Do you avoid smiling or hide your smile because it makes you self-conscious? Are you dissatisfied with the appearance of your teeth and gums? Do you feel it impacts your life in negative ways?
According to the American Dental Association, you’re in the majority of people unhappy with their oral health and appearance. One in four adults suffers from disliking their smile along with you.
Fortunately, there are affordable cosmetic dentistry options to fix these issues. Read on for a comprehensive guide to cosmetic dentistry, how each option works, and how these options can work best for you.
How Does Cosmetic Dentistry Work?
Cosmetic dentistry is the process used to improve certain aspects of your teeth and gums, such as color, shape, alignment, and evenness. These processes can be non-invasive like braces, or surgical like dental implants.
Cosmetic dentistry has not been designated as an official specialty of dentistry in the same way as Endodontists, Periodontists, Oral Surgeons, or Orthodontists are. There are no official extra trainings or certifications needed for a dentist so cosmetic procedures. Therefore, it is important to find reputable, qualified cosmetic dentists to avoid damaging your oral health.
Cosmetic dentistry procedures costs are frequently defined as procedures done to improve appearance as opposed to procedures done due to tooth damage, decay, infection. Cosmetic procedures are not always covered by dental insurance. Some procedures may be partially covered, like braces. There is also the possibility of partial coverage if the cosmetic dentistry overlaps with medically necessary oral health procedures. Insurance may cover dental crowns, for example, if your teeth are so chipped and cracked it causes pain and impacts your dental functions, or it may cover braces or implants if your teeth problems cause physical health issues in your jaw.
Even if your insurance doesn’t cover it, there are several affordable cosmetic dentistry options. Cosmetic dentistry has many perks that make it worth the investment.
Why Choose Cosmetic Dentistry?
Although cosmetic dentistry can be strictly for appearance, many cosmetic dentistry options come with oral health benefits.
Research and surveys have also shown consistently for decades cosmetic dentistry has benefits outside of oral health. A bright, even smile can give an impression of higher competency and health.
Misaligned or crooked teeth can cause excessive wear on certain teeth. It can trap food between your teeth and make flossing more difficult, increasing your risks of tooth decay and gum disease.
Misaligned teeth can impact your physical health by causing headaches and inflammation to jaw joints, or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ). Composite bonding, braces, veneers, and implants are cosmetic dentistry options to fix misaligned teeth. You would need to speak with your dentist to know which of these procedures could be right for you.
Chipped or cracked teeth can cause chronic pain, irritation, and inflammation and increase the risk of your teeth and gums developing infections and decay. Composite bonding, contouring, crowns, veneers, implants, inlays, and onlays are cosmetic dentistry options to fix these issues. Again, you would need to speak with your dentist to know which of these procedures would be right for you.
People consider white, evenly spaced teeth more attractive. Whether it’s fair or not, there are advantages of being more attractive, which is also referred to as pretty privilege, beauty bias, or lookism. Being considered attractive can have significant effects on your career.
Attractive people get hired and promoted more and fired less, and their average earnings are more over their lifetime. A University of California study found attractive people make 22% more than average-looking people.
University of Texas economists collected data from the 1970s-2010s with similar results. Less attractive men and women average 17% and 12% less earnings respectively than their more attractive peers. This comes out to a conservative $250,000 difference in pay over a lifetime.
Cosmetic dentistry will not only boost your self-esteem and your smile but theoretically can potentially pay for itself.
Affordable Cosmetic Dentistry Options
Affordable cosmetic dentistry options can address a certain issue or plan for several issues or many simultaneously.
During an initial consultation, your cosmetic dentist will help you strategize which options will achieve your desired results. You may only need quick non-invasive work, surgery and multiple appointments, or a combination of both.
For your own oral health and safety, always follow your cosmetic dentist’s instructions before and after cosmetic dental procedures.
From whitening stains to replacing missing teeth, here’s a breakdown of all the affordable cosmetic dentistry options you can choose.
Teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic dentistry option, as the improvement can be dramatic and noticeable. Even if you have excellent oral health, stained and discolored teeth can look dirty and neglected.
Over bleaching and whitening can harm even healthy teeth and gums. Your cosmetic dentist will help you whiten your teeth safely and effectively.
