Never underestimate the power of a smile. This simple reflex punctuates most social interactions, and, typically, no one thinks twice about flashing their pearly whites — unless they’re not so pearly or white. However, remaining tight-lipped isn’t the answer. Cosmetic dentistry can make a world of difference in the life of anyone embarrassed by the state of their teeth.
“Since the onset of the pandemic and all the Zoom meetings that ensued, more people are coming in for smile makeovers, asking for crowns and veneers to enhance their smiles,” says Dr. Rene Dell’Acqua, who has practiced in the Coachella Valley for 25 years, specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. A smile makeover in her hands usually involves anywhere from six to 28 teeth. Once complete, it can significantly boost the confidence of anyone familiar with a camera’s intense scrutiny. The placement of veneers or crowns typically requires two appointments and essentially no recovery time.
“A patient may be unhappy with his or her smile for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Joshua Cartter, owner of Desert Dental Specialty Group and a prosthodontist, a specialty that requires an additional three years of education in cosmetic dentistry and equips graduates with an understanding of the dynamics of a smile and the preservation of a healthy mouth.
“It could be the shape or color of their teeth that’s bothering them,” Cartter continues. “Perhaps there’s too much gum tissue showing or not enough teeth. Maybe their smile is too narrow or they have an underbite, an overbite or tooth wear. Any number of genetic or medical conditions could be keeping them from having a healthy and vibrant looking smile.”
Fortunately, technology in dentistry is keeping pace with the modern world. “The advances in digital dentistry and implant dentistry are helping practitioners restore missing teeth in ways we would not have thought possible,” Cartter says. For instance, digital impressions have done away with patients having to endure the discomfort of sticky impression material in their mouth. Likewise, the fabrication of dental prostheses, such as veneers, crowns, and dentures, has gained a major assist from computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM).
For many, a smile makeover centers around a simple teeth-whitening or perhaps a teeth-straightening, which may incorporate Invasalign, the treatment where patients wear clear, invisible trays over a period of time. For others, the complexity of the task scales upward. “However, everything we do in the mouth is cosmetic, no matter the scope,” explains Dr. Craig W. Conrow, a prosthodontist in Palm Desert. “Whichever procedure or procedures, the first thing a patient does upon completion is grab a mirror, smile, turn their head from side and comment on how it looks.” It’s something this seasoned professional keeps in mind.
Recently, Conrow has been particularly impressed by the technological advancements of materials he uses in his restorative work. “The composites we’re using for some of our direct bonding are getting more predictable with increased strengths and aesthetic properties that mimic the opalescence or some of the fluorescence normally found in teeth," he says. "If you look closely at your teeth, you’ll see all these intricate colors especially in the incisal third of the tooth. Some of these new materials are really quite wonderful. It’s possible to closely match the hue, the value of the tooth or the chroma and however much intensity it has.”
If a trip to a cosmetic dentist is on your radar, rest assured these professionals are quite cognizant it is a big leap of faith for many. At Dell’Acqua Dental Studio, for example, an hour is set aside for each cosmetic consultation. “Each option needs to be explained and the patient needs to have the ability to ask all of their questions and get complete answers,” Dell’Acqua says. Of course, the duration of the treatment varies depending on the complexity of the case. “Sometimes, we can deliver instant gratification in one appointment,” Dr. Cartter explains, “while some of the more complex cases can take up to a year.”
Pain management is always open for discussion. “We typically find by talking to people who harbor certain fears and treating them with respect — well, it goes a long way toward helping them overcome their hesitation,” Conrow says. “Later, I’ve had patients tell me they didn’t even feel an injection. Ultimately, people need to do their research and choose a cosmetic dentist wisely. If complex treatment is in order, they need to seek someone who has specialty training and who is board certified.”
The wattage of your smile and its sphere of influence depends on it.