From subtle changes to major repairs, your dentist can perform a variety of procedures to improve your smile. There are many techniques and options to treat teeth that are discolored, chipped, misshapen or missing.
Your dentist can reshape your teeth, close spaces, restore worn or short teeth or alter the length of your teeth. Common procedures include bleaching, bonding, crowns, veneers and reshaping and contouring.
These improvements are not always just cosmetic. Many of these treatments can improve oral problems, such as your bite.
Bleaching can be performed by your dentist in the office or, under dental supervision, at home. Many patients enjoy bleaching at home because it is more convenient.
Treatment begins when your dentist creates a custom mouthpiece to ensure the correct amount of whitening solution is used and that your teeth are properly exposed.
Typically, whitening at home takes two to four weeks, depending on the desired shade you wish to achieve. Whitening in the office may call for one or more 45-minute to one-hour visits to your dentist’s office.
Crowns, also known as caps, cover a tooth to restore it to its normal shape and appearance.
Due to their cost, they are used in cases where other procedures will not be effective.
Crowns have the longest life expectancy of all cosmetic restorations, but are the most time-consuming.
The procedure requires your dentist to take an impression of your tooth.
Before the custom-made veneer is cemented directly onto the tooth, your dentist will lightly buff the tooth to compensate for the added thickness of the veneer.
Once the cement is between the veneer and your tooth, a light beam is used to harden it.
Porcelain veneers require more than one visit because they are fabricated in a laboratory.
Veneers have a longer life expectancy and color stability than bonding.
Bleaching is a common and popular chemical process used to whiten teeth. Some people get their teeth bleached to make stains disappear, while other just want a whiter shade.
Discoloration occurs in the enamel and can be caused by medication, coffee, tea and cigarettes. Discoloration also can be hereditary or due simply to getting older.
Bonding is tooth-colored material used to fill in gaps or change the color of teeth. Requiring a single office visit, bonding lasts several years.
Bonding is more susceptible to staining or chipping than other forms of restoration. When teeth are chipped or slightly decayed, bonded composite resins may be the material of choice. Bonding also is used as a tooth-colored filling for small cavities.
Additionally, it can be used to close spaces between teeth or cover the entire outside surface of a tooth to change its color and shape.
Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain or plastic placed over the front teeth to change the color or shape of your teeth. Veneers are used on teeth with uneven surfaces or are chipped, discolored, oddly shaped, unevenly spaced or crooked. Little or no anesthesia is needed. Veneers are used to treat some of the same problems as bonding.
This treatment is an alternative to crowns, which are more expensive.
Contouring and reshaping
Tooth reshaping and contouring, is a procedure to correct crooked teeth, chipped or irregularly shaped teeth or even overlapping teeth in a single session. Tooth reshaping and contouring, is commonly used to alter the length, shape or position of your teeth. Contouring teeth may also help correct small problems with bite. It is common for bonding to be combined with tooth reshaping.
This procedure is ideal for candidates with normal, healthy teeth but who want subtle changes to their smile. Your dentist will take X-rays to evaluate the size and location of the pulp of each tooth to ensure that there’s enough bone between the teeth to support them.
Which procedure is right for me?
Your dentist can answer any questions you may have about techniques used to improve your smile. The condition of your teeth and desired result you want often dictates the best procedure. If you are considering a treatment, there are a few questions you can ask your dentist before deciding if a particular procedure is right for you.
• What will the changes look like?
• What should I expect through the course of treatment?
• What type of maintenance will be required?
What should I look for in a cosmetic dentist?
In order to make sure your dentist is skilled in cosmetic dentistry, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) recommends that you ask your dentist for the following items before undergoing treatment:
• Before and after photos. These photos will allow you to examine the results of other patients being treated by the dentist to make sure his or her work fits your dental needs.
• References. References allow you to get a sense of the quality of care the dentist provides.
• Proof of continuing education. Be certain that your dentist has taken continuing education courses to keep him or her up-to-date with the latest techniques in clinical cosmetic dentistry.
Common tooth disorders include
• Cavities (caused by tooth decay)
• Periapical abscess
• Impacted teeth
Fractured, loosened, and knocked-out teeth are considered urgent dental problems, as are some toothaches. Tooth decay, which often leads to toothache and tooth loss, can be largely prevented with good oral hygiene, which helps remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup.