Whitening and bleaching methods include:
At-home whitening should still be under your cosmetic dentist’s guidance. Home whitening results can vary and can cause sensitivity or damage. If you have oral health concerns such as damage or decay, at-home whitening may worsen your issues and symptoms. In general, it is best to have your dental issues resolved before you begin whitening procedures.
Your dentist may recommend certain over-the-counter products or sell office-approved whitening kits you can use at home. He or she can also write prescriptions for medical-grade whitening kits.
At-home whitening kits can include whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, tooth wraps, whitening pens or powders, whitening trays and gels, and LED lights. Some kits may include multiple whitening methods.
Abrasion on your enamel sounds harsh, but enamel microabrasion is a more gentle whitening technique that uses pumice instead of chemicals. It whitens minor discolorations and yellowing.
Enamel microabrasion is in-office and generally only needs one or two sessions. Your cosmetic dentist uses a microabrasion tool to remove discolorations. Your teeth are then polished with an abrasion slurry.
Enamel microabrasion only restores teeth to their natural color, however. It may not remove deep yellowing and stains. If you want the heightened movie-star white teeth look, you may still have to use a bleaching method afterward.
In-office bleaching is a multiple-step process. Your cosmetic dentist will prep your teeth, which may include whitening discolorations in a separate appointment first.
After prepping your teeth, a bleaching paste or gel is applied and left on for 10-20 minutes. You may need multiple bleaching sessions before you get your desired results.
Your cosmetic dentist can use a special light to enhance whitening. Some in-office methods include laser whitening, which may require fewer sessions but cost more per session.
In addition to whitening, you can further improve your oral appearance by fixing teeth shape and alignment through cosmetic dentistry options like contouring and braces.
Contouring (Odontoplasty or Enameloplasty)
Although it sounds like surgery, cosmetic odontoplasty/enameloplasty is a non-invasive procedure that contours a tooth to the desired size, shape, or length. It’s for minor cases of misaligned, chipped, uneven, jagged, or bulging teeth.
Contouring is usually done over one or two sessions. Your cosmetic dentist will remove small bits of enamel to contour your teeth. You may have special after-care instructions as your teeth adjust to the enamel loss.
Contouring will not fix major issues, but it can be combined with other methods such as composite bonding to improve the overall appearance of your teeth.
Composite bonding is another non-invasive cosmetic dentistry option. Composite bonding can make many improvements all in one go, including fixing very minor misalignments, filling in minor chips/cracks, and lightening the appearance of your enamel.
During composite bonding, your cosmetic dentist will apply a special colored resin to your teeth. This resin can be used to give the appearance of straighter teeth, fill minor tooth gaps, and whiten discolorations. The resin is easily repaired or replaced every few years.
Please be aware that activities such as smoking or coffee drinking can stain the resin. . Also note, that composite bonding will not fix severe decay or missing teeth. For those issues, you will likely need traditional fillings or additional cosmetic dentistry options like cosmetic crowns or implants.
Dental crowns are tooth coverings placed over a tooth that has had the damaged or decayed parts removed. Crowns can fix major issues and can be done for cosmetic reasons, medically necessary reaasons, or both. Crowns are typically used as the final step after a root canals or a dental implant. Occasionally they can also be used to cover large/discolored fillings.
Although generally non-invasive, there is a fair amount that must be done by the dentist to prepare your tooth before getting a crown such as drilling out all decay, filling voids. Your cosmetic dentist will mold the crown to fit your tooth. The crown mimics your normal tooth color. It’s made of porcelain, resin, ceramic, or metal. You may have a temporary crown until attaching your permanent crown.
Crowns are semi-permenant and typically last 15-20 years. Occasionally a crown may need repair or regular replacement. People who grind their teeth or chew ice are especially prone to damaging their crowns.
Unlike inlays and onlays, crowns cover the whole tooth surface.
Inlays and Onlays
Inlays also fix major damage and decay issues. Inlays are more than a filling but less than a crown. They are for tooth restoration that goes beyond filling the cavity, but not beyond the tooth cusps.
Inlay prices can vary depending on the material types used. More expensive inlay material may also be stronger and more durable and require less maintenance.
Onlays cover more of the tooth than inlays, but are still less than a crown. Also referred to as ¾ crowns, onlays cover most of the tooth including the cusps. Like inlays, onlay prices can vary by material.
