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Cosmetic Dentistry

What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?

While traditional dentistry addresses the health of your teeth and gums, cosmetic dentistry focuses on the appearance of your teeth, mouth, and smile.

"Recent advances in cosmetic dentistry allow dentists to offer everything from improved teeth whitening to translucent tooth coverings to complete smile makeovers," says Dr. Harms. Cosmetic dentistry has been around for decades, but the materials used today are more durable and natural looking than those used in the past.

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), two-thirds of patients seeking cosmetic dentistry are female, and the average amount spent on cosmetic procedures by these patients in 2007 was a little less than $4,000. However, some cosmetic dentistry procedures can cost as little as $300. Because cosmetic dentistry is considered elective rather than "necessary," it's not usually covered by insurance.

Cosmetic Dentistry Options

There are a variety of cosmetic dentistry procedures available, including:

  • Teeth whitening. This procedure brightens teeth that are discolored or stained. Teeth whitening, or bleaching, can be done in a dentist's office or at home with a system dispensed by the dentist. Over-the-counter teeth-whitening products are also available.
  • Bonding. This can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped, broken, cracked, stained, or have spaces in between them, by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface.
  • Veneers. These are thin, custom-made porcelain shells that cover the front of the teeth to disguise discoloration or imperfections.
  • Tooth reshaping. This procedure involves changing the teeth to improve their appearance by modifying or removing enamel. Tooth reshaping (also known as dental contouring) is often combined with bonding.
  • Crown lengthening . This can fix a "gummy" smile (where more gums than teeth are visible) or an uneven gum line by removing excess gum tissue to expose more of the tooth's crown and give the appearance of longer teeth. This involves minor oral surgery.
  • Smile makeovers. These procedures involve a comprehensive assessment of the overall appearance of the teeth and smile. Typically, several cosmetic dentistry procedures are required to overhaul the look of a patient's smile. Think of it as a facelift for the mouth.

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