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Testing Your Smile Makeover

The reassurance of a trial smile

A Consultation with Dr. Susan Hollar

This article is endorsed by the
American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

Dear Doctor,
I want and need a new smile. My dentist showed me a preview of what changes could be created with computer imaging, but I'm not sure I trust what I see on the screen. Is there another way?

Before cosmetic dentistry.
Photograph showing discolored and unattractive teeth before any cosmetic dentistry.
Trial smile before dental veneers.
The trial smile is established with temporary composite bonding material allowing you to see your smile's full potential.
After cosmetic dentistry.
Once a blueprint is established, longer lasting materials are used to make your new smile a permanent reality.

Dear Debbie,
I can understand your uncertainty. While looking at attractive computer images might further inspire you to undergo a smile makeover, it won't give you a true sense of how it would actually look and feel to make that new smile your own. But there is indeed a way to give you a more realistic sense of what you can expect. It's called the “trial smile.”

The trial smile is a communication tool that enables you and your dentist to envision the end result of a smile makeover and to understand the options available to achieve your goals. With a trial smile, your dentist temporarily places composite resin — a tooth-colored bonding material — onto your teeth to mimic the effects you can get with veneers, crowns or other smile-enhancement procedures. The composite can be shaped, cured and sculpted for a lifelike, three-dimensional effect that shows you exactly how your new smile will look and feel.

The effect of reshaping your teeth or changing their shade can be quite dramatic. You can go home with a photograph of your trial smile and give a preview of your makeover to family members and friends. Their reactions might be all the confirmation you need that you are moving in the right direction! When the trial is finished, your dentist will gently remove the composite.

A trial smile is an additional expense, but it is a small proportion of your total investment in cosmetic treatment. And the payoff is big, as you will gain valuable reassurance that you are doing what's best for you.

My patients and I always find taking the extra step of creating a trial smile to be well worth it. For one thing, it helps me as a dentist create the best possible result — one that has actually been confirmed in the individual's mouth. During a trial smile, you and your dentist will examine your new look as you smile, speak, and simply relax, to make sure everything lines up and functions exactly as it should. A practice run also helps me determine the most conservative treatment approach. For example, some cosmetic procedures, such as veneers, require the removal of a small amount of tooth enamel. A trial smile helps me see exactly how much enamel I need to remove, allowing me to preserve as much as possible. And the trial smile process gives me a very clear idea of my patients' expectations, leading to highly productive discussions about treatment options and any limitations there might be.

But perhaps the most important reason to do a trial smile is to reassure you, the patient, and to give you the information and confidence you need to make important decisions regarding your appearance and health. I have found that the trial smile process can be a bonding experience (no pun intended!) that builds trust between doctor and patient and eliminates fear of the unknown.

So ask your dentist if he or she can provide you with a trial smile. And look for more information in a future issue about this truly revealing procedure.