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We have put together some useful information so you can quickly and easily understand what today’s esthetic and minimally-invasive dentistry is all about. You will find solid, comprehensive information about different dental procedures and what they involve in language that is clear and worth smiling about.
 
Esthetic dentistry - often called cosmetic dentistry - involves treatments that were scientifically developed to enhance, restore and/or maintain the appearance and function of your smile (and look absolutely beautiful and natural in the process). What’s more, this type of dental work can be completed in ways that conserve as much of your own tooth structure as possible (hence, minimally-invasive).  See our new Before and After Gallery.
 
So, now that you know what it’s all about, consider what you’d like to change about your own teeth, click on the appropriate link below, and get ready to find out what’s involved in creating a beautiful smile. 
 

Whitening Teeth

Straightening Teeth

Replacing Old Dental Work

Correcting Chipped, Worn or Cracked Teeth

Missing Teeth

Jaw / Joint Pain

Overall Dental Health

 


Looking for a whiter or brighter smile?  Read on and learn about bleaching and veneers.
 

Bleaching
 
In general, bleaching is a very safe, inexpensive, and effective cosmetic treatment that removes stains to reveal the underlying whiteness of teeth. 
  
Typically bleaching effects can last up to 5 years depending on the bleaching method used, whether or not you smoke, consume acid containing foods, or consume staining beverages like red wines and coffee. The use of whitening toothpastes can significantly prolong the results you get with bleaching. 
  
Think about this before bleaching your teeth:

  1. Tooth-colored fillings will not turn white with your teeth; you may need to replace those fillings. 

  2. Crowns or porcelain restorations in conspicuous areas may not match the shade of your newly bleached teeth. 

  3. Those people with sensitive teeth or with gum disease should avoid bleaching procedures. 

Bleaching can be done in the dentist's office or at home. It's quicker to have it done in the dentist's office because the dentist can use full strength hydrogen peroxide and a special light or a laser to speed up the bleaching process. People should expect the process to take a couple of visits, each lasting up to an hour. 
   
At home, patients use a more stable form of hydrogen peroxide called carbamide peroxide. It is placed in custom made trays made from impressions taken by a dentist and worn on the teeth either once or twice a day, depending on the manufacturer.  This is a less expensive option than having it done in the dentist's office.
  
Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening systems - most kits have acetic or citric acid as their active ingredient. These can cause significant structural damage to the enamel when used for extended periods. Other types of OTC products have abrasives that will remove surface stains and make the teeth look whiter - the problem with these is that they also remove a small amount of enamel due to their abrasiveness.  We urge you to consult with your dentist before proceeding with OTC whitening systems. 

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Veneers

Veneers are thin shells that are laid onto the teeth and bonded to the surface. Although they can be made of different materials, porcelain is frequently used because of its durability and realistic appearance. 
 
Veneers are a more conservative alternative to crowns since they require less removal of the tooth's original surface. With veneers in place, patients can expect straighter, whiter, and more even teeth. 

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For years, orthodontic treatment, a special kind of dentistry dedicated to correcting the alignment of teeth using braces, was the only way to straighten crooked or crowded teeth, or those with an overbite. 
 
Today, however, dentists can use veneers to change the appearance of crooked teeth, resulting in what some call “instant orthodontics”. Although not quite instant, when veneers are prescribed, many patients enjoy the beauty of a straighter, more symmetrical smile in as little as two weeks, and with as few as two visits to the dentist’s office.
 
 
Orthodontic Treatment
 
Orthodontic treatment involves the design, placement, and manipulation of corrective appliances—called braces—that are attached to the teeth using cement. Today, there are a variety of orthodontic options available to meet individual needs. 

  • Metal or stainless steel brackets—considered conventional braces—are now available with a variety of colored ties. 

  • Ceramic or clear brackets, which are barely visible, are also available and will not discolor over time. 

  • “Invisible” or lingual braces can also be used in adults only and fit behind the teeth, on the side closest to the tongue. Most recently, an invisible, removable retainer-type of brace was introduced that can be used to straighten teeth.

How long a person will need to wear braces—and exactly which type can be used—will depend on the severity of their problem. Minor misalignment can be corrected in as little as six months, while more severe conditions that affect both the upper and lower teeth may require treatment for up to two years.
 
  
Veneers
  
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells that are applied to the front of the teeth using a very strong adhesive cement that is hardened using an intense light (called a curing light). They are made by a technician in a dental laboratory—with a model of your mouth as a guide—using either porcelain, which demonstrates the same look and feel of natural teeth, or composite resin that is reinforced with quartz. 

Veneers may be prescribed by a dentist to correct or repair a variety of dental conditions, including chips, cracks, misalignment (crooked teeth), or discoloration. Patients who have received treatments with veneers enjoy a straighter, whiter, more balanced smile. 

