Q&A Topic: What is cosmetic dentistry?

Dr. Joseph Abrams
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Q: What is cosmetic dentistry?

A: Broadly defined, cosmetic dentistry is any series of dental procedures which are either designed to, or result in, the improvement of one's smile. In many cases, cosmetic and restorative procedures are required to restore the health and function of the teeth. However, over the past several decades, due to technological advances within the dental profession, an increasing number of patients are seeking dental care solely for the purpose of improving the aesthetics of their smile. Unlike other series of dental procedures, cosmetic dentistry impacts not only the health of a patient, but also their emotional, spiritual and social sense of wellbeing. Study after study has confirmed that individuals who have had concerns about their smile and have sought treatment enjoy a greater sense of wellbeing, as well as an improved sense of confidence in both social and professional situations. 

Q: How do I know if I am a good candidate for cosmetic dentistry?

A: If you’re wondering whether or not you’re a good candidate for cosmetic dentistry, the best advice I can give you is to seek a consultation with a competent cosmetic dentist. Because cosmetic dentistry in some cases is elective treatment, there are many factors which must be considered when determining if cosmetic treatment is appropriate for you. These may include your dental and medical health, the type of change you’re looking to achieve in your smile, and the financial investment which is appropriate for your circumstances at the time. Your greatest asset at this stage of the game is to seek good information from a dentist who is highly experienced in delivering cosmetic care. The more you understand about what treatment options are available and appropriate for you, the greater your chances of achieving the results you are seeking.

Q: What are some types of cosmetic dentistry? 

A: Dental whitening, porcelain veneers and dental crowns are common types of cosmetic dental procedures. Dental whitening is a conservative, inexpensive treatment that uses a bleaching substance to lighten the overall shade of the teeth. Whitening can be performed in one office visit or at home using custom fitted trays. Home whitening usually takes a few weeks and can be continued for a longer period of time if a greater effect is desired. Over-the-counter whitening products generally provide just one fourth of clinical results.

Porcelain veneers are very thin shells of porcelain which are placed over the existing teeth. Porcelain veneers can change the shape, color and arrangement of teeth and, if there are restorative needs, can actually strengthen the teeth. Patients with heavily restored, crowded, spaced, or discolored teeth can benefit from these. Cosmetic dental crowns are specially fabricated porcelain caps which cover the entire circumference of a tooth. They are less conservative than porcelain veneers, but can effect greater cosmetic change. These are recommended for patients with existing crowns, heavily restored or unstable teeth, or teeth that require more correction then porcelain veneers can provide. In many cases, a combination of cosmetic crowns and porcelain veneers may be recommended.

Q: What is cosmetic gum surgery and what role do dental implants play in cosmetic dentistry?

A: Cosmetic gum surgery is sometimes used to provide a patient with a more attractive, harmonious gum line, which greatly impacts the appearance of the teeth. In some cases, tissue can be removed with conservative laser or electro surgery. In other cases, where tissue must be added, a more involved procedure known as periodontal grafting can be employed. Although only some patients require correction of their gums, a healthy, stable and attractive gumline is as important as the teeth, and is an often-overlooked aspect of quality cosmetic dental care.

Dental implants are one of the newest and most exciting advances in dentistry. Implants allow a dentist to replace missing teeth by placing a titanium or ceramic “screw” directly into the jawbone, onto which a permanent replacement tooth can be placed. They have the decided advantage of allowing tooth replacement without having to “cap” adjacent teeth. They are very strong, long lasting and will never decay. What many patients may not be aware of is that high quality dental implant care, particularly in cases where implants are in the cosmetic zone of the smile, requires meticulous planning and communication between the implant surgeon and the restoring dentist. We are fortunate here at the Abrams Center, to have both surgeons and restoring dentists working side by side to ensure the highest quality results for our patients.

Q: How should I choose the right cosmetic dentist for me? 

A: Perhaps the most important decision a patient who is considering cosmetic dentistry can make is determining which dentist to whom they are going to entrust their care. Ideally you’d want to know the dentist you are considering has the technical skills, knowledge and artistic creativity to help you reach your goals.

First, do your homework. Look at patient reviews. You not only want to see that the patients are happy with their dentist, but you want to have a sense that this dentist has the type of personality that will allow you to work with them. Cosmetic dentistry is truly a collaboration between the doctor and patient. Also make sure the dentist has extensive experience performing the treatment you’re considering. Many dentists have photos of the work they’ve done—look these over and try to get a sense of the quality of their cosmetic care. The ideal doctor would be someone with whom you feel comfortable, has many years of experience and specializes in cosmetic cases within their practice.

Abrams Center for Cosmetic Dentistry
365 Lancaster Ave.
Suite 5
Malvern, PA 19355
(610) 993-8770

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