What is cosmetic dentistry?
Dentistry is no longer just a case of filling and extracting teeth, as it was for many years. Nowadays, many people turn to cosmetic dentistry, or ‘aesthetic dentistry’, as a way of improving their appearance, much as they would use cosmetic surgery or even a new hairstyle. The treatments can be used to straighten, lighten, reshape and repair teeth. Cosmetic treatments include veneers, crowns, bridges and tooth-coloured fillings.
What is a veneer?
Veneers are thin slices of porcelain. These are precisely made to fit over the visible surface of front teeth, like a false fingernail fits over a nail.
Why might I have a veneer?
Veneers are an ideal way of treating discoloured or unsightly teeth, closing gaps between front teeth, or repairing chips and cracks.
Can I use veneers to close the gaps between my front teeth?
Yes. Again, using tooth-coloured material or porcelain, the dentist can change the shape or size of the tooth very slightly, closing the gap between the teeth.
Can I have white fillings?
For over 150 years standard fillings have been made out of a silvery-grey material called ‘amalgam’. This is still one of the strongest and longest-lasting materials available for fillings. However, many people find it unattractive and some are concerned about possible health risks.
White fillings are now becoming a popular alternative to amalgam fillings. The new dental materials mean it is much easier to find a perfect match for the shade of a particular tooth. In most cases, it is quite impossible to see that the tooth even has a filling.
My tooth is badly broken – what can I do?
When a tooth is badly broken or heavily filled, the dentist may need to crown or ‘cap’ it to restore its appearance and strength
How does the dentist make a crown?
The usual procedure for fitting a crown involves shaping the tooth under local anaesthetic and then taking an impression using a rubber-like material. The impression is then sent to the laboratory along with the details of the shade to be used, where the technician makes the crown.
What happens to my teeth while the crown is being made?
While your crown is being made, the prepared tooth can be protected with a temporary crown, which is easily removed just before fitting the permanent one. In most cases, the temporary crown is in place for about two weeks.
What is a crown made of?
Crowns can be made of a variety of different materials, such as porcelain or porcelain bonded to gold. New materials are continually being introduced. There are different crowns for different situations and it is a good idea to discuss with your dentist which crown would be best for you.
I have a gap – should I have it closed?
If a tooth is missing, or needs extracting, there are several ways to fill the gap that is left. In some cases it is important to try to replace any missing teeth in order to balance the way your jaw bites. If you have several missing teeth, the remaining teeth are under more pressure, which can lead to broken fillings or even jaw problems.
How can my dentist fill the gap?
A partial denture is the simplest way of replacing missing teeth. However, some people find dentures uncomfortable and eventually decide to have a bridge made.
What is a bridge?
Bridges are ideal for people who don’t like dentures or only have one or two teeth missing. Conventional bridges are made by crowning the teeth on either side of the gap and attaching a false tooth in the middle. They are fixed in the same way as crowns. These bridges are usually made of precious metal bonded to porcelain. Sometimes other non-precious metals are used in the base for strength.
What if I don’t want my remaining teeth drilled?
Adhesive bridges are another way of bridging a gap, and less of the tooth needs removing. These bridges are made up of a false tooth with metal ‘wings’ on either side. These wings are made to bond to the teeth on either side, with very little drilling of these teeth. The teeth are roughened and the bridge is fitted using a very strong composite resin.
‘Implants’ are an alternative to dentures or bridgework, but they are more expensive. Implants are titanium rods, which are surgically placed into the jawbone, leaving parts sticking out through the gum. These act as anchors for fastening dentures or crowns onto.
Can I lighten the colour of my teeth?
Tooth whitening can be a highly effective way of lightening the natural colour of your teeth without removing any of the tooth surfaces. It cannot make a complete colour change, but it will lighten the existing shade.
What does tooth whitening involve?
Professional bleaching is the most common form of tooth whitening. Your dentist will apply the whitening product to your teeth, using a specially made tray which fits into your mouth like a gum-shield.
The ‘active ingredient’ in the product is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. As the active ingredient is broken down, oxygen gets into the enamel on the teeth and the tooth colour is made lighter.
Once your dentist has started this treatment you will need to continue it at home.
How long does tooth whitening take?
The total treatment can usually be done within three to four weeks. This means regularly applying the whitening product at home over two to four weeks, for 30 minutes to one hour at a time.
Can my crooked or twisted teeth be straightened?
Teeth can be straightened with orthodontics (braces). This is usually done during the teenage years, when the teeth are going through a period of growth. However, many adults also have treatment to straighten their crooked teeth or to approve their appearance. The procedure can take much longer in adults and is therefore more expensive.
Are there any alternatives to orthodontics?
Cosmetic contouring can be used to improve the appearance of teeth. It is ideal if you have slightly crowded teeth. It takes about one hour and is less expensive than other forms of cosmetic treatment. It is not recommended for young children.