Cosmetic dentistry refers to any dental procedure that is aimed at improving the appearance of a person’s teeth, gums and/ or bite. These procedures correct the simplest dental problems to severe ones. The procedures also improve the functions of the teeth which include chewing food properly, as well as speaking properly. Medical practitioners who perform these dental procedures are known as cosmetic dentists.
Cosmetic dentistry has been classified into two categories: orthodontics and prosthodontics. The field of orthodontics deals with studying and treating ‘bad bites’ or malocclusions. Bad bites may be due to tooth irregularity, jaw misalignment or both. Prosthetic dentistry has been popularly known as prosthodontics. This field deals with the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of oral appearance and function.
Cosmetic dentistry may involve:
- Addition of a dental material to the teeth or gums. For example: bonding, porcelain veneers, crowns, gum grafts.
- The removal of tooth structure or gums- examples: enameloplasty, gingivectomy.
- Neither adding nor removing dental materials, tooth structure or gums- examples: teeth whitening.
- Straightening of teeth accompanied by improvement in appearance of the face, orthodontics.
Common cosmetic dentistry options include:
- Whitening- this is the most common cosmetic dental procedure. It is also known as tooth bleaching. Whitening options include over the counter products and dentist supervised treatments which remain the recommended procedures for lightening discolored teeth.
- Tooth reshaping entails the removal of the enamel to enhance the appearance of the tooth. It may be used to correct a small chip, or to alter the length, shape or position of teeth. It can be used to correct crooked more excessively long teeth. The removed enamel is irreplaceable, and may sometimes expose the dentin.
- Bonding is a process in which enamel like dental composite material is applied to a tooth’s surface, sculptured into shape, hardened then polished.
- Dental bridges. These are false teeth that are fused between two porcelain crowns to fill in the area left by a missing tooth. Bridges reduce the risk of gum disease, help correct some bite issues and even improve speech. They require proper oral hygiene and they last as many as ten years or more.
- Veneers. They are ultra thin, custom made porcelain laminates that are bonded directly to the teeth. They close gaps and disguise discolored teeth that do not respond to whitening.
Having dental structures that are natural looking is what has always been preferred by both dentists and patients of cosmetic dentistry.