Solving Common Smile Problems with Dental Contouring and Whitening
We’ve covered some great tools dentists have to fix smile problems. So far we’ve covered veneers, crowns, bridges, dental implants, porcelain (for veneers), posts, inlays, and Cerec. We continue the discussion here with more tools available for you when considering a new, perfect smile. (Taken from my book, A Guide to the Perfect Smile.)
Contouring is a highly successful, though often overlooked, procedure. Many long, pointed, and chipped teeth can be easily corrected by reshaping those areas, with special diamond-impregnated drills. This sanding and polishing process, if done properly, is not harmful to the teeth.
Teeth ten to shift and drift over time, and these naturally movements can actually create an improper wear pattern and possibly a cycle of continual chipping and wearing. Often a realignment of all the teeth through contouring not only improves the aesthetics greatly but also actually restores true form and function.
The process of whitening uses bleaching substances, applied at the dentist’s office or at home, to lighten the color of natural teeth. Teeth naturally darken over time, and whitening allows a patient to restore teeth to a more youthful-looking shade. Not everyone is a good candidate for whitening – for example, patients whose teeth are heavily filled.
Currently, whitening is the number-one dental procedure in North America. Its rapid popularity has left the public somewhat confused as to the various systems and claims.
There are two types of whitening: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic whitening consists of various techniques that remove color and stains from the outside of the tooth. The whitest color that can be achieved through this method is the color achieved by a professional dental cleaning. You should assess the color of your teeth often such cleaning to see what your natural color is. If you are satisfied with this color, but over time, after the cleaning, the teeth seem to discolor, then toothpastes, mouth rinses, or another professional dental cleaning will help reestablish optimal color.
One cannot achieve, through extrinsic whitening, a result any greater than the true, inherent color of the teeth.
Intrinsic whitening is required if you find that the color of the teeth, even after a professional dental cleaning, is still too dark. In this process, the inner parts of the teeth are bleached to dissolve some of the inorganic pigments causing the discoloration.
Although there are various techniques that claim to bleach teeth intrinsically, all intrinsic whitening – whether we’re talking about custom trays fabricated by dentists, over-the-counter products, strips that are applied to the teeth, or powerful lights or lasers used in a dental office – is done with the same chemical process. The only difference between the various techniques is the amount of concentration they require and the time they take.
You should customize your choice based on your personal preferences. Most people prefer the one-hour office procedure, for the sake of convenience, but studies clearly show that they results of in-office whitening are limited and have a higher rebound than the more traditional long-term process of wearing custom bleaching trays for seven to ten days.
Some patients worry about making their teeth too white by over-bleaching. The good news is that there’s little danger of this. It is possible, however, to go too white with veneers or caps. When designing a smile, the color of any artificial restorations should be carefully matched to the teeth. There is no universal right color.
As mentioned earlier, it was once though that the color of your teeth should matched the whites of your eyes. This is simply not true – tooth color is perceived relative to the color of lips, skin, and clothes. If you have a pale skin, your teeth will look yellower. If you get a tan, they’ll look whiter. The only real guideline is that your teeth should be lighter than your skin tone.