How To Choose A Cosmetic Dentist
Finding the Right Professional to Enhance Your Smile
You’ve been thinking about it for a long time: fixing those little things about your smile that have always bothered you… or maybe even rejuvenating your whole appearance with a full-fledged dental makeover. You want to choose the right dentist to do this work for you — a professional you can trust to get the job done just the way you want it. How do you begin?
It All Starts With You
Actually, you have some work to do before you even start looking for the right cosmetic dentist. But don’t worry — it’s enjoyable work! Because the first step in finding the right cosmetic dentist is finding out what you really want. Start by taking a look in the mirror and asking yourself some questions, such as:
- What do you like or dislike about the color, size, shape and spacing of your teeth?
- Are you pleased with how much your teeth show, both when you smile and when your lips are relaxed?
- Do you want teeth that are perfectly aligned and “Hollywood White,” or would you prefer a more natural look with slight variations in shade and spacing?
- When you smile do your gums look healthy and even around your front teeth? Do you think too much of your gums show?
- Do you think your smile compliments your face? Does it make you look younger or older?
After you’ve given some thought to these issues, thumb through a few magazines. See if you can find smiles you really like — and also some that you don’t like; because while some teeth may be technically perfect, they may not be perfect for you. These pictures will provide important discussion points for you and the dentist(s) you talk to about your smile. If you are trying to “turn back the clock,” you m ay also want to gather some pictures of yourself when you were younger. (Yes, a skilled cosmetic dentist can, in effect, do that!)
While we’re on the subject of skill, there’s something else you should consider: While every dentist is a health professional, some dentists are more interested, knowledgeable, experienced and artistic when it comes to cosmetic dentistry. More complex issues will definitely require a greater degree of expertise. For example, is it just one tooth that needs repair, or every tooth that’s visible and then some? Will the condition of your teeth and bite allow for cosmetic dental treatment? The more extensive the work, the greater the skill level that will be required.
Like everything we buy, there is a lot of variation in the quality and price. Everyone loves a bargain but will it get you what you want? Creating beautifully natural smiles requires a great deal of time, knowledge of dental materials, artistry and skill — on the part of both the cosmetic dentist and the dental laboratory technicians who are essential partners in the process of creating your new smile. Depending upon your needs and the combined skill of your cosmetic dentistry team, the level of artistry achieved will invariably be reflected in the price.
Conducting the Search
Start you search by talking to people you know who have had positive experiences with cosmetic dentistry, and consulting dental professionals whom you trust. Then, browse websites of the dentists who are recommended to you. It’s important to check out examples of their work, which most cosmetic dentists are eager to showcase with before-and-after photos. Be aware, however, that commercially produced before-and-after examples do exist, so it’s important to verify that the photos you are seeing are actual patients of the dentists you are considering.
Also, keep in mind that cosmetic dentistry is different than other dental specialties (orthodontics or oral surgery for example) in that there are no criteria dentists must meet or exams they must pass to be able to call themselves a cosmetic dentist; any dentist who wants to can adopt the title. However, there are organizations that accredit (certify) dentists in cosmetic dentistry, and the process is quite rigorous. There is a credential administered by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (aacd.com) that is available to all dentists and dental laboratory technicians world-wide. To receive the credential, dentists and technicians must complete a demanding testing process, including: a written exam; documentation of five specific types of clinical cases (with before and after treatment photographs); participation in continuing education classes; and passing a final oral exam. All stages of this process are peer-administered meaning dentists who are already credentialed oversee it. The AACD also conducts extensive training to dental professionals in all aspects of cosmetic dental techniques, materials, and scientific advances. You can find members of the AACD members in your area by visiting the AACD web site at www.aacd.com.
Other organizations, such as the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, also stress advanced education and high ethical standards. The key point is that even though cosmetic dentistry is not recognized as a specialty, it is important to seek a dentist who approaches it as if it is. A doctor’s continuing education, organizational memberships and credentials all highlight areas of interest and expertise and are important to consider when making a decision.