A few years ago, I realized that I was thinking about dental care all wrong. Instead of listening carefully to my dentist and making the necessary changes, I assumed that he was ultimately responsible for making sure that my teeth stayed healthy. Unfortunately, I developed a few serious cavities because I failed to properly brush and floss my teeth, and I knew that it was my fault. I decided to start taking notes at my dental checkups and carefully abiding by the dentist's orders. The difference was almost miraculous. This blog is all about working with your dentist to improve your result.
Modern cosmetic dentistry offers so many options for creating a brilliant smile, from tooth bleaching and bonding to veneers and crowns, that it can be difficult to know which option or options you should focus on. Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions in your quest toward a more beautiful mouth.
How Healthy Are Your Teeth?
If your teeth are in good shape and merely need whitening, tooth bleaching is the most cost-effective and least invasive method for achieving your goal. Cosmetic dentists use a much stronger bleaching agent than is available over the counter, meaning that you can experience dramatic, uniform whitening of your teeth in just one session.
But if your teeth are cracked, broken or prone to decay, then you'll need a more extensive form of cosmetic dentistry to make your teeth look good as new. Bonding fills in chips that deform a tooth's shape, but the difference in tooth surfaces may become obvious over time. Alternatively, veneers cover the entire front surface of a jagged tooth to ensure that the entire tooth continues to look like one solid entity for years to come. If this sort of minor repair is all you need, then a crown, which covers the entire tooth (front and back), would be overkill.
For teeth that are very prone to cavities, the more coverage the enamel receives, the better. Bonding won't help in this regard, but veneers can at least help to protect the front-facing sides of your teeth from decay. Ultimately, however, crowns are your best bet because they effectively replace the enamel all the way around and extend below the gum line. Even so, you'll want to maintain the best possible brushing and flossing habits.
What Is Causing Your Tooth Discoloration?
Tooth discoloration can have a wide range of causes, from health conditions such as tetracyline exposure or rot inside the tooth to frequent consumption of staining agents such as coffee, tobacco products, tea and red wine. Tooth bleaching can do a fine job of removing surface stains from the porous enamel of your teeth, but it may not work on very deep discolorations. In such cases, it makes more sense simply to cover those permanent stains with veneers. If you routinely smoke or consume beverages that stain your teeth, veneers will always be a better choice for you than bonding. Bonding is prone to staining, and it may not stain at the same rate as the natural part of the tooth.
Crowns can be custom-colored to match your surrounding teeth, and in certain cases of discoloration, they may serve as both a cosmetic enhancement and a functional necessity. Rotted teeth, for instance, may require either a root canal topped with a crown or possibly even extraction and replacement with an implant (which is also topped with a crown).
Do You Have Previous Restorations?
When selecting the right cosmetic dentistry solution for your mouth, stop to consider what other kinds of work you've already got in there -- because color matching can be an issue. For one thing, veneers will not react to bleaching like natural tooth enamel does, leaving you with teeth in a range of different shades -- so if you have veneers or crowns (or even partial dentures) alternating with natural enamel, it's best not to pursue bleaching at all.
Matching crowns to pre-existing veneers, or even new veneers to pre-existing veneers, can also prove tricky. It is usually easier to match these restorations if they're made of the same substance, such as the lithium disilicate commonly used in many veneers. In the worst-case scenario, the older restorations can be replaced to match the new ones.
Do You Grind Your Teeth?
Bruxism (tooth grinding) can wear down the teeth to the point that you may need restorations to even out your smile or repair cracked molars -- but the restorations themselves can be damaged by regular tooth grinding. Crowns are better able to withstand this kind of pressure than veneers, and they can lend additional strength to teeth already weakened by bruxism. If you go with bonding or veneers on your front teeth, protect your investment by having your dentist prescribe a bite guard for nightly use.
It's worth noting that bruxism is often associated with bite misalignment. If your teeth are out of alignment and you need orthodontic treatment, go ahead and complete this treatment, making sure that the new tooth position is stable before having any dental restorations added.
As you can see, the type of tooth restoration you should select will depend on the current state of your dental health, lifestyle choices, previous restoration work and the presence of complications such as bruxism. Think about the questions listed above, and use your answers to lead you toward the best solution for your smile. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like The Family Dentist.