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Teeth Straightening by Re-contouring and Veneers (part two)

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Cosmetic dentistry is the art and science of creating a beautiful, individual and, preferably natural smile. Today, there are often different treatment options available to achieve a required optimal aesthetic result.

The last blog explained the orthodontic technique solution. This one explains the alternative of making teeth ‘look straight’ technique.

Re-contouring involves minor removal of small amounts of tooth enamel, in those areas that the tooth ‘sticks out’ too much.  There is only a limited amount one can, or should remove.  In some cases that may be enough to make a significant change. This is often appropriate when teeth are mildly crowded or ‘overlapping’.

Before Veneers

Veneers are synthetic full coverings, bonded to the outside surfaces of teeth.  These teeth usually need some degree of preparation, although, very often a minimal amount or even, none at all, before accepting the veneers onto their surfaces. They are made from tooth colour matched quartz composite or porcelain and the treatment can be described as ‘instant orthodontics’.

In the case of ‘composite’, the tooth is prepared and the veneer putty is applied by the dentist in colour matched layers to the tooth surface and hardened with a special light. It is then finally shaped and polished.

‘Porcelain’ veneers are made by a dental laboratory, after the teeth have been prepared and impressions taken. They are then bonded to the tooth surface on a separate visit. These veneers are prescribed to the required shape, size, colour and should look totally natural.

When the only problem is that there are unsightly spaces between the teeth, and they are not to be ‘closed’ with braces (orthodontics), then often simply bonding colour match composite to the sides of the teeth can aesthetically close such gaps.

After placing Veneers

The Smile Lift

For those who would like a fuller, broader smile; where more ‘tooth’ is visible at the corners of the mouth; the Smile Lift procedure can achieve such a result. In orthodontics it is called ‘arch expansion’.  This is logical … the dental ‘arch’ is expanded by moving the teeth ‘outwards’ (where appropriate and feasible) to fill out the smile with more tooth (white) showing.

Alternatively to orthodontically ‘moving’ the teeth outwards,  porcelain or composite veneers can be placed onto the outside surfaces of the two or three upper side teeth, which will effectively expand the arch  ‘visually’. The teeth will be wider, but the bite will not change. Such veneers can be made up to about 2.5mm thick and will give a much broader, fuller smile … showing more ‘white’ (tooth). This can provide the most beautiful result and, despite sometimes being called the ‘film star smile’, can look totally natural with even the odd ‘European imperfection’ incorporated should the patient wish so.

So when there is a choice between orthodontics and veneers, what are the pros and cons?

With Orthodontics:

  • The procedure is totally non invasive and the teeth usually do not need any modification.
  • Treatment usually takes between 9 and 24 months, with visits to the specialist every month.
  • There is usually a period of discomfort with speech or appearance affected during treatment.

With veneering:

  • The procedure can usually be completed within a couple of weeks.
  • There is no period of adjustment or aesthetic disadvantage during treatment.
  • There is a high degree of choice of outcome, with regard to changing the shape size and colour of the teeth … as well as their position (alignment).
  • Using the mock-up technique, the final porcelain result is predictable and approved by the patient before final bonding. The teeth do need a degree of modification in preparation for veneers, so the procedure is ‘invasive’ although may be minimal and certainly far less than when teeth are crowned.

One must appreciate that there is not always a straight choice between these two treatment approaches.  At times, orthodontics is definitely more appropriate, at others, the advantages of veneering are dominant.

It is so important that your Dentist be able and prepared to offer you ‘choices’. You need to know the alternatives in order to be able to make a truly informed choice and what treatment is most appropriate for you.

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