How to Get A New Smile That Won’t Make You Frown
Looking at the close-up of Dwight’s after photo, it’s impossible not to be drawn to his white, even smile—a huge improvement over his old dental work. Before, he had teeth that looked like yellowed, antique chiclets.
Martha’s new smile is a lot like Dwight’s, beautiful and broad, with evenly spaced pearly whites. Before she had her front teeth covered with porcelain veneers—porcelain shells bonded to the front side of the teeth—her teeth had gaps, were stained a brownish-gray color, and were worn down on the biting surfaces.
Such are the before-and-after photos in the thick binder that prominent Atlanta cosmetic dentist Dr. Debra Gray King shows patients to let them judge her work. Recent technical advances and exposure from the flurry of TV makeover shows, such as ABC’s Extreme Makeover (where Dr. King was selected to showcase her work), are opening up cosmetic dentistry as a possibility for people from all walks of life.
What used to be a long and complicated procedure that required hours of prep work and several long visits can be a remarkably easy and comfortable procedure today under the care of an experienced and properly trained cosmetic dentist. “Today, in about the same time it takes for dinner and a movie, you could have a beautiful new smile,” says Dr. King. “Because of this, we see people from all over the country visit us to get their beautiful new smile.”
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Unfortunately though, many people are discovering that smile makeovers can be costly in more ways than one. Finding unattractive and unnatural dental work is easy to do and dentists say bad veneer jobs are outnumbered by good ones. Even if cosmetic dentistry appears satisfactory initially, patients sometimes experience years later the heartbreak of discoloration, leakage and delamination. Before dental patients give their consent to extensive treatment, they should do their homework.
A veneer is not a veneer. Although near-perfect smiles are what many people have come to expect from veneers -- -- that’s not always the result. Instead of ending up with pretty smiles like Martha or Dwight, they look more like Jim Carrey in The Mask, Matt Dillon in Something About Mary, or even some relative of Bugs Bunny.
Problems can arise when people go to inexperienced or poorly skilled dentists. “There are many days where we get patients in who have spent thousands of dollars and are unhappy with the results,” says Dr. King. Some of the more challenging cases can be redoing prior dental work. Unfortunately, dentists who do not have the skill level to deliver moderate to advanced veneer cases can consequently end up with less than acceptable results.
Some veneers are so square, bulky, or so white-out white that they don't look real. "The look you want from veneers is not opaque white, but translucent, a surface that reflects light like a real tooth," explains Dr. Richard Creasman, an instructor of cosmetic dentistry. Depending on your skin tone, he said, overly white veneers can "really pop out at you." One benchmark, is that the color of veneers should be as white as the whites of your eyes.
Some veneers are too long, impairing speech. "The tongue gets locked behind the upper teeth," Dr. Creasman said, "and that makes it hard to say 'm', 's' or 'th.' " “It's very important to ask dentists for photos of veneer work they have performed, says Dr. Creasman. Some dentists buy generic before-and-after photos from dental supply companies to show patients. But the customer has to do their due diligence by simply asking, “Did you do these veneers?”
Dr. King says veneers require artistry on the part of the laboratory that mixes the porcelain to make sure they come out the right color. Porcelain veneers do not need to nor should they feel thick if made properly. If this happens, one possibility is that either the dentist did not reduce the tooth enough to allow room for porcelain or the dental lab made them too thick. Usually it is because there was poor planning and the tooth was not reduced enough. Working with a good lab and doing a diagnostic wax-up of the proposed veneers will help to achieve a more ideal outcome.
Having veneers put on usually takes at least two visits to a dentist. In the first, the dentist makes a mold of the patient's teeth. The best practices of cosmetic dentist should also be to first put in temporary veneers made of resin, which the patient wears for a few weeks to make sure the size and shape are right before the porcelains are made. In the second visit, the dentist will ideally show the patient a wax model of what the veneers will look like before preparing the teeth and placing the veneers. If the patient is not happy with the model, the veneers don't go in.
Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry
5014 Roswell Road Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30342