By DR. BRIAN RASK
In a recent survey conducted by USA Today, when people were asked what is the first thing they notice when they meet someone, the top answer was a person’s smile. Not only does the shade or whiteness of your teeth contribute to the attractiveness of your smile, but so does their length, shape, size, straightness, and position in between the lips when they are relaxed and at full smile. Most importantly, a person should be happy with the appearance of their teeth and confident when they smile.
As our bodies age, so do our teeth, leading problems with the appearance of our smiles. Teeth may become worn from clenching and grinding, or bad habits like chewing ice, biting your nails, or cutting fishing line. Teeth can become stained from coffee, tea, red wine and tobacco. Erosion can occur from acidic drinks, acid reflux, aggressive brushing, abrasive toothpastes or eating disorders. Restorations such as fillings, crowns, bridges and dentures may become unaesthetic over time. Teeth can shift later in life and become crowded, along with gravity taking effect, which leads to less display of the upper teeth and more display of the lower teeth.
Everyone has their own ideas of how their smile should look and it is very important that the dentist listens to these concerns. There are also many design parameters of the teeth, lips and face that a well-trained cosmetic dentist takes into consideration when planning out how a patient’s smile should look and function.
If you want excellent results, your dentist must collect the proper information to plan your smile. This includes a comprehensive exam of all hard and soft tissues of the mouth, a joint, muscle and bite evaluation, necessary x-rays, a complete series of digital photographs, and mounted diagnostic study models. It is always important to make sure your desires are communicated to the dentist in order to meet your expectations.
Now, your dentist can sit down with all of your records and plan how your teeth should look within your lips and compliment your face. A skilled dentist may design your smile on digital photos or have the dental lab technician perform a wax up of what the final teeth should look like. An optimum treatment plan can be developed, along with alternatives, and this will be presented to the patient. You can see what your smile should look like with a mock-up or on the study models before work is even started!
Your dentist may involve specialists such as an oral surgeon, periodontist, endodontist, or orthodontist to help give you the best results. Treatment may range from simple whitening and composite bonding to a full mouth reconstruction to restore a severely broken down dentition. With the proper planning, you can turn back the clock on your smile and make yourself look years younger, even reducing wrinkles around your lips, nose and chin! Teeth can be made to look very natural or you can have the “Hollywood white,” all depending on your preferences. Also, treatment can be staged over time to accommodate your budget.