If you’re interested in fixing your own dental issues for cosmetic reasons, there are a wide range of treatments available that can provide dramatic results for a picture-perfect smile. In this article, we’ll explain what some of the most popular procedures are for beautifying the teeth and gums with dental treatments, and how these procedures can help restore your smile and your confidence.
- Teeth Straightening
- Aesthetic Dental Treatments
- Gum Surgery
- Not a Candidate
- How to Prepare
- Number of Treatments
- Side Effects
- Pros & Cons
A good first impression often starts with a smile. Having a smile that you are not comfortable with can not only hinder your ability to leave a lasting impression, but can also limit your self-confidence. According to the American Dental Association, only 52.3% of adults frequent the dentist twice a year, which means that almost half of all American adults do not receive the dental attention they need to maintain a healthy, beautiful smile.
Perhaps this statistic explains why dental treatments designed to reverse or repair issues are on the rise. Common problems such as tooth decay and teeth discoloration are just some of the reasons why people are turning to dental treatments that can help people restore their confidence with a more attractive smile.
With the many different reasons that people of all ages need dental treatments, it is no surprise that there are a wide variety of treatments available that focus on the teeth and gums. Though the techniques and treatments available are widespread and seemingly endless, the procedures focused on in this article represent some of the most popular and effective treatment in cosmetic dentistry today.
The first type of dental treatment is teeth straightening, which is a common procedure that has been practiced for decades. Crooked teeth can cause more problems for people beyond the aesthetic aspect. Misaligned teeth can also push other teeth into uncomfortable positions, causing pain and a progressively more crooked smile. Getting braces and a retainer can efficiently straighten your teeth, and are a very popular procedure for adolescents and adults alike—accounting for over 1 million procedures a year.
Dental repair procedures that work to replace missing or damaged teeth, or to combat severe tooth decay are also quite common. In cosmetic dentistry, an aesthetic procedure like dental crowns or veneers is usually a more involved process than braces, though the results are often quite dramatic and well worth the effort and expense.
Gum surgery is another type of cosmetic procedure that focuses on reducing the appearance of overexposed or excessive gum tissue. Commonly known as “gummy smile surgery,” this type of treatment is for those who suffer from uneven gum structures and want a more attractive and balanced looking smile. Doctors will surgically remove any excess gum to provide a more symmetrical gum structure for a better smile.
What Are the Benefits of Dental Treatments?
While the primary goal for getting fit with braces might seem fairly obvious, straighter teeth aren’t the only benefit you can expect from a teeth straightening treatment. Braces can help reduce crowding and spacing issues, correct an overbite or an underbite, fix jaw disorders, and improve the overall facial structure and appearance of the patient. Braces can also help to correct crossbite and overjet, if necessary.
Aesthetic procedures in dentistry, like veneers, crowns, dental implants, and the all-on-four dental implant technique can benefit the patient in truly remarkable ways. Broken, damaged, and missing teeth can be replaced or fixed instantly, and these new, perfect teeth replacements can dramatically improve the patient’s appearance. In some cases, aesthetic treatments can also help to eliminate jaw and tooth pain.
Gum surgery treatments benefit the patient with a more even and balanced smile. Gummy smile surgery can also help to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease in some cases.
What Types of Dental Treatments Are There?
Dental treatments and dental care techniques are always evolving, and new procedures are being created every year to address the most common issues patients have with their smiles. There are many different types of treatments in general dentistry and cosmetic dentistry. However, the following three categories are some of the most popular and common procedures available.
Teeth Straightening Treatments
Traditional Metal Braces: Traditional metal braces are the most common dental procedures in the nation. The process starts with an X-ray scan of your teeth and jawline so that your orthodontist can develop a plan for straightening your teeth. The dentist will then glue or bond each bracket strategically to your teeth and connect them with wire to help pull your teeth into alignment.
Lingual Braces: Lingual braces are very similar to traditional dental braces, as they use the same type of brackets and wiring. However, lingual braces are positioned discreetly on the back of the teeth rather than the front.
