Cosmetic dental procedures aren’t just about vanity; they can also have a practical purpose. Chewing and speaking, for example, can be improved. For some, the procedure would seem like a pointless luxury, but when it comes to cosmetic dental procedures, however, it isn’t just about looks.

A person’s health is more than just the absence of sickness. It’s the whole package: the mental and social well-being of a person. Seen from that perspective, a little girl who always sits at the back of the classroom because she’s hiding her smile isn’t “healthy.” A person of any age should be able to smile without feeling embarrassed, and that’s one of the things that cosmetic dentistry can give a person: confidence.

So, what’s a cosmetic dental procedure?

Cosmetic dental procedure definition

Cosmetic dental procedure definition

Cosmetic dentistry refers to different procedures aimed at improving your dental aesthetics, including your gums and your bite. A few of the procedures, like getting a crown or a bridge, also have restorative benefits.

You might consider getting caps or veneers, teeth whitening, teeth straightening, and other procedures that improve how your teeth and mouth look. Cosmetic dental surgery is more intensive, typically involving a local anesthetic. This type of dental surgery means a prolonged recovery time for the patient.

Other procedures performed by a cosmetic dentist include gum lifts, dental implants, bridging, and other techniques that involve enhancing a person’s gums and teeth.

Here are short explanations of some of the most common cosmetic dental procedures:

Teeth whitening

One of the most basic and least expensive cosmetic dental procedures. As teeth become discolored over time, people opt to make their teeth whiter by undergoing this procedure. Your teeth are usually thoroughly cleaned first—plaque and tartar are removed—before the dentist starts the procedure. After the cleaning, the dentist would then apply bleach to the teeth’s surface for a whiter and brighter smile.

There are a few over-the-counter solutions, like strips, rinses, and even toothpaste, but they aren’t nearly as effective as work done by a professional.

Dental veneers

Veneers used for teeth refer to the thin, white shells that are made specifically for each patient. Dental veneers are made from ceramic, resin, or porcelain. Before a veneer is attached, some of the enamel on the surface of the tooth is removed. This is done so that the veneer will look natural on the tooth. Dental veneers are used to fix dental issues such as damaged enamel, gapped teeth (diastema), and crooked or misaligned teeth.

Dental implants

Usually made of titanium, a dental implant is used as a replacement for a lost tooth. This procedure requires surgery, as the implant is inserted into the lost tooth’s bone socket. The tissue, as well as the bone around the implant, would, over time, fuse with the implant. The dental implant would blend with the rest of the teeth, and the replacement tooth in the mouth is secured.

Dental crowns

A dental crown or cap fits over and replaces a weakened or decayed tooth. It can prevent the damaged tooth from breaking and can restore the tooth’s appearance, making it more durable. Crowns can also be used to cover discolored or malformed teeth. Dental crowns are typically made from ceramic, resin, metal, or a combination of metal and porcelain.

Dental bonding

This is a procedure that repairs cracks or small chips on the tooth, tooth decay, and malformed tooth. A moldable resin is applied to the damaged tooth, where ultraviolet light is used, hardening the resin. It is then shaped and polished to blend with the tooth’s surface.

Dental bonding can also be used to repair teeth gaps and as an inexpensive alternative to crowns or fillings.

Inlays and onlays

If a tooth is decayed or too damaged to support a filling, inlays and onlays are used instead. A material that’s made to bond with the tooth’s center is called an inlay; an onlay, on the other hand, is the filling that covers areas of the tooth. Some onlay procedures call for the entire tooth to be covered. This procedure can restore and strengthen a decayed tooth and can be an alternative to dental crowns.

Now that you’ve read about a few of the most common cosmetic dental procedures, there are a few things you should consider first before committing. Read on:

Things to consider before a cosmetic dental procedure

Things to consider before a cosmetic dental procedure (1)

Generally, people view cosmetic dental procedures as an investment. Getting any of the procedures can cost you a pretty penny, so you’d want to make sure that you’re in good hands. Besides, a little research couldn’t hurt. It’s better to be prepared than to jump in with both feet without knowing what to expect.

