A woman has her teeth examined. (Aaron Hinks photo)

A woman has her teeth examined. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Ask the Dentist: Emphasis on Cosmetic Dentistry?

A new patient recently mentioned that while seeking a new dentist he was irritated by what he saw as a major ‘push’ by some dentists for cosmetic dental services. He is a conservative mature gentleman, with seemingly a ‘no nonsense’ view towards life. His personal opinion is that the dental profession is attempting to capitalize on vanity, and this is shallow. He chose to shun any practice deeming to be specifically regarded as a ‘Cosmetic Dentist’.

To be accurate, there is no specific designation as a ‘cosmetic dentist’. The rules in our profession are very hard and fast on titles.

One can be censured, fined, or suspended by making light of the rules and regulations. There are a limited number of designated specialties – and a practitioner who has completed specific programs on teeth straightening is termed an orthodontist. One who has studied and completed gum and jawbone plus connective tissue programs is termed a periodontist. A root canal specialist is an endodontist.

Any dentist may develop their own preferred area of practice, but that doesn’t automatically provide them with a title. A dentist with an interest and developed focus on making teeth appear better may have a focus on cosmetic services. This is more of a generalization, and if one looks at all dentists’ ads and websites – it may appear that certain practitioners lean in this direction.

Have you ever been to a social event and bumped into a person that was good looking, nice hair, well dressed and started talking only to discover a less than attractive array of teeth. Immediate feeling of change in attitude forms towards this person.

There are any number of enhancements that may be completed to improve the health of this person’s teeth, the visual appearance of them, or any combination. It is possible and does occur where the ‘look’ of the teeth plays a more significant role with some than the health of their teeth.

In an annual or semi-annual checkup, your dentist will be observing the health of the gums and bone supporting the teeth with recommendations on home care to get the best mileage out of the teeth for as long as possible.

There are many phrases used to describe the appearance factor. One is that ‘your smile is your business card’ or even your ‘personal logo’. This is more than simply a ‘catch phrase’. Bad teeth can be ‘fixed’. Who doesn’t deal with the topic of self-esteem? From primary grades onwards teachers, counsellors, coaches, mentors, and parents work to encourage positive growth with family and others. In our dental chairs, a very common and rewarding situation arises when a patient has undertaken some dental treatment which has improved their personal appearance – and literally bursts into tears of joy upon completion.

The relationship aspect of life encourages people to lose weight, modify hairstyles, improve appearance of teeth, embrace new hobbies, and invest in a new wardrobe.

If we are performing treatment to improve one’s health, improving the appearance simultaneously doesn’t mean a patient is chasing the ‘Hollywood’ smile. Function is always first. Esthetics develop from function and alignment. We have encountered patients who only seem focused on teeth whitening, not potential problem correction.

Some people enter a clinic worried about a simple chipped tooth, but have paid no attention to the abscess on rear teeth! Conversely, some people wax their cars but neglect the actual engine. It may begin as simple bleaching, bonding (known as adding and reducing while shaping with composite), and enameloplasty (simple dental recontouring techniques). It may lead to porcelain coverage commonly referred to as veneers, which is a separate topic altogether!

There is no designation as a ‘cosmetic dentist’. Nor is there an official one for an ‘implant dentist’. Some dentists take additional training in these areas, but any dental procedure which improves appearance does have a cosmetic factor.

In our social and business life, the emphasis on appearing ‘younger’ and vibrant is overwhelming. Our teeth significantly influence that. We make snap judgements and create opinions on anything in life. These opinions steer our decisions in life, potential partners, career paths, and success. Nobody gets a second chance to make a first impression.

If you are seeking cosmetic enhancement do your homework. Ask friends who they might recommend. Check reviews online through RateMDs.com, Instagram, Facebook, and word of mouth. Do not be dazzled by websites; do your own homework.

So is ‘your smile your business card’ or ‘logo’? It may be interpreted as so much more than you realize!

Dr. Michael Dolynchuk is a General Dentist practicing in Caroline and Red Deer.

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