Clear Braces: Clear aligners are a type of orthodontic treatment that helps to straighten teeth without the use of the typical metal braces. Clear aligners involve wearing a series of custom-made, clear plastic aligners that help shift your teeth into the proper position. Brands of clear braces include Invisalign, ClearCorrect, MTM Clear Aligner System, Simpli5, Smile Direct Club, and Smilelign.
Damon Braces: Damon braces are self-ligating appliances that are fitted in the same way as traditional metal braces. Instead of having brackets that need to be tightened and adjusted regularly, Damon braces use a slide mechanism that attaches wires to brackets to move naturally with the teeth as they realign.
Aesthetic Dental Treatments
Crowns: Crowns are a type of tooth restoration that caps or encircles a tooth or dental implant. These are mainly used when a large cavity starts to threaten the oral health of a tooth.
Veneers: Veneers are a type of dental laminate that bond to the front of teeth to repair malformed, discolored, or chipped teeth.
Implants: Teeth implants are surgical teeth replacements that are placed into the gum to replicate a missing tooth.
All-on-Fours: An All-on-Four procedure is similar to implants, but instead of six to eight implants per arch, only four are posts are implanted. The goal of All-on-Four dental implants is to provide quicker results, at lower costs, with high success rates for patients who are missing all or most of their teeth.
Dental Bridges: Dental bridges are a restoration technique designed to replace a missing tooth or teeth by attaching a gold, alloy, or porcelain implant to adjacent implants or natural teeth. In a dental bridge, the anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth, and the false teeth in the center are called pontics.
Dental Bonding: The goal of dental bonding is to improve the aesthetics of your smile by correcting chips and cracks, small gaps between teeth, disproportionately small teeth, irregularly shaped teeth, decay or erosion, slight discoloration, or exposed tooth roots where the gums have pulled away. A composite material will be applied to the damaged teeth and shaped to the patient’s individual cosmetic needs.
Other dental health and aesthetic dentistry treatments include tooth whitening, root canals, dental fillings, dental inlays, dental onlays, and dental contouring (enameloplasty, or shaping of the tooth enamel).
Gummy Smile Surgery: The aim of a gum lift is to restructure excessive or uneven gum tissue surrounding your teeth, so your gums are symmetrical and in proportion to your smile, rather than having a ‘gummy smile.’
Gum Grafting Surgery: A gingival graft, commonly called a gum graft or periodontal surgery, refers to a selection of different surgical procedures that can be performed to cover the exposed roots caused by receding gums.
Who is a Good Candidate for Dental Treatments?
Good candidates for dental treatments will vary highly on the type of treatment needed. Most dentists will be able to take a look at your teeth and easily determine the best type of treatment for you. To give you a better idea, we will discuss the best candidates for each type of procedure.
If your teeth are in generally good condition but would like to fix imperfections such as crowding, gaps, overbite, crossbite, open bite, and overjet, any of the three braces options will be a good suit for you.
For those with straight teeth but with cavities, discoloration, missing, or damaged teeth, an aesthetic treatment would be your best bet. These treatments help repair and replace teeth that have been chipped or removed.
Good candidates for gum surgery will include those who have a receding gum line or gummy smiles.
Who Should Not Have Dental Treatments?
While most people will be able to find a solution for addressing their personal dental issues, not all surgeries or procedures are suitable for everyone. Each treatment has its own set of restrictions on who should not receive that specific treatment. In general, the following types of patients are not recommended for each of these procedures:
Traditional Metal Braces: Traditional metal braces are not recommended for patients who suffer from severe cases of gum recession, have bone loss in the jaw, or who have overall weak bones. Lingual Braces: Lingual braces are to be avoided for those who suffer from a deep overbite. Overbite can cause too much pressure on the lingual braces’ brackets which could cause them to be damaged or fall off.
