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Your Guide to a Dazzling Smile

Local cosmetic dentists share the latest smile-enhancing treatments and trends.

Your Guide to a  Dazzling Smile

(page 1 of 2)

We need our teeth to function in order to properly chew food, but there’s also a psychological need for our teeth to look good. When we feel good about our teeth, we smile more. When we smile more, we feel better about ourselves.

And that’s where cosmetic dentistry comes in. 

Unlike traditional dentistry that focuses solely on oral hygiene and preventing, diagnosing, and treating oral disease, a cosmetic dentist is trained to improve the appearance of a person’s smile—providing elective treatments like bleaching, bonding, reshaping, recontouring, and applying crowns and veneers (many cosmetic dentists also offer traditional dentistry services).

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.”

The most rewarding aspect of the job, for many cosmetic dentists, is seeing their patients’ self-esteem skyrocket.

When looking for a cosmetic dentist, it pays to do your homework. According to award-winning Minneapolis-based cosmetic dentist Dr. Nancy Norling, you should ask for meaningful credentials, inquire about expertise and training (not all cosmetic dentists know and perform all cosmetic procedures), make sure the dentist is knowledgeable about your teeth’s form and function, and seek out artistic excellence. Cosmetic dentists take many factors into consideration when helping patients find their perfect smiles — factors such as facial shape, image aspirations, and age. It really is an art as well as a science.

“Spend time looking at photos of the cosmetic work he or she has done,” Dr. Norling says. Before-and-after images in portfolios and galleries should highlight the dentist’s best work.

According to Dr. Drew Spencer of Edina 5-0 Dental, located in the heart of Edina’s 50th and France shopping area, ask for a consultation. Ask questions. Does the dentist listen to your concerns? Does he or she take the time to carefully explain all available options? Do they provide references?

And don’t forget that age-old saying, “You get what you pay for.” When it comes to cosmetic dentistry, you’re paying for not only the dentist’s training, specialized skills, innate talent, and experience, but also the quality of the dental lab used to define your smile.

A cheap alternative could wind up being more costly in the long run, especially if you have to deal with the nightmare of needing work repaired or—even worse—completely re-done down the road.


For over 100 years, dentists have been whitening teeth in an effort to give their patients pearly whites. Modern day bleaching, however, didn’t really begin until the 20th-century (1989 to be exact). Since then, patients have requested tooth whitening procedures more often than any other cosmetic procedure. The reasons vary—genetics, age, discoloration caused by nicotine, certain medications, acidic foods, or drinks like tea, coffee, soda, and red wine.

“So many people are interested in getting their teeth whitened today. You see it almost everywhere you look,” says Dr. Ned Windmiller of Windmiller Distinctive Dentistry in Stillwater. “The dental industry has actually had to change their standards of what is white. The grading has been changed because what was white in the past doesn’t pass for white today.”

Professional in-office whitening procedures such as BriteSmile, Zoom!,  and laser bleaching can whiten teeth dramatically in as little as an hour. Other whitening options include at-home treatments such as custom-fitted bleaching kits, foam trays, whitening strips, and whitening toothpaste. However, only a trained specialist can diagnose the type of stain and the whitening system that will work most effectively.

“I don’t recommend whitening toothpastes—they’re abrasive and rarely make much of a difference in the color of teeth because the whitening agent isn’t in contact with the teeth for long enough to take action,” says Dr. Anthony Boe of Boe Family Dentistry in Long Lake. “In our office, we offer both in-office whitening and take-home custom tray systems. Both are good options.”

In-office whitening yields instant gratification, but the “gold standard” of whitening, according to Dr. Boe, is the custom trays.

Either way, tooth whitening is safe, effective, affordable, and has very little side effects (although some people complain of tooth sensitivity during the early stages of treatment). Results of in-office tooth whitening can last anywhere from 18 months to three years.


For those who might not be a candidate for bleaching, and for patients wanting a more comprehensive change to their overall smile, porcelain veneers, restorations, bonding and contouring can be the answer.

The results can be life-changing—building self confidence through a more vibrant, attractive appearance.

Tooth bonding is a quick, painless procedure involving a thin resin applied over stained, chipped, cracked or misaligned teeth. Bonding can change tooth color, shape and size, and is excellent for small chips and gaps on one or two teeth.

When multiple teeth are involved, porcelain veneers are the way to go. Veneers are ultra-thin long-lasting custom-designed laminates affixed directly to the teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth, can make dark teeth seem bright white, and are intended to last for many years.

Porcelain veneers can close spaces in teeth, change the shape and size of teeth, and replace various shades of resin bonding for a fuller, more radiant smile.

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