“People believe that a good smile makes a person look and feel better,” says Dr. John Pyke, of John Pyke Dentistry. “It improves confidence, self-esteem and your overall appearance.”
In fact, an overwhelming 86 percent of people said they elected a cosmetic dentistry procedure to improve physical attractiveness and self-esteem, according to the latest American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry survey conducted in 2015.
Advances in materials and technology make that easier and more affordable.
Many cosmetic dentists now offer metal-free alternatives in crowns, bridges and implants, for example. While previous ceramic and metal restorations resulted in a somewhat dull appearance, full ceramic crowns, bridges and implants appear more lifelike and have become just as strong.
“Although a majority of patients just want help maintaining a healthy smile, it’s very rewarding to be able to repair broken, missing or damaged teeth with highly cosmetic materials that are predictable and long-lasting,” Pyke says.
Dr. John Heimke, of the Facial Aesthetic Designers of Rocky River, believes advances in digital dentistry, such as digital smile design and digital scanning of teeth for creating prostheses, have changed the face of the industry.
“We moved into digital dentistry with two feet,” he says. “Now we are at a stage where dentists who are not using digital technology are going to be behind the eight ball.”
As one of three instructors in the country teaching digital smile design, Heimke likens the process to architectural design.
For veneers, for example, Heimke captures a series of photographs and video to create a vision for a patient’s smile. Because video depicts a person in motion, Heimke can create a more realistic smile.
“We can actually put the simulation over their real teeth so they can see what the smile will look like,” he says.
The digital smile design process happens real-time in the office and allows a patient to visualize how veneers will change the look of their smile.
“I can transfer information accurately and efficiently with the team,” he relates.
A Trios intraoral scanner, which looks like a Star Trek phaser, eliminates the need for that claylike material used to make impressions of the mouth in order to properly design veneers or dental implants. (You probably remember this if you had a retainer, mouth guard or dentures made years ago.)
Rather than creating a mold of the mouth, the teeth are scanned using the digital Trios wand, which takes thousands of pictures. Those images, which feature lifelike colors and shade measurements, are sent directly to a lab.
“When we had to make impressions, we sent those through a courier or mailed them to the lab, so we were always two days behind,” Heimke says. “Now, fabrication starts immediately.”
Preserving Healthy Gums
The invention of the veneer in 1980 was a dentistry landmark. And today, Dr. Mark Iati, of Stow Dental Group, says that pinhole gum rejuvenation is the latest cosmetic revolution.
Why? It replaces an old gum-grafting technique, which can be extremely painful, used to address gum recession.
Gum recession, when gums pull back and expose the roots of the teeth, can happen with age and increases the risks of tooth loss.
“From a health standpoint, the soft tissues provide blood supply to the bone underneath it,” Iati explains. “No blood supply, no bone, no teeth.”
Pinhole gum rejuvenation involves making a pinhole in the gums, then using specialized instruments to release the tissue from the bone and move it into an aesthetically pleasing position that is also healthier for teeth. The gum flap created is held in place by specialized collagen strips until the tissue heals.
“No scalpel, no sutures and recovery is faster than conventional methods,” Iati says.
In fact, multiple teeth can be treated in one session and most patients are back to work within 48 hours, he says. “The strongest thing I’ve had patients use for discomfort is Motrin.”
Iati says the results are significant, which is why he became one of 1,500 dentists in the world to get certified in the procedure.
“It’s the most revolutionary procedural change in dentistry we have experienced in the last 15 to 20 years,” he says.