It is easy to be influenced by “influencers” but that should never be the reason why you choose something without exploring all avenues.
Understanding what you want to achieve when it comes to improving your smile is something that requires careful attention, education, and consideration. It is not something you order off a shelf or online. In other words, don’t rush in as these decisions can have lasting impacts. An ethical dental professional has a responsibility to put your interests ahead of their own.
If you walk into a practice and request a treatment because you saw it online, there is an obligation to ensure you understand the risks, rewards and long-term consequences and are shown what else is possible.
It is essential that you don’t just get one option because that is all that particular dentist offers. You can always seek a second opinion, and you can always ask your dentist to refer you to a specialist.
The factors that need to be considered are:
- Final aesthetic result
- Longevity and stability of the result
- Time available to reach the end goal
- Unnecessary destruction of good teeth ( think Katie Price teeth video here)
- Risk of complications
- Ongoing maintenance efforts and costs
- Prioritising aesthetics over other oral health issues
Is it reversible?
Will you regret it later?
Can you move on to another treatment later?
What treatment you choose will depend on how you value and prioritise each of the above factors. The careful explanation and education by the dentist are essential to ensure you understand your choices. A dentist may even refuse to perform a requested treatment if they feel it is not in your best interests, or they do not have the training, skills, or resources to perform it.
If you consider the commonly used treatments for aesthetic dentistry outlined at the beginning of the article, you can then begin to understand the complexity of how each of these relates to the factors listed above.
So let’s get some basics explained.
Essential Oral Health
Aesthetic dental treatment can only be done when the teeth and gums are healthy and free of disease. Any of these problems need to be rectified first. If your teeth are worn or discoloured or decayed, then the causes of these problems must be addressed, and preventive strategies must be implemented to increase the chance of your aesthetic dental work lasting. If you can grind and break your natural teeth, you can break a veneer. If you have ongoing tooth decay, you can get decay under your crowns. Nothing lasts forever, but things last longer when you care for them, and they are in a stable environment.
If all you want to do is change the colour of your teeth, then professionally prescribed whitening is the least expensive, safest and least invasive method available.
This depends if you have existing fillings or other dental work, but it is the logical starting point for a mild to moderate improvement in brightness and colour. No whitening procedure is permanent, so after your initial whitening treatment, you will likely need to top up later.
At CP Dental we have elected to just provide custom-fitted take-home whitening kits that allow you to safely whiten with minimal sensitivity. This is based on decades of experience and understanding of how to provide the best value. You can buy refills of whitening gel to help you maintain your colour into the future.
What if you want more profound changes?
All Composite bonding, Veneers or crowns are customisable in terms of colour, shape, size and character. From Gold Coast bleach white fence pickets, highly detailed and textured natural teeth with translucent edges, to matching a single front tooth to its surrounding teeth on a 75-year-old, the choice is endless. It is just important to communicate what look is desired and to see examples. Your dentist may draw the line at Gold and diamonds…but hey, you do you.
If your teeth are beyond mildly crooked, twisted, rotated, or crowded then usually it is best to have them moved with orthodontics first ( clear aligners – eg Invisalign/ SmileStyler or traditional braces) Why? The straighter your teeth are, the less they will need to be cut back or the less thickness of the material will be required to mask their imperfections. In many cases, an ideal outcome is not possible. Of course, there will be borderline situations, so it is important to discuss how this might apply to your circumstances and what compromises you may be happy to accept.
If your teeth have very few existing fillings or are not badly worn and are in a good location, then Composite Bonding ( white fillings) or porcelain veneers are the preferred choices if you want to make enhancements
Composite Bonding – White Fillings
Composite resin is significantly less expensive, quicker to have done, and can be easily repaired if it breaks. It may chip and wear more easily, stain more readily and can look a little tired after a short period of time at which point, they may need polishing, repairing or replacing. They are also the simplest to repair and refine. We typically see composite lasting 3-7 years.* There is also a hybrid option that is halfway between composite and porcelain.
Porcelain veneers are more expensive than composite but are longer lasting as they are made from a harder material. We typically see 7-15 years* from porcelain veneers. They require some minor trimming of the underlying tooth but in some cases can be done with no cutting of the natural tooth at all. ( non-prep veneers) Porcelain holds its colour and shine much better than composite, and are generally what people imagine when they consider a smile makeover
Crowns are only required in a cosmetic smile makeover if the teeth are already moderately to heavily filled or are badly worn. Each tooth can be assessed individually to determine if a crown or a veneer is recommended as both options can give great aesthetic results. A crown is a complete coverage of a tooth on the front, the sides and the back and is usually made from porcelain with a life expectancy of 7-20 years* The tooth and or the existing fillings are trimmed back further, and this is not desirable if the tooth is in good condition. Put simply, we do not like to grind back perfectly good teeth to place crowns if we can avoid it.
You can start to see how important it is to get the right information before deciding which aesthetic dental options you choose. Don’t rush the decision and be mindful of choosing a procedure to get your result because that is the only option a particular dentist offers. White fillings are theoretically reversible and minimally invasive veneers do not damage the underlying tooth. But they are essentially glued on permanently and need to be cut off later if you change your mind.
*Longevity of procedures is an estimate, and a broad range is possible. There are many factors that may reduce or extend this range.