Visiting the dentist today is no longer just about getting a filling or extracting a tooth. Many people are now looking to their dentists to improve their appearance through solutions such as teeth whitening, veneers, composite bonding, and crowns, which are popular choices for quick smile makeovers.
What is Cosmetic Dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry involves a variety of procedures that enhance a person’s smile. Unlike other types of cosmetic surgery, there is a significant functional component, in addition to aesthetic component, where our teeth are concerned. It involves correcting the alignment, shape and colour of the teeth to enable an overall better aesthetic outcome for the person. Successful treatment is the result of understanding the underlying functional, biological and longevity concerns of patients and delivering a solution that bridges their aesthetic and functional needs.
One of the most popular cosmetic dental procedures is teeth whitening which brightens discoloured or stained teeth.
An oral examination is needed to ensure that the patient is suitable for teeth whitening as in some cases, existing gum problems or decayed teeth will need to be addressed before whitening is performed.
A special gel is applied to the gums to protect them from the whitening gel. Next, the whitening gel is carefully applied to the teeth before a special light is used to activate the gel and bleach away stains on the teeth, resulting in brighter teeth that are free of discolouration. The best part of all – this is a painless procedure which can be completed in less than one hour. Patients can do it over their lunch break!
Although rare, some patients may experience sensitivity but this usually disappears one to two days after the treatment is completed. It is also important to keep in mind that daily oral hygiene is an essential part of maintaining teeth whitening results. Excessive smoking and drinking of coffee and tea will result in teeth getting stained after whitening.
While teeth whitening can help brighten the smiles of those who have stained teeth due to external causes (e.g. food, coffee or smoking), teeth whitening is of limited effect when it comes to intrinsic staining of the teeth (e.g. medication or excessive fluoride). This is where veneers can help.
Veneers are thin, custom-made high strength porcelain or composite resin shells designed to fit discreetly over the teeth. It is another option available for discoloured teeth, worn down teeth, broken or chipped teeth, gaps between teeth, and uneven, misaligned or irregularly shaped teeth.
In addition to aesthetic benefits, veneers also have a functional purpose as they protect the surface of a damaged tooth. They may even replace the need for a crown in certain situations, eliminating the need for more invasive tooth preparation.
For teeth with dark stains that do not respond to bleaching or teeth that have small chips or gaps, white composite bonding provides a good option. This procedure involves applying a tooth-coloured polymeric resin to the tooth and moulding it into the proper shape. This is a painless procedure and typically takes less than 30 minutes to complete.
As with normal teeth, bonded restorations require care and proper treatment. Careful brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing regularly is crucial. Clenching teeth or biting into hard foods or ice should be avoided as this may cause wear or chipping. Regular check-ups and polishing by the dentist can greatly improve the longevity of the restorations.
Innovations in materials have also resulted in increased use of zirconium crowns, which are stronger and more natural looking than the traditional porcelain crowns or porcelain fused to metal crowns. Incidentally, zirconium is a cousin to the man-made diamonds, cubic zirconia, used in costume jewellery…
Zirconium based material derivatives have been employed for fabrication of artificial diamonds (cubic zirconia) and artificial hip joints in the field of orthopedic surgery for a long time. One of its main advantages is its biocompatibility – our human body tolerates and integrates predictably with zirconium material with no unfavorable tissue reaction.
Research has shown that the strength of laboratory processed zirconium dental materials is comparable to titanium, commonly used in the in aircraft industry and dental implants. The recent development of zirconium-based dental crown materials combines CAD-CAM technology precision and the strength of metal crowns while offering nature-like superior aesthetic quality.
Instead of merely relying on the dental technician’s artistic capability, properly fitted crowns could be made using CAD-CAM technology with significantly reduced human error. In vitro research has shown that the fit of these CAD-CAM crowns are excellent even under scanning electronic microscope examination.
Conventional guidelines of crown fabrication suggest the removal of approximately 1.5mm of tooth structure circumferentially. The removal of excessive tooth structure during this dental procedure may compromise the functional longevity of the tooth. With zirconium crowns, excessive removal of tooth structure can be avoided as thinner crowns can be made due to the superior physical strength of zirconium crowns material.