Clear Braces: Clear braces are not recommended for children as their growing mouths may cause the braces to become too small very quickly. Younger patients typically do not have the motivation or diligence required to complete the regimen required for a successful treatment with the aligners Those with severe jaw issues should not use clear braces as the aligners will not address the underlying bone structure issues.
Crowns: Those looking to solely fix cosmetic issues should not opt for crowns as they are usually used for restoring or strengthening teeth.
Veneers: Veneers should not be used on those with teeth that need to be straightened or those who grind the teeth as it can cause the enamel to fall off. If you do grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist or oral surgeon about getting a mouth guard to protect the veneers from tooth grinding in your sleep.
Implants: Implants are not designed for children whose jaws have not completely developed. They are also to be avoided by those who have recently received radiation treatments to the head or neck.
All-In-Fours: This procedure is not recommended for those who have worn dentures for many years as they likely have already lost too much of their bone structure to support the new implants.
Dental Bridges: This procedure is not for those under the age of 16 or those whose teeth cannot handle the bridge.
Dental Bonding: Dental bonding is not for patients whose teeth have suffered significant structural damage.
Gum Surgery: If your tooth root or gums are very unhealthy, gum surgery could exacerbate the problem, and the gum graft could fail.
How Should I Prepare for Treatment?
For teeth straightening and aesthetic treatments, your dentist or orthodontist will take x-rays and take molds of your teeth to get a better look at your complete tooth structure.
For surgical treatments like gummy smile surgery and gum grafting surgery, patients should avoid drinking caffeinated beverages the day of surgery and refrain from alcoholic drinks three days prior to your procedure. You will also want to eat a light meal before your surgery. Some teeth straightening treatments may require additional procedures before the braces are installed.
Patients having an All-on-Four procedure will need to fast prior to your procedure, Patients will also be instructed to not take any medication that contains aspirin or anti-inflammatory medication for two weeks before the procedure. You will be advised to stop smoking at least four weeks before and after the procedure and to not drink alcohol for at least two days before your procedure.
Is Anesthesia Used During Treatment?
One of the biggest questions when dealing with dental procedures revolves around whether or not you will be awake during your procedure. This will depend on the type of procedure you are having, as some treatments will require anesthesia and others will not.
For braces, you can expect to be awake during each phase of the process. While having braces put on your teeth may be a lengthy process, the actual fitting is not invasive and shouldn’t be painful. For surgery and more extensive aesthetic dental procedures, you will be given local anesthesia for pain.
For dental crowns, dental implants, and All-on-Four treatments, patients are usually given a sedative along with local or general anesthesia depending on your individual needs.
How Many Treatments Are Needed to See Results?
Unlike many other medical procedures that take multiple treatments to see noticeable results, many dental procedures require only one treatment to see the desired outcome. Crowns, veneers, dental implants, bridges, bonding, and both types of gum surgeries will offer instant results in just one procedure.
For teeth straightening procedures, however, results are reached over the course of a long process that could take months to complete. Patients will need to visit their orthodontist regularly for progress to be monitored and to make sure that your teeth are responding properly to treatment. The length of your entire treatment will depend on the condition of your teeth and jaws, and your dental office’s plans for treatment.
Are Results Permanent or Temporary?
Most aesthetic teeth procedures will result in long-lasting solutions for your dental problems. However, the timeline for each one will vary depending on the treatment type.
Most dental implants and dental crowns will last many years, as long as the patient takes proper care of their teeth and crowns. Along the same lines, dental bridges are expected to last a minimum of five years, and up to a maximum of 15 years and even longer.
Porcelain veneers are strong and durable and should be able to hold up for at least 10-15 years with excellent dental hygiene and care. Patients may need to periodically repair or replace veneers if they become damaged.
All-on-Fours, due to their permanent placement over the gums, can last a lifetime with proper care.
Although composite dental bonding is not as strong as natural tooth enamel and won't last as long as veneers, bonding should last for at least ten years if properly cared for. This means following an oral hygiene routine that includes brushing and flossing twice a day, refraining from chewing on hard items like ice, candy, and other foods, wearing a night guard if you grind your teeth, and visiting your dentist at least once every six months.
