Nowadays you hear more and more about cosmetic dentistry on ads and infomercials, as well as health news reports and articles. Still, when I tell people I’m a cosmetic dentist, I sometimes still hear, “what is that” or “what do you do”? Actually I’m not that surprised, as the term “cosmetic dentistry” refers to numerous procedures, correcting many different types of dental problems.
I can tell you after working with thousands of people from around the world that cosmetic dentistry literally changes lives. For those who were once unhappy with the appearance of their teeth but took advantage of cosmetic dentistry, there is no question about that fact. Yet even when family and frineds see the changes, they still have questions.
So here are the top 7 questions I hear about cosmetic dentistry… and my answers — for you.
What is cosmetic dentistry?
Cosmetic dental procedures refer to procedures which allow a tooth to be restored to its natural looking beauty, or procedures which enhance a smile’s esthetic appearance. If you have ever had your teeth bleached, or a crown or tooth-colored filling placed in your mouth, you have had a cosmetic dental procedure done. Cosmetic dentistry can give back a youthful smile to someone middle-aged or older, or allow instant correction of bad teeth to a much better end result.
What kinds of dental problems can cosmetic dentistry address?
The dental situations cosmetic dentistry can possibly address include:
1) Missing teeth or spaces between teeth.
2) Darkened, yellowed or grey, stained teeth.
3) Crooked teeth or “mismatched” teeth.
4) “Gummy” smiles, where a larger proportion of the gums show when smiling.
5) Too small, too large, too short or too thin teeth.
6) Change silver amalgam fillings to natural appearing, tooth-colored restorations.
7) Replace old crowns that show black lines with non-metal crowns.
Cosmetic dentistry gives people a chance to have a smile that conveys the right messages for their personal and professional life: confidence, strength, happiness, acceptance, friendship. Through a variety of circumstances, a person may find themselves not liking their smile.
Maybe they got into a fight, car accident, or fell down. Maybe certain medical conditions, such as being born with dark staining of teeth, or personal situations made it difficult to care for their smile. Maybe over time their teeth naturally yellowed, darkened, or became crooked.
These people are given the opportunity to restore their smile to match their overall image, so they don’t feel embarrassed of their appearance.
What kinds of cosmetic dental procedures are there?
Cosmetic dental treatment covers a variety of procedures. To name a few, these include procedures that whiten teeth, correct a “gummy” smile, “straighten” crooked teeth, and fill gaps in between teeth. These procedures use either porcelain or plastic to properly restore teeth cosmetically.
Is the purpose of cosmetic dentistry for looks only?
Some people think that cosmetic dental procedures are for appearance only, and have nothing to do with the ability to bite and chew. These people will be surprised to learn that when cosmetic dentistry is properly done, it incorporates the health and function of your teeth as well.
The materials used are incredibly strong. They can withstand normal chewing and last for years and years. Depending on which procedures are performed, cosmetic dentists address the way the biting and chewing surfaces of teeth occlude or come together.
How long do cosmetic dental procedures take?
The length of time for a patient’s cosmetic dental treatment depends on the type of procedure or procedures required. In other words, every patient is unique. For some patients, cosmetic dental treatment can be completed in one appointment. For others, preliminary work may have to be done first before procedures can be started. Each dental procedure itself also takes different amounts of time.
For example, a tooth-colored restoration not needing to be processed by a laboratory can be completed in one appointment. Bleaching teeth (in office), on average, may take about one to two sessions. However, the majority of cosmetic dental problems can be corrected in as little as two visits.
Can cosmetic dentistry alone help my dental situation?
Sometimes other dental specialists must first treat a patient before the cosmetic dentist can begin. Examples of such cases may be patients who first require orthodontics (braces) to “move” teeth; gum or bone surgery to create a more normal gum appearance; or “implant” surgery to properly restore a specific dental problem. (Implants are titanium screws that are surgically placed in the bone of either the upper or lower jaw, on which a tooth-colored crown or bridge is placed.)
What changes have you seen with your cosmetic dentistry patients?
One of the most rewarding parts of cosmetic dentistry for me is the positive changes I’ve seen patients go through. The catalyst is the enhanced smile, but the smile becomes such a part of the patient that it affects how the person sees him or herself. The patient hears endless compliments, which lead to more smiling, which leads to a more friendly appearance, and a happier person. This in turn affects how the patient views his or her personal life, overall appearance, career, relationships and even life itself. The emotional and psychological changes are amazing.
Most people who have lived with their problem dental situation for years don’t realize how their smile and their life can change more positively when it is corrected. Cosmetic dentistry covers a wide-range of procedures and can address a multitude of dental situations.
If you have ever wondered what can be done about your smile or teeth, talk to a cosmetic dentist about your concerns.
Dr. Wynn Okuda is an award winning international leader in cosmetic dentistry. He is one of only 280 dentists in the world to be accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Okuda turned the dental profession on it’s head nearly a decade ago , replacing pain, fear, & discomfort with the Dental Day Spa system. His offices for cosmetic, restorative and implant dentistry are located in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Dr. Okuda has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, American Spa, Shape Magazine, Better Homes & Garden, Health & Fitness Sports Magazine, New Woman, and dozens more!
Dr. Okuda is the founder of “Give Back a Smile”, a charitable foundation of the A.A.C.D. which helps survivors of domestic violence throughout the nation to restore their smiles and lives. He has assembled nearly 1,000 cosmetic dentists nationwide to help fight against domestic violence.