Angie's LIST Guide to
Cosmetic Dentistry

Cosmetic, or aesthetic, dentistry focuses on improving the overall appearance of your teeth. Cosmetic treatments include any technique that involves whitening, restoring or straightening the teeth by a dentist or orthodontist.
 

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Cosmetic dentistry
A member dentist of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry works to recreate a beautiful smile during a workshop at the organization's annual convention. It's important to look at a dentist's education and experience before undergoing cosmetic procedures. (Photo courtesy of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry)
 
 

The benefits of cosmetic dentistry

If uneven or discolored teeth cause you to feel embarrassed when you smile, cosmetic dentistry may offer a solution to improving your self-confidence. Even a minor treatment, such as teeth whitening to remove stains, can dramatically alter the appearance of your teeth.

Some cosmetic treatments, such as implants, bridges and crowns, may occur over several sessions. Simpler procedures, like replacing silver fillings with more natural looking white composite fillings, may require only a single visit to your dentist.

Types of cosmetic dentistry treatments

Cosmetic dental treatments cover an array of procedures that cater to a variety of different issues.

  • Dental veneers can transform a smile for someone who wants to dramatically improve misshapen, discolored or slightly crooked teeth.  The individual custom-made shells cover the front and sides of your teeth to create a more even look. Veneers are popular among Hollywood celebrities who previously had imperfect teeth.
  • Crowns can protect broken or cracked teeth and a tooth that has had a root canal, among other things. A lab fashions a crown to resemble the shape of your natural tooth. It’s then glued over the top of the damaged tooth to disguise the imperfection.
  • Orthodontic treatments, which include dental braces, correct such problems as overbites, teeth crowding and wide gaps between teeth. A dentist may recommend the treatment for teens and adults.
  • Implants are intended to permanently replace a missing tooth by anchoring an artificial tooth directly into the jawbone.
  • Amalgam filling replacement is popular with people who want the dental work blend better with the natural color of their teeth. However, replacing silver fillings that are still performing disturbs the dormant metal in the filing and poses some health risks.
  • Whitening often involves wearing a teeth tray filled with a special gel, while the dental professional shines a bright light on the teeth to speed up the lightening process. Teeth whitening treatments typically take one hour to perform.

Check out the video below for more information on teeth whitening options.

How to find a cosmetic dentist

Your regular dentist may be able to do minor cosmetic procedures. However, you may prefer a dentist who specializes in one or more restorative and cosmetic dental procedures. 

The American Dental Association doesn't recognize cosmetic dentistry as a specialty.  To the extent permitted by state law, any general dentist can market the services, such as cosmetic dentistry, he or she offers.  Applicable statutes and dental board regulations vary by state.

You may find some information about a dentist or dental technician through the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which has more than 6,500 members worldwide. The organization provides education and training to dental professionals through workshops and online learning. Credentialing isn’t necessary be a general member of the association. However, some AACD members are accredited fellows who have passed oral and written exams and submitted 50 examples of work for peer review.

You may also learn more about a dentist’s qualifications by consulting Angie's List, where you can see member reviews and rankings.

Understand what the cosmetic treatment will accomplish

There is no "one size fits all" approach to cosmetic dental procedures. Your dentist will consider several contributing factors, such as your current oral health, before deciding on the best approach. If you show signs of tooth decay or gum disease, have them treated before getting any cosmetic dental work.

Although you may have a particular treatment in mind, you can better determine what will work best for you after a thorough examination by your dentist or orthodontist, who will recommend the most appropriate treatment. New treatments are being developed constantly, allowing patients more choice.

Write down a list of questions or reservations before booking a consultation with a cosmetic dentist. Be open and honest about what you hope to achieve so that your chosen dentist understands your goals.

Don't be afraid to ask a dentist about his or her previous work or experience. Your dentist may also be able to show you the proposed changes that can be made to your teeth via computer imaging. Look at photos of their completed work and request referrals so you can talk with patients  who have had similar procedures done by the dentist.

Your dentist should explain the risks associated with any chosen procedure. For example, teeth whitening can lead to heightened sensitivity. Ask what alternatives are available for each recommended treatment. If you already have sensitive teeth, for instance, your dentist may recommend a gentler whitening treatment.

Paying for cosmetic dental work

Read the list of cosmetic dentists in the provider directory provided by your dental insurer.  If you decide to proceed with cosmetic dental work, contact your dental insurance company first to find out what's covered by your plan. If the procedure is a covered expense, your insurer may require you get a referral from your dentist or have the treatment preapproved before it agrees to pay for the treatment.

dental veneer costs

If you have to pay the full cost of a cosmetic dental work, consider your budget when deciding what treatment to get. A slightly cheaper option you hadn't considered may give similar results and be more affordable. A good dentist should be able to explain the pros and cons of each, and fully answer all of your questions to put your mind at ease.

Before you agree to any procedure and sign a consent form for treatment, visit on Healthcare Blue Book to check the prices other dentists in our area charge. The free online guide lists fair prices for healthcare services. The fair price is what a health service provider typically allows from insurance companies as full payment, which is substantially less than the billed amount.

Ask your dentist for a breakdown of the cost and a written quote. Having the cost in writing is essential when it comes to comparing like for like treatments from other cosmetic dentistry providers.

Comments

I don't know how to approach my dentist, who did a large cosmetic work. A couple of months later I started to locate some disconfort on 3 upper mollars. I visited him and told him the problem and now he is charged me 389.00 to do on a molar he already done. On the other tooth he is sending me to an specialist for a root canal work. How I should make him understand that he had damaged my teeth and that I am started to be in pain on several molars?

As a Dental Consultant hired by Dentists, one of the major issues I have found is lack of full disclosure and communication to patients about all possible risks associated with dentistry in particular as in your case cosmetic work. Not knowing the condition of your teeth prior to the work being done, I will give you a few scenarios that may bring some clarity. If in fact you had existing fillings on your molar teeth now being replace by porcelain crowns, there is always a risk of root canal therapy.. Why? Because in most cases a large filling can cover more than 60% of the tooth surface and depending on how long ago the your teeth were filled can have decay hidden, weakening the tooth structure which in time can fracture. When that filling is being replaced, the tooth will be cleaned out for any hidden decay and prepared by trimming tooth structure to fit a crown. When this happens there is always a risk of exposing the dentin which is a protective layer covering your nerves. Some dentist perform root canal therapy as a cautionary procedure in conjunction with the preparation of placing a crown.
In cases where a molar tooth has never had a restoration in it and cosmetic dentistry is needed for building up your bite for TMJ issues the preparation is not as deep but still can have the risk of sensitivity requiring root canal therapy.
Have your dentist check your bite.. Sometimes a small adjustment can make a world of difference in your discomfort and dissatisfaction.
If you have built a relationship of trust with your dentist and team be assured that he/she have your bests interest at heart ahead of their pocket book.

Communication is key and I hope I have answered you concerns.

I have had way to many bad experiances at the dentist,to the point I became terrified to go at all. I finally found my angle dentist in Rockland N.Y. . He did so much work on me that I never thought I could get through. He is the most wonderful dentist in the world. His entire office staff was amazing. I will never go to another dentist as long as I live. I love my dentist. I never in my life did I think those words would come out of my mouth.

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