A cosmetic dentist is a fully trained dental professional who has specialized in performing dental procedures that are aimed more at enhancing the appearance of the teeth rather than restoring lost functionality. Cosmetic dentistry is not an officially recognized branch of dental study. Enough dentists self-identify as specializing in cosmetic dentistry, however, to warrant the founding of professional associations that help to regulate the field. There are many different procedures that a cosmetic dentist can perform to change the appearance of the teeth and gums.
1. Tooth Whitening
Tooth whitening is one of the most requested procedures in cosmetic dentistry. Whitening is intended to increase the brightness of the teeth while also removing stains. Whitening is popular because it is a relatively fast procedure and because it is non-invasive. Most techniques involve applying some gel to the teeth that are usually composed partly of hydrogen peroxide. This gel can then be allowed to work overtime or can be exposed to an ultraviolet light. This removes stains from the teeth and leaves the enamel a few shades whiter.
2. Dental Veneers
A cosmetic dentist might suggest dental veneers in cases where a tooth is severely discolored or slightly crooked. A veneer is a thin piece of porcelain or composite resin that is attached to the front of a tooth with dental cement. The veneers are custom made to fit each tooth and can be tinted to match the exact color of neighboring teeth. The procedure does involve removing a portion of the natural teeth to make room for the veneers. Veneers are resistant to staining but can still discolor over the years if good oral hygiene is not practiced.
3. Restoration Options
Some parts of cosmetic dentistry are reconstructive. There are several options for the restoration of a damaged tooth. Cracks and gaps between the teeth can be repaired through bonding. Bonding involves using a composite material to patch irregularities in the teeth. This material cures over time and can become as hard as the surrounding tooth.
If a tooth has been chipped or is missing a significant area above the gum line, then a dentist might apply an inlay or onlay to the tooth. These are sculpted fillings that rebuild the missing part of the tooth so that it looks healthy and so that the tooth can be used again. A very severely damaged tooth could also require a crown. A tooth that needs a crown is ground down until only the center remains. An artificial tooth is created and then attached to the remaining center of the natural tooth. This creates the appearance of a normal healthy tooth in the mouth.
A cosmetic dentist can work with the gums as well when attempting to improve the appearance of a smile. A gummy smile occurs when the gums are overly visible and stretch down onto the tooth. This can be remedied by cutting away the excess gum tissue and exposing more of the teeth. Alternately, a dentist can add more gum to a smile by grafting tissue to the top of the teeth. These types of procedures are commonly part of a smile makeover and can be combined with several other cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of a smile.