Inlays and onlays do not restore missing teeth. Missing teeth will need implants or bridges.
Dental implants may be cosmetic or medically necessary. Normal crowns have a portion of natural tooth and root structure underneath that the crown sits on. If someone has lost a tooth entirely then the dental crown would have nothing to site on and anchor it into the mouth without a dental implant. An implant retained crown can last for decades and is immovable like a normal tooth. It will also look and feel natural with your remaining teeth, and can be designed to enhance your smile.
Dental implants improve functions impacted by missing teeth, such as chewing, speaking, and oral hygiene care.
The implant process involves surgery. Your cosmetic dentist drills into your jaw to attach a screw-like anchor. The screw post acts as a tooth root and holds a crown into place.
The entire implant process can be all at once, but it will likely be in stages. Sedation will make the surgery portion painless.
While implants can be more costly, the benefits are high, especially if you have missing front teeth that severely impact your self-esteem or hiring into certain professions.
Dental implants may not be an available cosmetic dental option if you have health or jaw issues that prevent you from having surgery. A dental bridge is sometimes a good alternative to dental implants. .
Dental bridges can be quicker, cheaper, and less invasive than implants. Instead of attaching the substitute tooth to a screw post, the bridge is connected to teeth on either side of it.
Bridges are less durable than implants. They’ll need regular replacements every few years. They can also create stress or decay issues on adjacent teeth. Bridges come in three types: traditional, bonded, and Cantilever.
Traditional fixed bridges use crowns on the adjacent teeth to keep the bridge tooth in place. The anchor teeth must be healthy and close enough to be an option. They are reshaped to hold the crowns and support the bridge.
Bonded or Maryland bridges use wings instead of crowns to attach the bridge tooth to the anchor teeth. This avoids reshaping healthy teeth. Bonded bridges may be more preferable for missing front teeth. They absorb less stress and may result in additional tooth loss, however.
Cantilever bridges are similar to traditional ones, except only one healthy tooth is an anchor. This method is the least used because it places significant stress on your remaining teeth. It’s the last resort when anchor teeth on one side are too far away, missing, or cannot support a bridge.
Bridge and Implant Combination
A fourth hybrid method of tooth replacement involves combining a bridge and an implant. A dental implant is surgically installed on one or both sides and used as the anchor instead of crowns or wings.
This can be more expensive and have a longer and more complicated process but is also the strongest, most stable, and longest-lasting solution.
Missing teeth can throw your remaining teeth out of alignment. Braces and veneers are cosmetic dentist options to realign your teeth.
Braces and Retainers
Braces are a popular, non-invasive method to straighten crooked teeth. Although associated with kids and teenagers, adults can benefit from braces too.
Braces can improve the appearance and the function of your mouth. They correct malocclusions like overbites and underbites. They straighten and align teeth so they don’t overlap or overcrowd, and they close unsightly gaps. Your teeth may be easier to clean and floss after the completion of braces.
Your teeth may need preparation before your ready for braces, including fixing minor and major issues such as filling cavities, or installing spacers. Your teeth will should be cleaned prior to the application of braces.
Traditional braces work by applying pressure to your teeth through the brace brackets, bands, and archwires. Self-ligating braces apply pressure without bands.
Your teeth will need extra hygiene attention while you have braces. Your mouth will typically feel sore and achy as it adjusts to the added pressure. You may be encouraged to eat soft foods and avoid hard or sugary foods like candy.
You will also need dental checkups to observe your braces’ progress and make adjustments. Your cosmetic dentist will help maintain your braces to mitigate discomfort and oral health issues.
There are three braces types: labial (front bracket), lingual (back bracket), and self-ligating (brackets with locking mechanisms).
Labial braces attach the brackets to the front of your teeth. Your cosmetic dentist will attach them using a special dental glue. After the brackets are set, they add bands to your back teeth to act as anchors.
The archwires will be attached after the bands. Archwires are the parts that realign your teeth. Brace brackets are ceramic (less visible) or metal (more visible), and archwires can be titanium or steel.
Applying braces is not supposed to be painful, although it can be uncomfortable. Let your cosmetic dentist know immediately if you experience pain during the application process. Your braces may need adjusting.
Lingual braces are similar to labial braces, except the brackets attach to the back or sides of your teeth. These braces are not as visible as regular braces. They may be a better option for people who want discreet braces or participate in activities like sports or music.