If your dentist decides that veneers are right for you, the teeth that will be treated will be prepared, which involves removing about ½ millimeter of enamel from the surface. Local anesthetic may be used. Then, the dentist will take an impression of your teeth for use in making the model that is sent to the laboratory. The dentist will then place temporary veneers on your teeth so that you can eat and smile as you normally would. 

It may take two to three weeks for the veneers to be ready. When the veneers are ready, the dentist will remove your temporaries and thoroughly clean your teeth, then cement and cure the permanent veneers in place. 

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Old, unattractive and silver-looking fillings could leave people feeling uncomfortable when they open their mouths or laugh out loud. Thankfully, this old dental work can be replaced with natural-looking materials, such as composite resins or porcelain. In particular, your dentist may be able to replace your fillings with inlays/onlays or, if the damage is extensive, with crowns. Either way, you won’t be able to tell the difference between your natural tooth structure and the new esthetic dental work! Now, there’s a reason to smile!
 
 
Inlays/onlays

Inlays/onlays are small pieces of dental porcelain or composite resin created in a dental laboratory and shaped to fit perfectly in the space left by cavities and/or old dental work. In some cases, inlays/onlays may be made using gold. They are cemented in place with strong cement that is hardened using an intense light (a curing light). Because they are custom-built to match your existing tooth structure, they look exactly like the rest of the tooth.
 
If inlays/onlays are prescribed for you, the dentist will prepare your tooth by removing the old filling or the decay. During this step, a local anesthetic may be used. An impression will then be taken and sent to the laboratory technician for use in making the inlay/onlay. Then, the dentist will create a temporary filling for you so that you can resume your normal activities.
 
When the inlay/onlay is returned from the laboratory, your dentist will remove the temporary and thoroughly clean the tooth. The inlay/onlay will then be cemented and cured into place.
 
 
Crowns

Also known as a cap, a crown is a porcelain, gold, metal, or combination metal/porcelain covering cemented into place over the entire shape of a tooth that has a large filling, extensive damage or decay, or that is too weak and may break. Crowns can also be used to hold a bridge into place, cover an implant, or protect/restore a tooth that has had a root canal.

The dentist will prepare your tooth by removing the decay or old filling, as well as a small amount of the enamel surface from around and on top of the tooth. Local anesthesia will likely be used. Then, the dentist will take an impression of the tooth and the surrounding teeth for use in making a model that is sent to a technician at a dental laboratory, where the crown will be made.  To enable you to chew and resume your normal activities, the dentist will place a temporary crown over the tooth.

As with inlays/onlays and veneers, when your permanent crown is ready, the dentist will remove the temporary and thoroughly clean the tooth. Depending on what type of crown was made for you, the dentist may use cement that must be cured, or one that hardens and sets without the use of a curing light.
 

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When it comes to the appearance of your smile, little things can mean a lot. A small chip here, a slight crack there, and wear everywhere can take its toll on how you, and others, feel about your smile. The good news is that today’s dentistry offers tooth-conserving treatments and materials that can take your smile from dull to dazzling in as little as one or two visits to the dentist.
 
Depending on what you’re diagnosed with by your dentist, you may be a candidate for veneers, which can lengthen, shorten, whiten, and straighten the appearance of your teeth. If there’s a concern about the strength of your teeth, your dentist may prescribe crowns. Veneers and crowns, which are created especially for you by a technician at a dental laboratory, require at least two visits to the dentist.
 
On the other hand, if you’d like to conserve even more of your natural tooth structure, then maybe in-office bonding is for you. Bonding is a process in which a tooth-like material—called composite resin—is applied to the tooth’s surface. With composite bonding, once the material is placed on your tooth, it is sculpted into the ideal shape, hardened, and then polished. Bonding can be used for closing gaps between otherwise healthy teeth, repairing chips, changing the overall shape or color of teeth, and filling cavities with a tooth-matching material. This type of treatment can usually be completed in one visit to the dentist’s office.

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If you’re missing a tooth, you’re probably conscious of a lot more than just how it makes your smile look. You may notice that it’s difficult to chew and, in some instances, it may be awkward to speak certain words and sounds. While there may be many reasons why you are missing a tooth, there are two great reasons to see your dentist about replacing it: bridges and implants.
 
Today, with so many natural-looking, metal-free, or “permanent” choices available, dentists can replace a missing tooth so that nobody—not even you—will know that it’s not a natural tooth. 

 
Bridges

A bridge—also called a fixed partial denture—does exactly what the name implies: it spans the space from a missing tooth using two crowns on the teeth on each side of the gap, with an artificial tooth in the middle. Like crowns, they are made in a dental laboratory using porcelain, or a combination of metal/porcelain.

In addition to filling in the gap left by a missing tooth, bridges also help maintain the shape of your face, improve the appearance of your smile, and relieve stress when chewing. Unlike a removable bridge (or partial denture) that you can take out, a fixed bridge remains securely cemented in your mouth and can only be removed by a dentist.

If your dentist decides that a bridge is right for you, the teeth on either side of the space will be prepared by filing down all around and on top of them to make room for the crowns to fit. Then, impressions will be taken of your upper and lower teeth for use in making a model that is sent to the laboratory as a guide.

