The smile is a huge part of our appearance, and is the first thing people notice about us, besides our eyes. It is one of the main factors in the impression others form of you.
It’s essentially, as this quote says, and I believe this to be very true: “A smile is a light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley
There’s lots of research that shows that those of us who smile are healthier in many aspects and even feel happier. Smiling actually does have physiologic health implications, so a confident smile is a big deal. Early in my career, two things became very obvious. Second only to being free of pain, everyone wants to have a great smile, so for everyone who comes to see us, having a confident smile is the number one goal.
If your teeth have darkened, and you want to get them looking whiter and brighter, teeth whitening may be right for you. The first step should be an examination and consult with us, as not all coloration can be changed with whitening. If you have discolored fillings or old crowns that are darker, they will not change color as you whiten your natural tooth structure. You need to be aware of this so you can plan to replace them if you want to lighten your teeth significantly. If all you have is your own enamel, then you can whiten them with peroxide.
Now don’t go swishing with a bottle of peroxide and expect to notice a difference. In order to get a significant color change, you need the peroxide to be in a gel, and in prolonged contact with your teeth. Over the counter whitening strips containing peroxide can work just fine, and we usually recommend starting there, but if you want the most comfortable, most effective, fastest way to whiter teeth, we can make you custom whitening trays in the office.
The process involves first getting models of your teeth with either a traditional or digital impression at the first visit. At the second visit, the trays are inserted and checked for accuracy, and we show you how to use the peroxide gel to maximize your benefits. Most people whiten for 3-4 weeks before getting to the color they want, but others may need to do it for longer. It all depends on how frequently you do it, and how much color change you are looking to get.
Some people may get temporarily sensitive teeth while they are whitening, and that is another reason having custom trays can be helpful. We can get you different pastes or gels to put in the trays between whitening applications to lessen or eliminate the sensitivity.
One thing we never recommend is shining a light on your teeth to whiten them. It will dry out your teeth and make them lighter for a few days, but without any peroxide gel, after one week, they will be back to the color you started with.
When changing the color and shape of your teeth, we could look at veneers, crowns, or bonding. Veneers are essentially like a fake fingernail for your tooth, or a porcelain skin, that is designed to go over front and top of the tooth, It corrects shape, position (to a degree), and color of the teeth.
The difference between a veneer and a crown is how much of the tooth is covered. The veneer covers only the front part of the tooth, the crown covers the whole tooth. When to do one versus the other depends on how much healthy tooth there is underneath. If there are no fillings in the teeth, we typically would go with veneers. If there are a lot of fillings within the tooth that we want to cover, then we would look at a crown for strength. Both will achieve the same result.
Bonding is done a little differently. Veneers and crowns, are made out of porcelain. Bonding uses white filling material to do essentially the same thing you would do with a veneer or crown, but is built up on the spot by hand.
There’s a definite artistic requirement to doing this. The filling material is sculpted onto the tooth with a color that will give you the best results. It can give you a very nice appearance when done. Typically, the appointment a long one, but we can do an entire smile in one visit. The real difference between these options is that the porcelain options (veneers and crowns) will maintain their gloss and their original appearance for many years, and they are much stronger. Bonding will need to be replaced every few years, and you will notice some chipping or wear because the white filling material is not as strong as porcelain. However, it does yield a very nice result, so these are the options for changing the color and shape of your teeth.
Well, that’s where we come in. With a simple visit and discussion of options, we can work together to select which path makes the most sense to reach your desired goals considering your time frame and budget. Most of the times, many options would apply, so the easiest solution is to come in and see us, and we’ll absolutely go through all of that with you.
There are a few options, from traditional braces (the usual train track appearance that we’re all familiar with), to Invisalign®, which is a set of clear aligners that move the teeth. Then there are veneers and crowns, as we just talked about.
Let’s get into the orthodontic options. Half of the patients in our office who get orthodontic treatment are adults. Adults typically opt for Invisalign, because they’re clear and removable, which is a big benefit versus the traditional braces. The down side to Invisalign is compliance. If you don’t wear them as much as you’re supposed to, they don’t work.
Invisalign and braces are both tools to move the teeth, and one would be more appropriate in some circumstances versus others, and we will go over that with you at your consultation.
In the case of Invisalign, you have clear liners that move the teeth. Those aligners are replaced every two to four weeks. With braces, we have the traditional metal brackets with wires. A little less comfortable. They both work well.
There is the chance of brackets coming off, however, and there are food restrictions because they’re always on. With the Invisalign, you can take the aligners out to eat, you can take them out to clean, you can take them out even if you have a function that you need to attend, or that sort of thing.
We’ve had many of our team members in our office wearing Invisalign aligners and braces, and they would be happy to talk to you about their experience with either one.
Invisalign is really a virtually invisible orthodontic appliance, whereas braces, not so much, but there is a time and place for both.
The next step, of course, an initial consultation with us, and it can be a very simple complimentary consultation, which is really just a chance to meet me and our team and see if we are a fit, have your questions answered, and see some actual before and after photos of work we have done. Or we can get right to the information gathering appointment, which is a complete new patient exam, and this includes information gathering, treatment plan, and a final discussion of the treatment plan costs, time frame, and scheduling appointments, and then we can start the treatment. That’s very simply how we do things.
Information gathering, treatment plan, and final consultation
If we don’t gather all of the information, and discuss the treatment plan, before we get into treatment, then we may see a scenario come up where you might have made a different decision, given all of the facts. By doing this we like to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row before starting treatment.
By doing this, you know exactly the state of your oral health. We can tie in everything from your oral health to your total body health and come up with the perfect plan (or the most ideal plan at the time). Then we can make a decision on how to proceed forward from there. Either starting with initial consultation, which is just a meet and greet to see if our team is a fit for you, or we can get right to the new patient exam, and start the information gathering on day one.
I hope this information about cosmetic dentistry has been valuable to you. We’re extremely proud to offer all of the services that we do, but cosmetic dentistry is an especially exciting one for you and for us. When patients decide to get their perfect smile it is absolutely transformational for them when they are done, and we love to see their new smiles more than anyone. The smile is really that important to all of us, and I hope that you all have many, many reasons to smile in the future.