One of the first things people take note of when meeting someone new is their smile. We can’t help it – we’re drawn to the way a healthy smile looks. A mouth full of pearly whites boosts attractiveness, which makes sense. In fact, according to a study by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, people associate a healthy smile with intelligence.
Today’s dentists have plenty of tools to help their patients achieve better looking teeth. From teeth whitening to crowns and implants, here are some of the procedures that a dentist can use to improve the appearance and health of your teeth:
Teeth Whitening: A Pain-Free Way to Brighten Teeth
Teeth whitening is one of the most popular Houston dental services. Designed to remove stains and restore a bright white look, teeth whitening can often be handled in a single appointment.
During treatment, the Houston dentist applies a bleaching solution that is more powerful than can be found at a drug store. Peroxide is still the active ingredient, so it’s safe as long as the dentist takes a couple of precautions. For example, dentists use a protective gel to shield the patient’s gums from the agent.
In all, though, teeth whitening is extremely safe, very convenient and highly effective. It typically takes an hour or less for the bleaching solution to do its work, and whitening appointments can be scheduled until the patient is satisfied with their smile’s appearance.
Dental Bonding: Repair Minor Chips and Cracks with Natural Looking Resin
For chips, cracks or discoloration, dental bonding offers a quick repair option that lasts for years. The result is a natural, flawless-looking tooth that also functions better.
How does it work? The goal is to replace missing tooth material using a color-matched resin. The dentist will choose the right resin color first, then prepare the existing tooth surface for treatment by roughening it up. An etching liquid is then applied to the tooth, which roughens it up a bit more. Adding texture to the tooth surface ensures adhesion with the resin.
Following preparation, the dentist places the resin and shapes it so that it looks like natural tooth structure. A curing light is then switched on and hardens the resin in place. All that’s left is some spot shaping and polishing, and the patient’s tooth is like new.
Dental veneers: Restore and Protect Your Teeth With Porcelain Coverings
Dental veneers are made from resin composites or porcelain shells and are then bonded to the front of the patient’s teeth. Once placed, they instantly cover any cracks or discoloration. And for patients with gaps between teeth or poorly formed teeth, dental veneers are a highly effective option.
Veneers are a popular cosmetic procedure, not only for their effectiveness. Veneers are also quick and painless to install – the veneers only need to be fabricated then bonded in place. Patients can resume their normal tooth-related activities the same day, including eating normal foods.
Veneers can last up to a decade if properly cared for. Fortunately, care only consists of brushing and flossing, though it’s also recommended that patients avoid biting down into hard or crunchy foods, as this can damage the veneers. Instead, cut or reduce the size of the food before eating.
Inlays and Onlays: Correct Major Tooth Problems With These Larger Fillings
Inlays and onlays are like super-sized fillings, capable of covering larger areas of decay or damage. You can think of them as a middle ground between crowns and fillings. And they serve a double purpose, restoring both form and function.
The only difference between an inlay and onlay is size. An inlay is placed between the cusps (the tooth’s biting edges), while an onlay may cover the area between the cusps and the cusps themselves.
Every onlay and inlay has a unique shape, so they are custom made, typically at the Houston dentist’s office. Fabrication is guided using digital impressions taken from the patient’s mouth. If the dentist doesn’t have a mill onsite, they can send out the inlay/onlay design to a lab for fabrication.
Prior to placement, the patient’s tooth is cleared of decay, cleaned thoroughly and its surface prepared. Next, the dentist will test the fit, make any necessary minor adjustments to the inlay or onlay and bond it to the tooth.
With good oral hygiene, an inlay or onlay will last for years, and decades in some cases.
Dental Crowns: Replace the Above-gum Part of a Damaged Tooth
Dental crowns are a step up from an inlay or onlay and are recommended for severely decayed or damaged teeth. They’re also indicated for worn down, misshapen or badly discolored teeth. Crowns are also needed to anchor a dental bridge in place or to form the top of a dental implant.
In every instance, the crown fits over the tooth like a cap. Most crowns extend down to the tooth’s base, but newer versions may stop short of the gum line. These “3/4” crowns can be placed with less tooth preparation, so more of the natural tooth is preserved.
Crowns may be made from resin, porcelain, or metal. Before moving forward with treatment, the dentist will examine the patient’s teeth and determine the extent of any damage or decay. If there are oral health issues present, they will need to be resolved first.
If the patient is eligible for crowns, dental impressions are taken and sent to a lab for crown fabrication. This process may take a few weeks, and in the interim, the dentist will shape the tooth and fit it with a temporary crown.
When the permanent crown arrives, the dentist will test its fit and shape. If the fit works, then the crown is cemented in place. Most will last for a decade, but only if the supporting tooth and gum structure are taken care of with good oral hygiene.
Dental Implants: The Most Comprehensive and Long-Lasting Tooth Replacement Procedure
Dental implants are a total restoration option, as the crown and root are both replaced during the procedure. The root and abutment (the piece that connects the root and crown) are made from titanium, for optimal biocompatibility.
A thorough examination is required before implants can be considered. Implants are inserted into the jawbone, so adequate bone mass is needed for implant success. This, along with the patient’s overall oral health, is evaluated using X-rays and impressions. A complete medical history will also be needed to check off on implants.
If the dentist and patient decide on implants, the first step is to remove any existing tooth material from the implant site. If the implant will be integrated into the jaw, a bone graft may be needed to build up the implant site. The dentist will use bone from another part of the jaw and give the area some time to heal.
Once healed, the dentist will anchor the root into the jaw and may place a temporary crown while the area heals again. This takes between one and three months.
The implant root is now ready to receive the titanium abutment and permanent crown. This is a minor procedure during which the abutment is anchored first, then the crown.
It’s an involved process, but dental implants can last a lifetime if the procedure is successful. They’re also aesthetically and functionally identical to natural teeth, so they’re the ultimate option in cosmetic dentistry.
Dentistry has evolved greatly in recent years, and now treatments can be targeted for a wide range of cosmetic issues. If you’re unsure which option is best for your teeth, a reputable Houston dentist can help you determine which procedure will produce the best results.