Are you self-conscious about your smile? Do you have gaps between your teeth, misaligned or stained teeth? If so, you might be a candidate for various cosmetic dentistry procedures that address these concerns. Investing in a great smile boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Here are three of the most common cosmetic dentistry procedures.
Three common cosmetic dentistry procedures
In many situations, the procedures used to address cosmetic issues with your teeth are very similar to procedures used to treat damaged or unhealthy teeth, the only difference is that the procedures aren’t absolutely necessary for your overall dental health. For this reason, cosmetic dentistry procedures might not be covered by your insurance.
Whitening, or bleaching, is a very common practice in America. It is the process of applying a bleaching agent to your teeth to remove stains on the enamel of your teeth and make them appear whiter.
Teeth become stained for a number of reasons. Some foods and drinks like coffee, dark sodas, red wine, and even some fruits and vegetables are known to discolor teeth. Tobacco is another prime suspect.
Trauma or disease directly to the tooth or somewhere else in the body might also lead to staining and discoloration. Chemotherapy, radiation, and a few other medications often cause patients’ teeth to become stained.
It is possible to develop “intrinsic stains” on the inside of the tooth as well, which are more difficult to address. A common cause of intrinsic stains is exposure to too much fluoride during childhood when your adult teeth were developing. Trauma may also cause intrinsic stains.
“Vital whitening” is the process of whitening teeth that are still alive and healthy. “Non-vital” whitening is the process of bleaching a tooth that no longer has a live nerve and has had a root canal.
There are many over-the-counter bleaching products you can use to whiten your teeth at home. Toothpastes, rinses, gels, and strips are some of the most common over-the-counter whitening products. However, some of these products can harm your teeth in the process. You should consult with your dentist before using any bleaching products.
If you choose to have in-office teeth whitening done by a dentist, the process typically begins with a thorough cleaning. In-office whitening allows the dentist to use a stronger whitening gel. Your dentist may also use a light or laser to help activate the gel and cause the bleaching process to happen faster.
Typically, in-office whitening procedures take between 30 and 90 minutes. The number of appointments will depend on the method used and how severe your stains are
Whitening procedures are not a permanent fix. Your teeth will likely become stained again over time and require more treatments.
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In cosmetic dental bonding, tooth-colored resin is put on a tooth that is discolored chipped, damaged or fractured. One of the main benefits of dental bonding is that the process can be completed in a single visit and it is one of the easiest and least expensive cosmetic dental procedures.
Although bonding is typically used to shape and color teeth, the material can also be used to close spaces between teeth. Sometimes bonding is used to protect a part of a tooth’s root that is exposed by a receding gum line.
The process of dental bonding is fairly simple and rarely requires sedation. The dentist begins by gently abrade or roughen the surface of your tooth. Then, they will gently coat the tooth with a conditioning solution that helps the bonding material to attach firmly to your tooth.
Your dentist will apply the resin that is mixed to match the color of your teeth. Then the resin is molded, shaped, and smoothed into the proper shape. An ultraviolet light or laser helps the resin harden.
The entire procedure takes between 30 and 60 minutes for one tooth. Several visits may be required to treat more than one tooth.
Bonding typically lasts several years before it needs to be repaired or replaced. The composite material is not nearly as strong as your natural teeth so chewing on ice, biting fingernails, or chewing on other hard objects may chip the bonding material or shorten its lifespan.
Dental veneers are shells made of porcelain or composite resin that are glued over the front of your tooth. Veneers are especially helpful if you have chipped, stained, or misshapen teeth. Though veneers are usually for cosmetic purposes, they may be part of a treatment plan for gum disease.
Composite resin veneers can usually be applied in one appointment with your dentist. Ceramic or porcelain veneers usually require more visits.
The general process for placing veneers begins with x-rays and cleaning the teeth. Then, the dentist trims a very small amount of the enamel away to prepare the tooth for the veneers.
For ceramic or porcelain veneers, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth then a lab will use the impression to create the veneers. This process can take up to two weeks. If you are getting composite veneers, the resin is gently applied and shaped on the tooth.
Once the veneer is ready, your dentist will thoroughly clean the teeth and roughen the surface to help the veneer attach firmly to the teeth. Special cement is used to “glue” the veneer to your teeth then ultraviolet light or a laser helps the cement harden quickly.
Caring for veneers is usually very similar to regular oral hygiene practices—regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups. Veneers typically last 5 to 10 years before needing to be replaced.
Other Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures
A few other common cosmetic dentistry procedures include crowns, inlays and onlays, dental implants and teeth straightening with Invisalign. Crowns and implants may be required to deal with damaged and broken teeth.
Inlays and onlays are types of fillings that preserve as much of the healthy tooth as possible.
Depending on the circumstances and condition of your teeth, these types of procedures may not fall into the cosmetic dentistry category.
Does insurance cover cosmetic dentist procedures?
Whitening is an entirely cosmetic procedure and has no other dental applications or benefits. For this reason it is not typically covered by insurance.
For the most part, dental insurance primarily covers preventative care. Dental insurance may cover some cosmetic dental procedures depending on the circumstances. Check with your insurance provider and your dentist to discuss treatment and payment options.
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