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Cosmetic Dental Work

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There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when dentist visits were limited to twice-yearly cleanings, cavity fillings, and the occasional root canal. But with all of the advances in cosmetic dentistry in recent decades, the perception of oral health has changed. As a good-looking smile becomes an increasingly important asset, record numbers of people are undergoing cosmetic dental procedures.

Innovations such as porcelain veneers and laser bleaching procedures have raised our standards when it comes to the appearance of our teeth. And the truth is that for just about everyone who's self-conscious about their smile, there's a cosmetic dental procedure that can fix their problem. Of course, perfection comes at a price--a full smile makeover can cost thousands of dollars.

An Array of Cosmetic Options

For those who need braces, but are less than enthusiastic about wearing metal brackets on their teeth, a new brand of invisible braces has come to the rescue. Made of clear plastic, these removable trays have a similar success rate to the traditional metal variety, but go virtually unnoticed. They are becoming increasingly popular with older patients, especially working professionals, who have long put off straightening their teeth for fear of being secretly ridiculed.

The problem of missing teeth, once disguised through the use of bridges and dentures, now has a new solution, as well. Dental implants, a small screw surgically embedded into your jawbone and attached to a realistic-looking false tooth, are preferable to other methods for a variety of reasons. Whereas bridges can weaken the teeth they're anchored to, dental implants do not require adjacent teeth to be filed down. Bridges also tend to need replacing after a decade or so of use, while implants are permanent fixtures.

Veneers are a popular choice for people worried about stained teeth, chipped teeth, small gaps, short teeth, crowded teeth, or other abnormalities. Composite veneers, made with resin, can be sculpted to form the shape of the ideal tooth and can be colored to match almost any shade. Porcelain veneers, specially made in a dental lab, are a good option for those who want their veneers to last longer and don't mind shelling out a bit more cash for them.

Another option, less popular than veneers, but still the best choice in certain cases, are dental crowns. While veneers only cover the front and sides of teeth, crowns surround the entire tooth. For people with structurally damaged teeth, this is sometimes the only way to go. The disadvantage is that nearly all of the affected tooth must be filed down--but in the end, the crown will add strength to the tooth.

For those who just want a quick cosmetic pick-me-up, a teeth-bleaching session is a simple, effective, and fast way to improve your smile. At-home versions, which involve wearing a plastic tray filled with bleaching gel on your teeth for several hours every day for two weeks, give good results at the relatively low price of $300-$500. For instant gratification, try a laser whitening treatment, which is costlier but requires only one visit to the cosmetic dentist lasting one to two hours.

Is Cosmetic Dentistry Right for You?

With so many options to choose from, it's no wonder that patients considering cosmetic dental procedures often feel overwhelmed. The best approach is to do your homework, then schedule an appointment with your dentist to hash out what will work best for you. Many cosmetic dentists offer a free initial consultation, which is a great way to gather information and decide whether a cosmetic restoration is something you ultimately want to go through with.

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