically requires little more than standard dental care.

Dental Hygiene

The best way to maintain your bright new smile is to exercise good dental habits at home. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once. Although brushing after meals is preferable, you should wait at least 30 minutes after eating. If you brush too early, you will only rub acid and bits of food into your enamel. Antibacterial mouth wash can also help to prevent decay.

Additionally, you can prevent structural damage to your teeth. Veneers, crowns, and other restorations are incredibly strong and durable. However, they are not quite as sturdy as your natural dental structure. If you put too much pressure on your teeth, it can cause cracked crowns, missing veneers, and related damage. Therefore, you should avoid habits such as:

  • Chewing ice
  • Biting your nails
  • Chewing on pens or pencils
  • Using your teeth to open packages and perform other tasks

Routine Office Visits

Even if you have outstanding dental hygiene, you cannot remove plaque and tartar from your teeth. Therefore, to prevent decay, discoloration, and gum disease, you should schedule biannual cleanings and exams. These visits will also give your dentist a chance to check on your restorations and make any necessary adjustments.

Diet

Although dental stains can stem from a variety of factors, food and drink are the most notorious culprits. When you regularly consume dark-colored foods, the pigmented molecules will adhere to your dental enamel, giving your teeth a yellowed appearance. In addition, acid will erode your dental enamel. The layer of dentin underneath is much more porous. Therefore, stain-producing molecules will adhere to this material much more easily. To maintain your whiter smile, you should avoid food and drinks such as:

  • Red and white wine
  • Black tea
  • Coffee
  • Berries
  • Tomato sauce
  • Soy sauce

When you do eat these foods, be sure to drink plenty of water and rinse out your mouth after eating.

Touch-Up Whitening Treatments

If you received teeth whitening as part of your smile makeover, you can undergo routine touch-ups. Many dentists even provide free trays and whitening gel for just this purpose. You should always consult your dentist before beginning a whitening regimen. Over-whitening can damage your dental enamel and gum tissue, leading to significant dental sensitivity.

Benefits

Comprehensive Results

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a smile makeover is that it can completely transform your smile. There is a suitable treatment for virtually all cosmetic goals, and there are few limits as to what your makeover can include. Your smile has a huge effect on your overall appearance. Once your smile makeover is complete, you will not only enjoy a more stunning grin; you may also find that you look significantly younger and more rejuvenated.

Emotional Benefits

Your brighter smile can also affect your confidence and emotional well-being. You may carry yourself with more poise and find yourself smiling more than you have in years. Like some patients, you may be more willing to meet new people and to engage in more social activities.

Professional Benefits

Following your cosmetic dental treatment, you may find that your work life improves, as well. With increased self-confidence, you may display a "go-getter" attitude at work that can translate to professional and financial benefits for you. Additionally, employers tend to see smiling workers as happier and more productive. As you can see, your smile makeover could have untold benefits for nearly every aspect of your life.

Risks

Smile makeovers are very low-risk procedures. Each separate procedure does have a very slight chance of unfavorable complications. However, undergoing more than one cosmetic dental treatment does not increase your risks. Your cosmetic dentist will review the potential side effects of each procedure before your treatment. Rest assured that when you receive a smile makeover from an experienced practitioner, these risks are almost negligible.

Risks of Porcelain Veneers

Your dental enamel helps to protect the deeper and more sensitive layers of your tooth. Because your dentist must remove some enamel to place your veneers, you may experience some dental sensitivity. However, this side effective is typically temporary, disappearing within a few weeks.

Additionally, porcelain veneers are temporary, and you will eventually need to replace your restorations. Nevertheless, with proper care and the services of an outstanding cosmetic dentist, your veneers could last a decade or more.

Risks of Teeth Whitening

Teeth whitening may cause some sensitivity. However, this usually goes away within a few days, and anti-sensitivity toothpaste can help to alleviate your discomfort. If you already suffer from dental sensitivity, your practitioner may recommend in-office whitening. This will enable him or her to monitor your treatment and prevent unwanted side effects.

Additionally, it is safe to get multiple whitening treatments. However, bleaching your teeth too often can lead to enamel erosion and long-term sensitivity. For optimal safety, you should only undergo touch-up treatments with the approval of your dentist.

Risks of Gum Contouring

Gum contouring is an extremely low-risk procedure, especially when an experienced cosmetic dentist performs the treatment. However, some side effects could include swelling, bleeding, and adverse reactions to local anesthesia. Soft tissue lasers can significantly reduce these risks and speed your recovery.

Risks of Dental Contouring

The primary risk of dental contouring is excessive enamel removal. However, when performed by a qualified practitioner, this treatment is virtually risk-free.

Risks of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns can pose several risks. These include nerve damage, excessive removal of tooth structure, infection, and bite misalignment. Again, however, these risks are extremely unlikely when you choose a qualified dentist. Post-treatment sensitivity is not uncommon. However, this side effect usually fades within a few days, and you can usually control it with mild pain medication.

Risks of Dental Implants

The biggest risk of dental implants is implant failure, which occurs when your body rejects the implant. However, you can take several steps to reduce this risk. At your initial consultation, be upfront with your dentist about any medications you are taking. Additionally, choose an implant specialist who uses advanced imaging technology. These tools can help him or her determine the optimal placement for your posts. Implants are regarded for their remarkably high success rate. With proper preparation, you could enjoy your newly enhanced smile for life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many treatments can I include in my smile makeover?

There is no limit to the amount of treatments you can include. You may find that two or three procedures is enough to meet your needs. However, your dentist will advise you about the best way to achieve your aesthetic goals.

Will my smile makeover hurt?

Most cosmetic dentistry treatments involve minimal discomfort. During the placement of veneers or dental crowns, most patients experience little more than a feeling of mild pressure. Advanced laser tools and local anesthesia can further reduce your discomfort during treatment and recovery.

I'm still nervous, and I want sedation. How do I know which method is right for me?

Your choice of sedation will depend on your personal anxiety level, the procedures you are going to undergo, and your dentist's own preferences. Since cosmetic treatments typically involve minimal discomfort, you may find that nitrous oxide or a mild oral sedative is sufficient. However, if you are struggling with acute anxiety, stronger doses of oral or IV sedation can induce a "twilight sleep."

Is professional teeth whitening really better than over-the-counter methods?

Definitely! Professional whitening has more dramatic effects than do-it-yourself treatments. Additionally, many store-bought options are unregulated and may contain harmful amounts of peroxide. If you do choose to purchase drugstore whitening products, you should only select those that have the American Dental Academy Seal of Approval.

Can a smile makeover treat my overbite or underbite?

If you have severe bite misalignment, cosmetic treatment is not the solution for you. You should consult with an orthodontist or maxillofacial surgeon to determine the optimal treatment for your needs. After you have undergone orthodontic treatment, however, you may be an excellent candidate for a smile makeover.

Am I too old for a smile makeover?

There is no age limit for cosmetic dentistry. As long as you have generally good dental health, and you can safely undergo the desired procedures, you should be able to receive a smile makeover.

Can teenagers receive dental implants?

Sometimes. Dental implants sit directly in the jaw. Therefore if a patient's bones are still growing, their implants could move out of position. Dentists will carefully monitor their patients' jawbone health before recommending implants. Typically, patients should be in their late teens before they can receive these restorations.

Can teenagers undergo teeth whitening?

Yes. However, the Academy of General Dentistry recommends that patients be at least 14 before they undergo whitening. Additionally, young patients should be responsible, and they should receive treatment under the supervision of their dentists. KöR Deep Bleaching is actually most suitable for teenage patients around age 14.

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