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Amy’s wedding day was fast approaching and she was anxious. Not anxious because of who she was marrying, but anxious because she hadn’t had time to do everything she wanted to in preparation of the “big day.” She had a beautiful gown that fit exactly as it should, she knew how she wanted her hair and makeup, what jewelry she would wear, the clutch she would carry. She didn’t, however, feel like she had a dazzling smile.
A friend of hers recommended a cosmetic dentist for tooth whitening, and she called immediately.
“I’ve always been self conscious of my imperfect teeth, wanting braces for ages,” Amy says. “Financially that wasn’t in the cards, but whitening my teeth ended up being the next best thing. The whiter my teeth were the more comfortable I felt showing off my smile on my wedding day.”
With modern cosmetic dental work, the impossible has become possible. While traditional dentistry focuses on oral hygiene and preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral disease (dental problems that require necessary treatment), a cosmetic dentist focuses on improving the appearance of a person’s teeth, mouth, and smile—providing elective, or desired, treatments or services. The procedures are perfect for people who are too self-conscious to smile because their teeth are crooked, irregular, chipped, broken, or discolored. Cosmetic dentists can reshape your teeth, close spaces, restore worn or short teeth, and even alter the length of your teeth.
“Cosmetic dentistry is a highly sophisticated dental field that concentrates on creating the ideal functionality and customized smile for you,” says cosmetic and sedation dentist Dr. Atif H. Rizvi.
While the common cosmetic procedures of bleaching, bonding, reshaping, recontouring, crowns and veneers have the ability to provide some restorative benefits and improve certain issues with bite or speech, the biggest advantage is a major boost in self-confidence.
“Your mouth is naturally the center point of your face, so your smile often plays a major role in how you are perceived by others—and how you see yourself,” explains Dr. Geetha J. Damodaran of Birch Lake Dental in White Bear Lake. “Nothing lights up a room like a beautiful smile.”
And if you have problems with how your smile looks, you’re probably not described as the one with the “megawatt” smile. You might even find that you’re not laughing or smiling much at all.
“People who are uncomfortable with the appearance of their smile often cover their mouths when they speak and smile with their lips together,” says Dr. Stacy Roszkowski of Lifelong Dental Care in West St. Paul.
After having a cosmetic procedure done, one of Dr. Roszkowski’s patients illustrated this point with a story she shared during a follow-up visit.
“She told me that one of her kids said to her, ‘Mom! You smiled in all of our family Christmas photos this year!’ She hadn’t realized that she wasn’t smiling in the past, but the rest of her family did!”
FINDING A COSMETIC DENTIST
From subtle changes to major repairs, cosmetic dentistry is a special type of dentistry, and a special dentist is required to perform procedures. Choose your dentist carefully. According to dentists.org, “Cosmetic dentistry is just like plastic surgery in the sense that a successful outcome depends heavily on the professional you choose to take care of your procedure.”
Most general dentist and family dentists are not specially trained in the field of cosmetic dentistry, and likewise, not all cosmetic dentists are able to perform every cosmetic dental procedure.
So how do you find a qualified professional? Start by asking for referrals. Look at your friends’ teeth—do you like what you see? Ask around. You’re bound to find someone who knows someone who has had a procedure done.
“I offer to connect patients who are considering cosmetic procedures with patients who have already completed the same procedure to get a “consumer’s” perspective on the entire process,” says Dr. Heidi Brandenburg, whose dental practice is located in Edina. “As informative as I try to be, I have found it is helpful for an individual to speak with someone who has already gone through the experience.”
It’s also helpful to look at before and after photos to get an idea of the dentist’s skill level and experience, and to visualize the possibilities.
“In order to create a beautiful smile, we need to be able to visualize the final result before we begin. Our patients want to know we can deliver what they’re looking for,” explains Minneapolis-based Dr. Nancy Norling. “Dentists should also be able to provide references from patients.”
In addition, check to see if they invest in continuing education and ask for their professional affiliations and credentials.
According to Dr. Ned Windmiller of Windmiller Distinctive Dentistry in Stillwater and Wayzata, “Cosmetic dentistry is not formally recognized as a separate specialty, but there is a small percentage of dentists who have devoted themselves and their practices in developing their skills and knowledge beyond that of most general dentists. This includes advanced training and courses to improve their skills.”
Ask your cosmetic dentist if he or she is an accredited member or fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), which uses an accreditation process involving rigorous testing, demonstrating a dentist’s proficiency in cosmetic dental procedures, and the American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA), the oldest organization for cosmetic dentistry.
A NEW APPROACH TO DENTISTRY
Many cosmetic dentists provide a soothing spa-like ambiance, taking the dental experience to the next level. At Dr. Damodaran’s office, the treatment chairs double as massage chairs. Dr. Rizvi offers conscious sedation to apprehensive patients to alleviate any anxiety. Dr. Windmiller’s office has a “star suite” for longer procedures, complete with headphones for music, TV, or movies, sedation and nitrous oxide, a massage chair, and the option of a relaxing hand massage.
Whether the issue is discolored teeth, crooked teeth, or teeth with gaps and cracks, cosmetic dentistry is within everyone’s reach, says Dr. Windmiller.
“With modern cosmetic work you can look much younger, feel better about yourself, and prevent future tooth wear and problems,” he says.
According to Dr. Norling, the goal is to merge technology, beauty, function, and natural aesthetics to closely mimic nature’s design. “Cosmetic dentistry is an art as well as a science,” she says.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
- Floss your teeth every evening to prevent costly repairs. It only takes a minute to floss! Do it!
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year and keep your appointments (don’t wait until an emergency situation warrants an appointment).
- If you want to keep your teeth looking as bright and white as possible, make sure to rinse or brush right after drinking coffee, tea, dark soda, fruit juice, or red wine, or eating soy sauce or curry. Think of it this way: Anything that can stain a white cotton T-shirt can stain teeth. One of the biggest offenders is nicotine (giving you yet another reason to kick the habit).
- Strawberries, apples, celery, and carrots help to naturally whiten teeth.