After having braces, proper oral care at home is required to avoid relapse—which usually means wearing a retainer for a long while after braces are removed.
Gum surgery requires proper aftercare to ensure a permanent result. However, the results are usually lasting.
For gummy smile surgeries, results can last a lifetime unless proper care is not followed after surgery. Also, if the gums are being removed but the underlying bone is not reshaped the gums can grow back.
Are There Any Side Effects or Complications?
Side effects from these specific dental procedures usually involve slight tooth pain and headaches. Mild irritation may occur in more invasive procedures. More specifically, patients should note the following side effects and complications that could arise with each procedure:
Dental Crowns: After dental crown procedures, there may be slight tenderness for the next several days—especially if an existing tooth serves as the foundation underneath the crown. Side effects like irritation, inflammation, and bleeding are not uncommon and can occur after the procedure.
Veneers: In rare cases, permanent sensitivity can affect patients after getting veneers. Though most patients will experience sensitivity from one to three weeks after treatment, the pain will subside and can be managed with over-the-counter pain medication, toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and by avoiding hot or cold foods or drinks.
Dental Implants: Discomfort after dental implant placement surgery is usually brief and can last as long as two weeks. Bleeding subsides about 24 hours after surgery. Swelling is normal and can occur for up to 48 hours after surgery. Bruising and pain, particularly around the mid-facial area is also normal but should subside over the days following the procedure.
Dental Bonding: Patients may experience discomfort and sensitivity for a few days after dental bonding procedures. In these cases, pain can be managed by avoiding hard or crunchy foods, hot or cold food or drinks, and by taking pain medications recommended by your doctor.
All-On-Four: Bone shrinkage can sometimes be a side-effect, occurring in the back of the jaw.
Traditional Metal Braces, Damon Braces, and Lingual Braces: Headaches and tooth pain are common discomforts that may occur with your orthodontic treatments. The wires and brackets used with braces can cause mild irritation to the inside of your mouth as well. If part of your orthodontic work requires the readjustment and realignment of your jaw, you may experience jaw pain during the adjustment period.
Clear Braces: Common side effects of clear aligners include impediments or hindrance to proper and comfortable speech. Patients may also experience bad breath or dry mouth.
Gummy Smile Surgery: Side effects of gummy smile surgery include the pain involved and the risk of causing teeth to loosen over time. In addition, tooth root exposure can cause the teeth to become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
Gum Graft Surgery: Some discomfort is normal and to be expected. There may also be some slight bleeding, swelling, and bruising, though extensive bleeding is a warning sign that should warrant a call to your doctor.
What is the Recovery Process Like After Having Dental Treatments?
Recovery for dental procedures is not necessary for procedures such as braces or bonding, but other dental treatments are typically associated with a minor healing period.
Following gummy smile surgery, patients will be provided with a prescription for pain medication and other instructions for home care. Ice and cold compresses can help to reduce swelling, reddening, and bruising. Patients will also be instructed to maintain a diet of soft foods and to maintain excellent oral hygiene. You’ll also want to take care to brush your teeth carefully in the area near the stitches, which will be removed within 7 to 10 days. Complete healing of the gums can take up to three months.
For gum grafting surgery, the recovery process is much less intense. Though it could take up to a week to heal after your procedure, patients should be able to return to their daily activities the day after treatment.
For dental crowns, it is best to avoid sticky or chewy foods, and it is a best practice to chew on the opposite side of your mouth to avoid damaging or removing the crown.
After an All-on-Four dental implant procedure, you will likely be asked to consume liquids such as soups and smoothies. This is because it takes time for the jawbone to fuse around the implants (the process that stabilizes implants in place permanently). Patients will slowly incorporate non-liquid foods into their diet. For instance, after a few weeks, most patients graduate to a soft diet where foods like pasta and cooked vegetables are suitable to eat.