While you’re waiting for your bridge to made, the dentist will place a temporary bridge in your mouth to enable you to chew, as well as to maintain the proper dimensions between the teeth. Once the bridge is ready, the temporary will be removed, the teeth will be cleaned, and the bridge will be cemented into place.
 

Implants

Implants are high-strength fixtures that are surgically placed under the gum and into the underlying bone of the jaw to replace missing or extracted (pulled) teeth. When the implant has fully integrated into the bone, an artificial tooth—such as a crown—is placed on top of it.

If your dentist prescribes an implant for you, it may require one or two operations during the course of three to six months, which are done under local anesthetic. This surgery can take place in a dental office or in a hospital, depending on several factors.

The oral surgeon will begin by making an incision in your gums to expose the bone in the jaw. Then, a hole will be made for the dental implant to fit into. Once the implant is in place, the gums are closed with stitches.

It takes time for the bone to grow around and connect to the implant (called osseointegration). If the implant is placed in your lower jaw, this may take three months. If it is placed in the upper jaw, this could take about six months. What’s more, depending on the type of implant prescribed for you, another surgery may be required to connect the post portion, which would eventually hold the artificial tooth in place in your mouth.

Once the implant is secure and fully integrated, a crown will be placed on top of the implant, and it will appear as if you never had a missing tooth. Implants may also be used to secure complete dentures.

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If you’ve connected to this link, you’re likely interested in finding out what can be done to relieve the pain you’ve been experiencing. It may have been building up over time, or it may be something that you’ve just become aware of. Either way, at DefiningSmile.com, we’ve got some information that may give you a new reason to smile.

You may be one of the more than 10 million people that suffer from a condition called TMJ Syndrome. Or, you may be one of those people who grind and clench their teeth at night (called bruxism) and don’t even know it. Both of these conditions lead to moderate to severe facial pain, headaches, jaw pain and tenderness, fatigue in the muscles in your face, neck aches, and earaches. In either case, dentists now have a variety of treatment solutions available—many of which are conservative and do not require dental work or surgery—to help relieve your pain.

Bite splints—which are custom-made from acrylic or rubber and are worn over the teeth while sleeping—are often used to treat patients with TMJ disorders and those who are bruxers. They have been shown to protect the teeth, improve jaw-muscle and TMJ function, and relieve related pain While they may provide some relief and protection, they may not actually “cure” the problem.
  

TMJ Syndrome

TMJ is the abbreviation for the temporomandibular joint, otherwise known as the jaw joint. These are the small joints in front of each ear that connect your bottom jaw to your skull and are used when opening and closing your mouth, chewing, speaking, etc. Individuals diagnosed with TMJ Syndrome experience a variety of symptoms, including pain in the jaw areas and associated muscles, including the ear; limited ability to open their mouth; headaches; facial pain; and others. Currently, there are no scientifically proven tests available to diagnose TMJ.
  

Bruxism

Bruxism refers to a gnashing or grinding of the teeth that most often occurs while you’re sleeping, so you’re probably not aware that you’re doing it. The condition is usually diagnosed during dental examinations based on the wear of your teeth that the dentist sees. Like TMJ Syndrome, there are no clinical tests that can be performed to determine if you’re a bruxer.

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By visiting DefiningSmile.com, you’ve taken a great step toward saying, “Aahhh.” Here, we’ll provide some basics about maintaining the health and beauty of your smile. And, we’ll provide some links to information about other topics related to dental care.
 

At the Dentist’s Office

There’s a lot involved in a having a healthy smile, and knowing what’s a part of overall dental care will help put your mind at ease. During regular check-ups and recare visits, dentists and hygienists take care to ensure the ongoing health of your teeth. In particular, they will strive to prevent cavities, decay and disease by using:

· Diagnostic x-rays
· Fluoride treatments and sealants
· Routine periodontal (gum) examinations
· Oral cancer screenings
· Soft tissue (gum) management
  

In the Comfort of Your Own Home

While it may seem that dentists can provide you with an almost instantaneous Defining Smile, the fact is, a beautiful smile and healthy teeth don’t just happen. They result from good oral care habits, such as brushing and flossing, watching what you eat and drank, and avoiding use of tobacco products.

Any toothpaste that contains fluoride and is used a soft bristle toothbrush at least twice a day for 2 minutes will help effectively prevent cavities. Look for the ADA (American Dental Association) seal of approval when purchasing your toothpaste.
Brushing, combined with flossing, will also help prevent gum diseases such as gingivitis, which causes lesions or wounds that affect the gums, and periodontitis, which damages the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth. Gingivitis is entirely reversible but, if left unchecked, can often progress to later stages and cause tooth loss and even serious health complications. Some of the early signs you may notice at home are: gums that bleed when brushing; tender or occasional swollen gums; bad breath. If you have noticed these signs, contact your dentist for an examination.

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