What’s the difference between a regular dentist and an aesthetic dentist? Can both treat a patient for the same things? We take a look at the specialised role aesthetic dentist play in helping people to not only look better, but feel better as well. What does an aesthetic dentist do? While traditional dentistry focuses on oral hygiene and preventing, diagnosing and treating oral disease, aesthetic or cosmetic dentistry focuses on improving the appearance of a person’s teeth, mouth and smile. General or restorative and/or family dental practices address dental problems that require necessary treatment, whereas cosmetic dentistry provides elective – or desired – treatments or services. Aesthetic dentistry is gaining prominence because it helps people to feel better about themselves by offering an instant boost to self-esteem and self-confidence via elective procedures which can transform a person’s smile, and thereby change the entire way they present themselves. What procedures fall under the expertise of an aesthetic dentist? Any elective procedure done with the goal of beautifying teeth, and ultimately, a person’s definition of “the perfect” smile, is the domain of an aesthetic dentist. Some of the most popular procedures offered by aesthetic dentists are porcelain and composite veneers which are hard, thin shells of tooth-coloured material that can mask a variety of dental imperfections. Porcelain crowns are used to cover damaged teeth, while porcelain bridgework may replace a missing tooth. This would be attached to the natural teeth on either side of a missing tooth. Dental implants are used to replace the root portion of a missing tooth. It is fitted with a crown to create a natural-looking replacement for the entire tooth. Aesthetic dentists also do inlays and onlays which utilise fillings made from porcelain or composite materials for a closer match to the colour of a tooth. Inlays are applied to the inside of the tooth, while onlays are placed on the biting surface of a tooth. Aesthetic dentists also offer tooth-coloured fillings. Some patients seek out aesthetic dentists for clear orthodontic aligners, to straighten teeth. Finally, aesthetic dentists are trained to utilise drills or lasers which are used in the smoothing out or reshaping of gums.
Why do people seek out aesthetic dentists? One of the easiest but most visually striking things a person can do to improve their appearance is to enhance their smile. Aesthetic dentists are professionals in smile design which is the process of improving the appearance of a person’s smile through one or more cosmetic dentistry procedures. For a person who has been embarrassed to express themselves fully because of a crooked smile and/or bad teeth, the transformation of their smile can be a life-changing, confidence-boosting move that adds quality to their life.
What does the smile design process entail? The smile design process is a personalised, technical series of procedures which begin at the macro level when an aesthetic dentist first examines a patient’s face. Good smile design must take into consideration facial appearance, skin, eyes, as well as the colour, width, length and shape of teeth, gum tissue and lips to develop an ideal smile. Some aspects of a patient’s smile that an aesthetic dentist will review include tooth-coloured composite restorations, and how whitening can improve the colour of stained or dulled teeth. A well-shaped smile with bright, white teeth lends to a youthful appearance. The shade an aesthetic dentist selects for teeth whitening and veneers is carefully evaluated with special consideration given to the tone and colour of a patient’s face, eye and original teeth. Teeth that are crooked, overlapping or have gaps between them can be straightened and aligned when necessary through orthodontics or improved with veneers. Because missing teeth can negatively affect the appearance of a smile, tooth replacement is also an area catered for in aesthetic dentistry. Missing teeth can be replaced by dental implants, bridges or partial dentures. Uneven, chipped and cracked teeth can be cosmetically bonded for an improved appearance, and a “gummy” smile can be re-contoured to help improve the overall look of the smile. In addition to the colour, alignment and balance of the teeth in the aesthetic zone of a patient’s smile (the section of upper and lower teeth that show when a person smiles), there are several attributes of a patient’s teeth and smile that an aesthetic dentist will evaluate when planning a smile makeover. These include the length of the teeth (full length teeth make people look younger rather than shortened teeth), the smile line (an imaginary line that follows the edges of your upper teeth from side to side, which ideally should be the same as the curve of your lower lip when someone smiles), and tooth proportions. What happens after the initial consultation process? After discussing the possible treatments and their outcomes an aesthetic dentist will prepare two or three sets of images which show how a patient would look after treatment. Once the patient selects the one they find most appealing, the aesthetic dentist will proceed to make a mock-up of that set of teeth and place them in the patient’s mouth, over their existing teeth. These mock-ups are like temporary veneers, and patients get to “live” with them for a week to see if they like the feel and look. When a patient feels they are satisfied with the mock-up, the real process on their teeth is begun. Can positive changes to a smile be made without such extensive work? Many people find a new sense of confidence simply by having stains removed from their teeth via simple scaling, polishing and whitening procedure which can be done easily. A good aesthetic dentist will work hand-in-hand with a patient to decide the best treatment options. This may be as simple as changing old stained/discoloured fillings to new ones which match a patient’s teeth, so that a smile appears more natural. Are more Malaysians opting to get aesthetic dentistry treatment? The IMU Healthcare Oral Health Centre is certainly seeing more patients who are requesting aesthetic work, which is indicative of the fact that more people are starting to realise the benefits of aesthetic dentistry. Aesthetic dental treatments can whiten a smile, fill spaces and gaps between teeth, repair cracks and reshape teeth. New techniques and technologies in aesthetic dentistry have made it more affordable for patients to obtain the smile they have always wanted. A single smile is so powerful that it can often transform a person with low self-esteem, jolting them from negativity to positivity. This change in state-of-mind often reflects in a positive way on a person, his or her health, and their interpersonal relationships. What are the aesthetic services offered at the IMU Oral Healthcare Centre? A full range of aesthetic dental treatments are carried out at IMU Healthcare Oral Health Centre. Among them are teeth whitening, restoration, veneers, implants, crowns and bridges.
Finally, what’s the big deal about the ‘perfect smile’? Smiling is a huge part of how we as humans communicate with one another. Laughing at a joke and smiling to show happiness are essential parts of life, and self-confidence should never hold someone back from pulling a grin. Aesthetic dentists can help to create a unique smile that is pleasing to the patient. This can help to boost a patient’s self-esteem, hence affecting how others perceive the patient. A healthy-looking smile and good oral hygiene should always go hand in hand, and it is through the help of the aesthetic dentist that these patients are able reach their best selves.
This article is brought to you by IMU Healthcare.