Dental implants will require bed rest for the rest of the day after surgery, and patients should avoid strenuous activities for three to four days after treatment.
For dental bridge procedures, the recovery process will depend on whether the plan for treatment includes the placement of the crowns on the patient's natural teeth or as an anchor for the bridge. When the crowns are used over the natural teeth, the recovery time is generally one day. However, if implants are needed to anchor the bridge, recovery time may take as long as one week.
What Do Dental Treatments Cost?
Traditional Metal Braces: Braces, although typically covered partially by insurance providers, can cost $3,000-$8,000.
Lingual Braces: Due to the more involved process of placing the brackets behind the teeth, lingual braces typically cost more than traditional metal braces. A set of lingual braces will generally cost between $8,000-$10,000.
Clear Braces: Running about the same price as metal braces, clear braces cost around $4,000-$7,500.
Crowns: Depending on how many crowns are needed, this procedure can cost between $300-$3,000.
Veneers: Since veneers are a more intricate process, involving grinding down and creating individual customized caps for teeth, they generally cost anywhere between $500-$2,000 a tooth.
Implants: Dental implants cost between $1,000 to $3,000 per tooth, depending on a variety of factors.
All-on-Fours: The most involved procedure and the most costly, All-on-Fours are priced at $20,000-$50,000. However, this treatment will give patients a completely new smile in as little as one visit. Dental Bridges: Dental bridge treatments can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,200 a tooth.
Dental Bonding: Dental bonding is a relatively inexpensive procedure only costing a patient $300-$600 per tooth.
Gum Surgery: Gum surgery price tags can vary depending on the dentist and extent of the surgery. In most cases, patients will spend between $275 to $6,000.
Gum Grafting Surgery: The cost of gum graft surgery will generally cost anywhere between $1500 to $6000.
Conclusion: The Pros and Cons of Dental Treatments
There are many different procedures available to correct a wide variety of dental issues. While this guide is a great way to get started on finding the right procedure, consulting with your dentist will be the best way to decide on what treatment is right for your individual needs.
Traditional metal braces are a popular choice due to their durability, affordability, and versatility for all ages. The only downsides are the food restrictions, the visibility of metal braces, and the prevention of certain activities.
Lingual braces are highly durable and have the advantage of not being placed on the front side of teeth, making them almost invisible. However, this treatment is accompanied by a higher price tag, food restrictions, and the possibility of developing a temporary lisp.
Clear braces are great for those not comfortable with metal braces as they are removable, require no food restrictions, and are discreet. However, they are breakable and easy to lose.
Crowns are very affordable and great for those trying to repair their teeth on a budget. They can, however, create tooth sensitivity and cause gum recession.
Veneers give patients a more natural looking tooth, are long-lasting and are stain resistant. However, you can expect to pay a higher price and may experience increased tooth sensitivity.
Implants also give patients a natural-looking smile and will not affect speech or eating. The downsides are that implants require multiple steps, can cause infection, and are costly.
The main benefit of All-on-Four implants is the ability to have a completely new smile in as little as one visit. This treatment though is costly and patients may experience bone shrinkage and decreased bite force. These also cannot be placed in the molar area.
Dental bridges are an easy fix for missing teeth and can improve your overall smile. However, they will eventually need to be replaced.
Dental bonding is well known for being relatively cheap and quick, but that comes with the downside of them being easily chipped and broken.
Both gummy smile surgery and gum graft surgery can effectively reduce gum recession, stop bone loss, reduce tooth sensitivity, protect roots, tooth decay, root decay, improve your smile, and even out the gum line. The cons of these procedures are some of the side effects, like reoccurrence, tooth movement or loss after surgery, and other complications.
If you’re considering one of these procedures to beautify your smile, the chances are that you’ll achieve excellent results—as long as you find a qualified board-certified orthodontist, cosmetic dentist or dental surgeon. To ensure the best results for improving your appearance with cosmetic dentistry, contact a national association or organization like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, or the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry to find a medical professional that you can trust.