The Power Smile

August 2011
Written By: 
Karla Keeton

Get the smile you want with these cosmetic dentistry options

Nineteenth century English novelist Charles Reade wrote, “Beauty is power; a smile is its sword.” One might say those are words to live by and true even today. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), “99.7 percent of people interviewed believed a smile is an important social asset. Ninety-six percent of adults believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to members of the opposite sex, and 74 percent of adults feels an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s chances for career success.” In that same study, when participants were asked what things make a smile unattractive, the responses were: discolored, yellow or stained teeth; missing teeth; crooked teeth; decaying teeth and cavities; gaps and spaces in teeth; and dirty teeth.  

How can cosmetic dentistry help?

Teeth Whitening: There are several methods in the marketplace, but the most used is a high-concentration peroxide gel, which can only be administered by a dentist or dental technician. It can sometimes be the most expensive route because follow-up appointments for stubborn food, tobacco or other stains may be necessary. Some dentists are using a laser with a whitening solution to create a clean look, and it’s equally effective. Other options include the over-the-counter products, which aren’t as strong, but effective.   Whitening mouth rinses and toothpastes help, but they only contain a small amount of peroxide and take awhile to see results. For the most, they remove surface stains only.

Dental Bonding: This remedy involves a thin coating of resin or plastic material used on teeth to lighten stains, fill gaps, correct crooked teeth or restore decaying teeth. The procedure involves a solution applied to teeth to create a rough surface on the enamel to allow the resin to bond. A high-intensity light is used to cement each layer and then it’s sculpted to fit your tooth and polished. The average cost of cosmetic dental bonding ranges from $300 to $500 per tooth and the treatment is reported to last seven to eleven years.  

Orthodontics: This is a permanent aesthetic treatment, which improves improper bites by straightening teeth. The science of it seems to be ever evolving with newer appliances, techniques and innovations every day.  Some of which include the use of super elastic wires meant to create tooth movement with minimal pain, and self etching primers for longer treatments that involve bracket placement and adhesive that allow teeth to remain shiny and glossy. Other methods involve indirect bonding brackets, which are placed on a plaster model of a patient’s teeth first to reduce treatment time or the use of translucent brackets. Self-ligating brackets are popular because there are no pokey wires, and orthodontic implants are miniature screws, which are painlessly fixed in the bone around the teeth for support and tooth movement. For those who want treatment to remain invisible, one might consider lingual braces, which are placed on the back of teeth or Invisalign®, a series of aligner trays made of clear plastic that you wear over your teeth to gradually shift them into proper alignment. Costs range from $3,500-$10,000.

White fillings: Since white is the theme in a great smile, these tooth-colored resin fillings are in high demand. In fact, they are actually safer than the old amalgam or silver fillings due to the fact that the mercury contained within them may be harmful to our health if chipped, loosened and ingested.  Costs range from $75-$145 per filling.

Porcelain Veneers: A cosmetic and bite improvement change that involves a thin shell of porcelain that is bonded to the front of teeth. Porcelain veneers are different from dental bonding in that the porcelain material is more durable and less prone to staining. Costs range from $1,200-$2,600.

Porcelain Crowns: Caps are placed over the surface of teeth masking chips, cracks, and stains and reinforcing a weakened bite in this remedy. Porcelain is used with crowns because it bonds well to teeth and provides a natural stain-resistant brightness while still looking natural.

Dental Bridges: If you’re missing a tooth or teeth, this is a good method to improve your oral aesthetic. The location of the missing tooth usually determines which type of dental bridge. A traditional fixed bridge is a replacement tooth held together by two crowns. A resin-bonded bridge is usually for a missing front tooth and used when surrounding teeth are healthy. A cantilever dental bridge is used when there are teeth on only one side of the gap. An impression is made as a guide and the bridge is cemented into place, fitted, checked and adjusted for smile-changing results.

Dental Implants: A cutting-edge solution to missing teeth involving a titanium screw, which mimics a tooth with a root. It’s placed within the bone where it fuses and then it’s made to appear like a natural tooth.  

Smile Makeover: Your mouth is examined from bite to bone structure and multiple procedures are used to improve aesthetics with any of the procedures mentioned above.

Full mouth reconstruction: Larger-scale functional and aesthetic problems are addressed relating to bite, muscles, teeth and bone structure. These procedures can involve full-scale surgery and completely alter a person’s appearance permanently.

How to choose a cosmetic dentist
Your choices are abundant with an increasing number of dentists offering cosmetic dentistry in their practices. A recommendation from your general dentist is probably a good place to start since they already understand what’s going on inside your mouth. The condition of your teeth, gums, supporting bone structure and bite is something that must be evaluated prior to any cosmetic procedure, and you may need to be referred to a periodontist, prosthodontist, endodontist, orthodontist or oral maxillofacial surgeon.

Once you’re ready, investigating the level of cosmetic dentistry experience before setting up a consultation is important. Find out how many treatments in your requested procedure have been done by your chosen cosmetic dentist, ask about results, references, etc. Check with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD),, to verify whether your preferred dentist is an accredited member, and qualified for the specialty as well as committed to the standards of care in this field.