While the term ''cosmetic dentistry'' had been around for several decades, there are many new, affordable and lasting techniques that those wishing for a better smile can investigate. ''A beautiful smile is the centerpiece of a lovely face and, indeed, sometimes of a facial make-over,'' notes Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S., who has a full-service cosmetic dentistry practice, Connelly & Fiorillo, in Boston.
Connelly finds he's getting more and more referrals from plastic surgeons who may send a face or eye-lift patient in for a consultation because once they have other work done, patients come to realize their smile can be more youthful-looking as well. ''Symmetry is such a part of an attractive smile, along with color and shape,'' observes Connelly, and skilled cosmetic dentists can adjust all three factors.
The most common cosmetic, technique to address color is laser whitening which costs about $1000. It involves a painless application of gel activated by laser light, with initial treatment taking two hours in the dentist's office. Laser whitening is considered a permanent enhancement, requiring periodic at-home maintenance; Patients are supplied with nighttime gel tray systems that they can use for refresher treatments several nights, every few months.
Not all teeth respond to laser whitening, so another option for more severe smile deficiencies involving tooth position, shape, length, and color is porcelain veneers-the secret behind many of Hollywood's most stunning smiles. After prepping and reshaping a patient's real tooth, the veneers are attaches just on the tooth front. Veneers let dentists change the position, color, and shape of teeth to almost completely rebuild a smile. Cost is dependent upon how many teeth are veneered and ranges from $6,000 to $30,000. Veneers last 15 to 20 years, or even longer, if taken care of properly. Laser gum surgery can also be used to create a more consistent or better-proportioned smile by reshaping the gums, right in the dentist's office.