Over the years, people have become more and more preoccupied with their appearance. At a professional level, it seems reasonable to want to look your best when interacting with prospective clients as it gives you a nice boost of self-confidence. On a personal note, this boost may also allow you navigate your relationships better. The sheer number of cosmetic procedures available today is mind boggling. On the less extreme end of the spectrum, you have things like laser hair removal and botox which can provide some temporary enhancement in appearance. For every person that seeks these treatments, you have others who opt for liposuction or various form of reconstructive cosmetic surgery. Regardless, there is clear evidence that this industry continues to grow at an alarming rate, consistent with the skyrocketing demand for that “perfect,” Hollywood cultivated look. A feature that people often complain of disliking is their smile. Even subtle imperfections like a slight gap between the two front teeth or a slightly yellowed teeth seem to incite this same distaste. While cosmetic dentistry has a deeply-rooted history, it wasn’t until a few decades ago that the industry really began to take off. Today, cosmetic dentistry patients have a wide array of procedures to choose from such as porcelain veneers and tooth whitening – all in the name of achieving that flawless smile.
Among all the various procedures available, tooth whitening has warranted the most inquiry among patients. Using special bleaching agents, most cosmetic dentists have been able to successfully achieve several shades of whitening. The allure of the procedure has not only been facilitated by its attractive pricing point (which typically starts at a few hundred dollars for a single treatment), but also by its painless execution. During the procedure, the patients gums are carefully treated with a special protective substance to prevent burns from the bleaching agent, which is highly-concentrated to yield the most drastic results. A special tray with the hydrogen or carbamide peroxide agent is then prepared and applied to the teeth. Once fitted, it may be exposed to an LED or halogen light as to hasten the reaction speed. The cosmetic dentist will cycle through two or more trays for optimal whitening effect. The end results can be reasonably expected to last at least a year, that is, with proper maintenance. If food preferences were initially to blame for the discoloration, an uptake in consumption of such foods will illicit a rebound response. Your cosmetic dentist may provide an at-home whitening kit to be used to prevent any rebound in discoloration, or you may be asked to return to the office for a follow up treatment using a more potent bleaching agent.
Despite the fact that tooth whitening is a well rounded treatment, some patients have sought to obtain the same results with dental veneers. Veneers were introduced to the dental industry in the 1980s and it wasn’t until an adequate bonding mechanism was discovered that they went into wide-spread use. Veneers are unique in that they are a type of “umbrella” procedure. They can simultaneously treat a number of deformities, including chips, gaps, yellowing, overcrowding, so and so forth in one swoop. Dental veneers are designed to encase the visible portion of the tooth as to give it a flawless appearance. Fabricated of millimeter-thin porcelain, the veneers are bonded to teeth after they have been filed down to the appropriate size. The tooth enamel that is removed during this step often makes it impossible for patients to restore their teeth to their original state. Another dental restoration will need to be outfitted on the teeth as to prevent decay before the veneers can be removed. The introduction of a no prep Lumineers porcelain veneers has since added an element of reversibility to the procedure. Lumineers are manufactured with a reinforced type of porcelain, allowing for thinner fabrication and thus (in many circumstances) no removal of existing tooth enamel. Only certain cosmetic dentists offer this service to patients, so some research will be required to find a local provider. Does insurance cover Lumineers? No, as with the traditional procedure, patients need to secure financing.
Once the teeth are prepared and an order is sent to the dental laboratory, the patient returns for their second appointment during which the veneers are actually installed. The end result is a stainless, pearly white smile that can be enjoyed for ten years or more. Relatively speaking, the cost of veneers is very steep. $1,000 is the minimum cost per tooth to be realistically expected, with many cosmetic practices charging much more.
If you’re on the edge about which treatment to pursue, consider your circumstances carefully. In most cases, veneers are far too drastic unless existing imperfections need to be addressed. It makes little sense to be outfitted with veneers for the whitening effect alone, unless you suffer from severe discoloration. At $500 per whitening session, two times a year (consistent with severe cases of discoloration), the final bill over ten years may closely match that for a set of veneers. Tooth whitening is by far the safer procedure to choose as it doesn’t require an immense amount of experience to successfully execute, whereas dental veneers require very close attention to detail. A bad whitening job may result in some tooth sensitivity, while a botched installation of veneers can easily result in thousands worth of repair work if they fall off (veneers need to be replaced in sets as color matching is difficult to achieve) and even extensive dental decay. Explore your options carefully and don’t be scared to talk to your general dentist about which route to take.