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The Not So Extreme Make-Over

If you had not noticed reality TV has swept the nation. You can live vicariously through others who chase down criminals. You can watch as two people fall in love. You can see Ivy League College students fight over the perfect job, a crew of contractors builds the perfect house, or a team of specialists builds the perfect body. Yes, the extreme makeover has been popularized by today’s reality TV craze.

Most of the extreme makeovers are financially out of reach for most people. How likely are you to tear down your house to build another one? Can you really get a face-lift, breast implants, a butt lift, lipo-suction and still afford to get your eyes done? Although many procedures performed by the extreme makeover teams are costly and have limited access, a trip to your local dentist is not.

Your smile is very important to your overall perception and presentation. Many times your smile is the first thing that people see. It helps form first impressions, both good and bad. Your smile also affects the way you carry yourself. If you are sure of your smile it gives you an air of confidence. You smile more, laugh more, and you are more at ease, more yourself. Your smile is very important to how you look and feel. Relative to the rest of your body, your smile is often very easy to improve. Along with regular care that you receive at dental visits, like cleaning and polishing teeth, you can also have many cosmetic procedures done. By far the most popular aesthetic procedure performed at the dentist is bleaching. The foods that we consume like coffee, life style choices we make like smoking and age all tend to darken and stain ones teeth. Bleaching is the safest and most affective way to reverse these staining processes.

Bleaching has come along way in the last five years. There must be a hundred products to bleach teeth available both over the counter and at your dentist. The most effective ways to bleach your teeth still remain in your dentist hands, as in-office bleaching and the take home bleaching trays. In-office bleaching is done in the office under the supervision of your dentist. The gums are isolated from the teeth and a powerful bleaching agent is applied to the teeth. After a half-hour or so the bleaching agent is removed and lighter teeth are revealed. Bleaching trays require custom trays that you wear for 1 to 2 hours a day loaded with a bleaching agent. Each technique has its pluses and minuses that may appeal to you personally. The real improvement bleaching has incurred is in the number and variety of bleaching agents available. I can choose the concentration, flavoring, and de-sensitizing agents of the bleach specifically for each patient. I have found very few patients whose teeth I could not improve by bleaching, and with the new de-sensitizing agents post-operative sensitivity from bleaching is also greatly reduced.

Some patients need more than tooth whitening to get their smile where they want it. For these patients perhaps bonding, porcelain veneers or crowns are needed to restore the shape, size or color of the teeth. These procedures, too, have been around for decades, but have made significant improvements in the materials used. Fifty years ago, a gold restoration was considered the best money could buy. Gold is still a quality, durable material that has its place in dentistry, but its aesthetics have always been a personal choice.

In the last 20 years porcelain restorations have been considered the most aesthetic way to restore a tooth. The first crowns done with porcelain were fused to a metal coping, thus gaining the strength of gold but the aesthetics of porcelain. Now the trend is for all-ceramic restorations. These all-ceramic restorations allow light to be transmitted through the restoration, allowing life-like detail and aesthetes. All-ceramic restorations, even when carefully done, tend to not last as long as a full gold restoration. So there is a trade off for looking good vs. being durable. However, due to significant improvements in the ceramics used to fabricate all-ceramic restorations, the gap is closing. Today I can use a myriad of different all-ceramic restorations to restore a case. These new materials are revolutionizing the dental makeover.

Implant dentistry is also playing a part in the extreme dental makeover. The ability to replace missing teeth is a big part of restoring someone’s smile. Dental implants allow you to replace a tooth without attaching to an adjacent tooth. This is a real advantage when the adjacent teeth do not need restoration themselves. A dental implant is a titanium fixture that is surgically placed into the bone onto which a crown or bridge can be attached. Some of the drawbacks for dental implants include the cost and healing time required. Cost for dental implants has come down in recent years due to wide spread availability and an increase in the number of surgeons that place them. In many cases using dental lasers for the surgical placement of dental implants is reducing the healing time. This allows for immediately loaded dental implants in some cases, which has the obvious benefit that as soon as they are placed the tooth can be restored.

Not to be forgotten when it comes to replacing missing teeth are complete and partial dentures. Even for the patient that is missing most, if not all, their teeth, aesthetic dentistry is lost. When we make a complete or partial denture in our office, we aim to make it look good. We choose tooth size, shape and color to maximize the aesthetics for the patent. Even denture teeth are made more aesthetically today. They are made of new acrylics that are layered to make the teeth look more natural. This is important, because often time’s dentures are the least expensive way to completely rehab a patient’s mouth and smile.

Many times when discussions of aesthetic dentistry come up, people focus solely on how to restore the shape and color of the teeth with restorations. People often forget that just moving the existing teeth into the right places maybe all that an aesthetic case needs. Orthodontists are dental specialists that use braces and other appliances to move the teeth. Common perception is that braces are for kids, but this is definitely not so. You are never too old for braces. Some of my most satisfied orthodontic patients were 60 years old faced with having to get major restorative work. We send them to the orthodontist and after treatment we had little or no major restorative work to do. Orthodontic solutions to aesthetic problems have a significant advantage in many cases. Since the teeth are left in their natural state, there are no restorations to wear out of have to be replaced 20 years down the road.

Often times an aesthetic case involves a combination of all the above procedures and techniques. I usually beach before I do a veneer case. Frequently, I do minor orthodontics for bridges and partials. I have also found that patients benefit greatly from combining implants and dentures. Having a couple of implants to snap a denture onto greatly enhances the retention of the denture and improves the patient’s satisfaction.

Next time you go to the dentist ask how your smile can be aesthetically enhanced. Do not be surprised at what he or she might say, for there are many options in aesthetic dentistry that make an extreme dental makeover possible. If you’d like, visit our office, Hitchcock Dental, at 8022 Hwy 6 in Hitchcock, Texas or call (409) 986-6018.

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