The clinic’s location

Some of these cosmetic dental procedures, such as implants, will likely require multiple visits to the dental clinic, so it’s best to consider the clinic’s location when making your choice. You’d likely have several consultations first before the procedure, then follow-up visits after the procedure itself. Having the clinic near you would simplify things.

Your comfort will also play a large part in your choice of location, considering that you’d very likely spend a good amount of time at the dentist’s chair. So, make sure the clinic makes you feel relaxed and that you’re comfortable with the dentist.

The dentist’s credentials

You should make sure that your dentist has the necessary credentials and licenses to practice and is a bona fide member of the American Dental Association (ADA). If you’re going in for a certain procedure, make sure your dentist is a specialist in the relevant field.

specialist is only needed for complex issues, like dealing with infections, grating, or soft tissue surgical procedures. For simple procedures, your regular dentist is sufficient. Cosmetic dentistry isn’t recognized as a specialty by the ADA, but dentists who regularly perform cosmetic dentistry have usually received post-graduate training.

In any case, it’s all right to ask your dentist where they received supplemental training in aesthetic dental procedures. Moreover, if you need a specialist, your general dentist would gladly refer you to one to ensure that you’ll get the best care.

The laboratory technician

Your dentist will decide on which treatment plan is the best approach but keep in mind that the laboratory technician will be the one responsible for the crowns or porcelain veneers that will be prominently featured in your new smile. Dentists take pride in their lab technicians’ work, and rightfully so. They’re an important asset to their practice. So, include the lab technician in your research. Find out the materials they use, and review the diagnostic wax-up of your smile.

Take advantage of the opportunity to review the dentist’s smile design. Remember, your smile design isn’t just about your teeth. Your facial structure and symmetry, mouth shape, gum line, and lips should also be included in the smile design.

The expectation

Beware of dentists who oversell. What you need is a reasonable expectation regarding the procedure. A trustworthy dentist is someone who’ll inform you about what they can and can’t do about your teeth and your smile. You should also know how long the procedure will be, the recovery period, what’s expected of you, and what to do should complications arise.

The technology a dentist uses

The technology a dentist uses

Modern dentists have all sorts of modern equipment in their arsenal, which means they’ve kept up with the latest techniques. One of these pieces of equipment is the dental laser, a tool that many experienced dentists use that greatly helps them in the practice of cosmetic dentistry. A dentist who has a piece of equipment like this should rank high when you’re looking for a professional.

Just keep in mind that fancy equipment isn’t a guarantee of your dentist’s expertise.

The dentist’s portfolio

Dentists usually have a dental portfolio. Some are even available online. Look for cases that are similar to yours and examine how they turned out. How they look should help you decide which dentist you’ll go with. But you have to make sure they’re actual photos of cases that the dentist worked on and not stock photos.

The materials that will be used

As a patient, you can pick which materials you prefer to have used in your procedure. There are several products you can choose from, so you can discuss with your dentist which is best for you. Also, the materials vary in price. For instance, white porcelain filling on a back molar would probably be overkill, as the tooth is well inside your mouth and isn’t visible. The much cheaper amalgam filling will probably suffice.

Anyhow, knowing which material the dentist will be using is essential, as care can differ from one material to another. The wear and tear rate for each material will also be different, so be sure your dentist advises you about proper care.

And don’t forget to find out from your dental health provider if cosmetic dentistry is covered. One type of procedure using a different material can be an inexpensive option, so check if they could recommend options that could save you money.

Final thoughts

Cosmetic dentistry isn’t always about vanity. Feeling good about yourself and being confident are crucial for the overall well-being of a person.

There are many cosmetic dental procedures, and some may require surgery, and if that’s what you require, your dentist could refer you to a specialist. Before undergoing a procedure, there are certain things you should consider first before deciding which dentist you’d entrust your smile. The things listed here that you should check out first could help you in choosing a practice that would be perfect for your needs.