Lingual braces may cause less discomfort and fewer problems than regular braces but can cost more. They can also be more difficult to clean. Because your tongue touches the back of your teeth while speaking, they may also affect your speech more than conventional braces.
Self-ligating braces attach archwires to the brackets without using bands. Each bracket has its own locking mechanism that keeps the archwire in place.
There are two types of self-ligating braces, active and passive. Active brackets use pressure against the archwire. Passive brackets slide the archwire into place without pressure.
These braces may be more comfortable, and easier to adjust and clean. Like lingual braces, however, they can cost more than regular labial braces.
Headgear is rare but still available as a cosmetic dentistry option. It also corrects misalignment and malocclusions. It’s an option if the correction is complex or extreme, and works more quickly than traditional braces.
It is primarily used for children who are still developing jawbones but can be for adults who develop later misalignment issues, such as teeth shifting after an extraction.
Like braces, headgear works by applying pressure. It’s worn partly outside the mouth and kept in place through bars, straps, and bands. Headgear has several types including cervical pull (neck strap) and high-pull (head strap).
Headgear is worn for at least 12 hours a day and can be uncomfortable or prohibitive for certain activities, like sports.
Retainers are aftercare for braces. They keep teeth in the correct position after braces to prevent you from, requiring braces to be re-attached. Retainers are molded to your mouth to ensure comfort and effectiveness. They can be permanent or removable.
Permanent or bonded retainers use wires bonded to the back of your teeth. They are largely unnoticeable, like lingual braces. Permanent retainers are not necessarily needed forever, but you can wear them for years. Like braces, they require extra attention in your dental hygiene routine.
Removable retainers are taken out and reinserted at your convenience. They are usually worn while you sleep. Removable retainers come in two types, the Hawley Retainer and clear plastic retainers.
Hawley retainers use metal wires and colored plastic or acrylic plates. They are very effective and can last for over 10 years. They require careful disinfecting as they can grow bacteria, but will be damaged by excessive or harsh cleaning.
Clear plastic retainers are easier to clean than Hawley retainers. They are less bulky and less visible. They can be cheaper but are less durable and may need replacing in one to five years. If damaged, they are more difficult to repair.
Invisalign aligners combine aspects of braces and retainers to realign your teeth. They use pressure, like braces, but are removable and less visible, like clear plastic retainers.
Like braces and retainers, your teeth may need prep work before Invisalign. Unlike braces and retainers, the clear molds will need replacing every few months.
Invisalign can be more comfortable than regular braces and easier to clean than retainers. Because they are removable, your oral hygiene is less difficult and your activities aren’t as limited. Invisalign generally costs around the same as regular braces.
Veneers are thin layers of white crown material attached to the front of individual teeth. They can fix many dental issues including chipped, discolored, uneven, or crooked teeth.
Although they may cost more upfront, they can be an alternative method to bleaching, composite bonding, crowns, braces, and contouring. If you need multiple cosmetic dentistry procedures, veneers may be less expensive in the long term.
Depending on the type of veneers, the procedure can be somewhat invasive and may require sedation. With prep veneers, your teeth will be ground down to fit the veneer shells and the grinding may go past the enamel. With no-prep veneers, the grinding is less significant.
Veneers are long-lasting but will need regular replacement. Their longevity depends on the type of material, or brand used. There are many veneers options including porcelain, composite, Palatal, and temporary.
Porcelain veneers last 10-15 years and are stain-resistant. Composite veneers are resin or plastic, and are cheaper than porcelain veneers but last only around five years. Palatal veneers are a type of onlay that restores your back teeth.
Temporary or removable veneers are the least invasive option. They work similar to Invisalign and don’t require teeth grinding. They may also be significantly cheaper.
Veneer brand options include Lumineers, which are ultra-thin and last over 20 years, and CEREC® Veneers, which can be made the same day of your fitting.
Veneers risk staining or chipping like your regular teeth. Your veneers will require the usual oral hygiene care and checkups with your cosmetic dentist.
Affordable Cosmetic Dentistry Near Me
Your smile doesn’t have to be hidden. There are many affordable cosmetic dentistry options that will whiten and brighten your smile, without breaking your bank.
To begin your cosmetic dentistry consultation, book an appointment online or contact us to learn more.