If you decide to have your teeth whitened, it's important that you do everything you can to maximize the longevity of your results.
How to Choose a Cosmetic Dentist
Finding a qualified cosmetic dentist requires careful consideration. With an increasing number of dentists offering cosmetic dentistry, a variety of procedures to choose from and the possible need for inter-disciplinary care before receiving cosmetic dentistry treatment, your choices can be staggering.
There is no referral system in place or third party insurance administrator involvement to assist with the selection of a cosmetic dentist.
Obtaining Referrals for Cosmetic Dentists
Your general dentist's recommendation is a primary consideration. If you have been receiving regular check ups, your general dentist has a picture of the current status and condition of your mouth.
If your dentist finds that your teeth, gums, supporting bone structure and occlusion (bite) is in need of further evaluation prior to cosmetic dentistry, he/she may refer you to a periodontist, prosthodontist, endodontist, orthodontist or oral maxillofacial surgeon. The condition of your teeth, gums, supporting bone structure and occlusion has an impact on the longevity of cosmetic dental procedures. You may require treatment for these conditions before cosmetic treatment begins. In some cases a full mouth reconstruction may be part of your cosmetic dentistry treatment.
Ask your friends, neighbors, and business colleagues who have undergone a smile makeover whom they would recommend.
Narrowing Your Cosmetic Dentist Choices
It is important to do your homework and investigate the level of cosmetic dentistry experience for each cosmetic dentist you consider before setting up a consultation appointment. You may want to ask if the dentist is skilled in providing full mouth reconstruction, or if he/she refers patients to another specialist if such treatments are needed. You may also want to ask if the cosmetic dentist is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, which requires adherence to rigorous study, ethical standards and examination to qualify as an accredited member.
Other criteria for determining if a cosmetic dentist is the right one for you include:
How long has the dentist been practicing?
Are the results shown in before and after photos of previous patients to your liking? Are the photos of actual patients that the dentist has treated?
How extensive is the dentist's practice? Does he/she offer study models, imaging technology and/or bonding previews when recommending and demonstrating procedure options?
What dental technologies (lasers, caries detection devices, CAD/CAM restoration, intraoral imaging, etc.) are used in the practice that may help serve your needs?
What patient comforts are provided through the practice such as headphones that provide calming music, comfort chairs, spa services or sedation dentistry that will make the treatment process a more relaxing and anxiety-free experience?
Emergencies are unlikely, but do find out what provisions the practice offers. Is the emergency service provided by the dentist or a staff member? Is communication over the phone or in person?
What to Expect at your Consultation
Your initial consultation with a cosmetic dentist is an opportunity for you to learn about the practice that you've narrowed down your search to, as well as discuss what you like and don't like about your smile. It's also an opportunity for you and the cosmetic dentist to establish realistic expectations for your cosmetic dental treatment.
Consultations for cosmetic dentistry treatments typically include records gathering. Because these records are important for developing a unique and precise cosmetic dental treatment plan that will satisfy your needs, a significant amount of time may be spent for this purpose. Records gathering involves, but is not limited to:
- A comprehensive intraoral examination and inspection of any existing dental work.
- Intraoral photographs
- Radiographs (X-rays)
- Impressions of your upper and lower teeth (models and study casts will be made later).
- Looking through smile design books that show an assortment of before and after photographs of different cosmetic dental procedures.
- Reviewing different tooth shapes and sizes to see what appeals to you.
- Discussing tooth color
- Using a computer monitor, reviewing your smile tooth by tooth with the cosmetic dentist so you can thoroughly understand what can be changed and how.
Your consultation may also include a meeting with a patient coordinator. The patient coordinator's role in the cosmetic dental practice is to help you with scheduling appointments and follow-up care.
You may also meet with the practice's office manager to discuss the types of financing or payment options available to help you manage the cost of your cosmetic dentistry treatment dental insurance does not typically provide coverage for cosmetic treatment. If not, remember to ask about what the financing options are. While payment plans are available through a number of dental loan providers, your cosmetic dentist may offer in-house payment options as well.
(Read more about dental insurance coverage)
Considerations for the Consultation
Cosmetic dentistry results may vary and are dependent on the skill of your dentist. Finding a qualified cosmetic dentist therefore requires careful consideration, even during the consultation stages of treatment.
During your consultation, make note of how you feel about the practice's ambiance. Specifically, are you comfortable with the cosmetic dentist's chair-side manner? Is the staff friendly, welcoming and quick to address your concerns? Since cosmetic dentistry treatment can take time, it is important to establish a rapport with all individuals involved.
If the cosmetic dentist provides you with a diagnosis and treatment plan during the consultation, it is important that he or she share that information with you in detail. Make sure that you understand your diagnosis and any viable treatment alternatives. Make sure that you feel completely comfortable with the level of detail and thoroughness of the explanations you are given so that you can make an educated decision about your cosmetic dental treatment.
Likewise, when providing you with a treatment plan, the cosmetic dentist should be able to tell you about the type of materials that will be used in the fabrication of your restorations. Be sure to ask about how long the results are expected to last and the type of maintenance required in order to sustain the benefit of the procedures. For example, teeth whitening must be repeated every three to six months depending upon the procedure you choose in order to maintain the benefits. Similarly, you may be required to wear a protective mouth guard at night to help maintain your veneers.
Since most cosmetic dentistry procedures include restorations made in a dental laboratory, ask about the dental laboratory technician your dentist plans to involve in your treatment plan. Is the laboratory technician or ceramist a Certified Dental Technician or an accredited member of the AACD? Has the dentist worked with this laboratory technician for many years and/or on similar cases in the past?
When you select a cosmetic dentist, you are selecting a dental professional who will help you change your appearance by changing the look of your teeth and your smile. It is a very personal and important choice. Most procedures are not reversible, so you will want to take your time, ensure that you feel comfortable with the dentist, and that you feel confident with his/her skills and capabilities. When you do, you will likely be happy and completely satisfied with the results that are achieved with the cosmetic dentistry treatment you receive.