Plaque is a filmlike substance composed of bacteria, saliva, food debris, and dead cells. It occurs in everyone. Plaque is continually being deposited on teeth, day and night. After a tooth is cleaned, plaque develops on the surface of the tooth within about 24 hours.
After about 72 hours, the plaque starts to harden and becomes tartar. Because plaque can encourage growth of the kind of bacteria that leads to tooth decay, it needs to be removed by daily brushing and flossing.
Tartar (calculus) is hardened (calcified) plaque that forms a white covering at the base of the teeth, particularly the tongue side of the front lower teeth and the cheek side of the upper molars (the teeth at the back of the mouth).
Because tartar is formed from plaque, daily brushing to remove plaque can significantly reduce the buildup of tartar. However, once tartar has formed, it can be adequately removed only by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Although a healthy mouth can be maintained with meticulous brushing and flossing, limiting sugar intake and using fluoridated water also help reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Symptoms of Tooth Disorders
Pain affecting an individual tooth (toothache) is probably the most recognized symptom of a tooth disorder. A tooth may be painful all the time or only under certain circumstances, as when chewing or when tapped by a dental instrument. Pain in a tooth suggests tooth decay or gum disease.
However, pain may also result when roots are exposed, when people chew too forcefully or grind their teeth (bruxism), or when a tooth is fractured. Sinus congestion can cause similar symptoms of pain in the area of the upper teeth.
Worn-down or loose teeth can be a symptom of gum disease or bruxism, a disorder characterized by frequent clenching or grinding of the teeth.
Bruxism occurs mostly during sleep, so that the person is unaware of it, but it may also occur during the day. People who have bruxism must concentrate on not clenching or grinding their teeth during the day. Bruxism may lead to attrition.
Attrition is the wearing away of the biting surfaces of the teeth. Attrition can also be caused by chewing abrasive foods or tobacco or by the wear that accompanies aging. Attrition may make chewing less effective.
Abnormally shaped teeth can be a symptom of genetic diseases, hormonal disorders, or infections acquired before teeth erupt. Teeth can be misshapen due to fractures or chipping caused by trauma to the mouth.
Abnormal tooth color is not the same as the darkening or yellowing of teeth that occurs as people grow older or expose their teeth to staining substances, such as coffee, tea, and cigarette smoke.
Graying of a tooth may be a symptom of a previous infection within the tooth that has seriously damaged the pulp, which is the living center of the tooth. The same may occur when a permanent tooth replaces an infected baby tooth.
Permanent discoloration of the teeth may occur if people took tetracycline before age 9 years or if their mothers took tetracycline during the second half of pregnancy. Excess fluoride ingestion during childhood can cause mottling of the hard outer surface of the tooth (the enamel).
Abnormal tooth enamel may be due to a diet containing insufficient vitamin D, as in rickets. Abnormal enamel may also be the result of a childhood infection (such as measles or chickenpox) occurring when the permanent teeth were forming.
Abnormal enamel may also be due to gastroesophageal reflux or repeated vomiting, as occurs in bulimia nervosa, because the stomach acid dissolves the surface of the teeth. Swimmers who spend a lot of time in overchlorinated pools can lose tooth enamel, as can people who work with acids. Excess fluoride ingestion (fluorosis) during childhood can cause mottling of the enamel.
Damaged tooth enamel can allow bacteria to more easily invade the tooth and form a cavity.
An impacted tooth is a tooth that does not break through the gum.
Teeth start to pass through the gums (emerge) during infancy.
This happens again when permanent teeth replace the primary (baby) teeth.
If a tooth does not come in, or emerges only partially, it is considered to be impacted.
This most commonly happens with the wisdom teeth (the third set of molars). They are the last teeth to erupt. They usually come in between the ages of 17 and 21.
An impacted tooth remains stuck in gum tissue or bone for various reasons. The area may be overcrowded, leaving no room for the teeth to emerge. For example, the jaw may be too small to fit the wisdom teeth. Teeth may also become twisted, tilted, or displaced as they try to emerge. This results in impacted teeth.
Impacted wisdom teeth are very common. They are often painless and do not cause problems. However, some professionals believe an impacted tooth pushes on the next tooth, which pushes the next tooth. Eventually, this can cause a misaligned bite. A partially emerged tooth can trap food, plaque, and other debris in the soft tissue around it, which can lead to inflammation and tenderness of the gums and unpleasant mouth odor.
This is called pericoronitis. The retained debris may also lead to the decay on the wisdom tooth or the neighboring tooth, or even bone loss.