Cosmetic Dentistry – what you need to know

Cosmetic dental procedures usually concern the alignment of teeth, their shape and colour.

July 28, 2019 Dr. Tareq Y Shabani, General Dentist, Marina Medical Centre, King’s College Hospital London in the UAE

Cosmetic dentistry has become more common than it once was, from the wide variety of treatments available to the technologies that are used to dramatically change your smile in a relatively short period of time.

However, what is cosmetic dentistry and what does it really involve? Simply put, cosmetic dental procedures are largely unessential and usually concern the alignment of teeth, their shape and colour. The most common procedures in the UAE are bleaching or tooth whitening, alignment and veneers. Generally, the risks associated with cosmetic dentistry remain low, however, it is important to remain informed about what these procedures involve, and the risks associated.

Teeth Whitening  

Most people drink tea and coffee at least once a day. Unfortunately, over time these drinks and some foods can stain your teeth giving a yellow appearance. However, there are now simple solutions to get the natural white glow back. The most commonly used solution is a laser treatment, which takes 15 minutes under the supervision of a dentist. Alternatively, patients can also use a ‘take-home’ bleaching kit, which takes 30 minutes to one hour, but needs to be repeated to prolong the results.

Although not common, teeth whitening can have side effects and cause tooth sensitivity. The level of sensitivity depends on how well one takes care of their teeth afterward. Brushing twice-a-day and avoiding the build-up of plaque can reduce the level of sensitive post-treatment. Generally, any minor damage resulting from tooth whitening will heal over time, however if the laser beam is not aligned properly, it can burn gums, and if this damages the tooth it may not be able to heal. Similarly, the home bleaching kit can also damage teeth, if the trays are used for too long.  

Generally, the risks with cosmetic dentistry remain low, however, it is important to remain informed about what these procedures involve, and the risks associated.

Alignment  

Most adults opt for clear aligners, as a discreet method to make relatively mild changes. These aligners are developed through personalised 3D printing, to make sure they perfectly fit the teeth. Imaging technology is also used to show what teeth will look like after completing the course. Once the set of retainers are printed, the patient will need to change them every two to three weeks. For successful realignment, they should be worn for 22 hours a day, and only removed for eating.

There are very few risks associated with using aligners, however, they may be unsuccessful if the patient does not take care of their teeth or use the retainers properly. This may mean that some patients have to wear retainers for a longer time to realign their teeth.  

Veneers  

Veneers are commonly used to fix colour and alignment of teeth. They are shells that are bonded to the front of the tooth to change shape, size, colour, or to close gaps. Usually, a small portion of the tooth is removed, a dental lab then creates a thin layer or porcelain which is then bonded to the teeth. Depending on the size of teeth, for example, if one has bulkier teeth, they may not need to remove part of the tooth, specifically the enamel. Some dentists will guide the patient as to what will complement their face and can round corners of teeth or make them flatter.

Veneers are more invasive than teeth whitening or alignment, due to the removal of some of the tooth. This also means that the risks are higher and can be more difficult to resolve, such as; increased tooth sensitivity, permanent dental damage, changing the bite alignment, which will result in pain when eating. Therefore, it is important to do some research beforehand about the process to choose, in order to feel comfortable throughout the consultation process.  

References available on request.

Depending on the size of teeth, for example, if one has bulkier teeth, they may not need to remove part of the tooth, specifically the enamel. Some dentists will guide the patient as to what will complement their face and can round corners of teeth or make them flatter.

Dr. Tareq Y Shabani