Here at Northway Dental Practice many of us have seen TV shows like “10 Years Younger” and have been exposed to celebrity-media portrayals of cosmetic dentistry but what does it really involve in the real world?
Cosmetic dentistry is a very wide ranging term which covers everything from just polishing the teeth to placing dental implants (screw-in-teeth). As such the best definition would be that cosmetic dentistry is “any process which brings about an improvement in the appearance of the teeth”.
For some people merely getting the teeth clean and keeping them clean will give the teeth the appearance they want. For others getting their teeth to look good will require a small or modest amount of treatment, for some the treatment might be complicated or extensive. The take-home message here is that we undertake a lot of cosmetic dentistry on a small and modest scale which yields good results for our patients for what we think are sensible fees. For example, whitening the teeth can improve their appearance dramatically and yet is simple and, compared with some of the alternative cosmetic treatments, low-cost. Often people assume there is nothing affordable that can be done to improve their teeth, whereas the reality is there are usually many affordable things that can be done.
It is worth saying that there is a firm line between what can be done on the NHS and what must be done privately. The NHS exists to keep us healthy, but not to make us beautiful. Procedures which are designed to give improvements in appearance are not available on the NHS.
Some say to “fail to plan” is to “plan to fail”. I find it helpful to think of the process of cosmetic dentistry as being all about planning. Why do I say this? It is relatively easy to do some of the available treatments but without being well planned they will often not result in the long term outcome our patients want. As such planning is more important than doing, since planning is difficult and doing is often straightforward.
The planning, simply put, consists of three aspects
- Finding out specifically what our patient wants from their teeth. It may be obvious or it may be very subtle indeed. We can offer some ideas and suggestions but as Plato said “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” so it is important that we make the teeth look the way you, the patient, wants them to look. To do this you need to know what you want them to look like and we need to be able to find out from you what you would like to see smiling back at you in the mirror.
- Working out what we can do with the teeth we have to work with. Sometimes the proposed treatment will be simple and at other times complex. Occasionally there will be problems and some compromises might need to be made. It is vital that these compromises are clear from the outset and that our patients accept them if they are to proceed. If the compromises are too many then it is often better not to proceed.
- Then we need to discuss how much will it cost and how long will it take, i.e the practicalities.
Once all these three things are agreed then the treatment can proceed.
Interestingly our patient’s expectations sometimes will change as the treatment proceeds. I have experienced situations with patients who at the start said that all they wanted was one tooth to look better but by the end they wanted much more extensive treatment. This is not a problem provided it is planned for. We often ask people to think about their teeth in an “ideal world” and then work backwards from there otherwise we risk not being thorough enough.
Here at Northway Dental Practice we have experience in planning and carrying out cosmetic dentistry, and have a sensible approach designed to achieve great looking teeth, safely and in many cases affordably.