Cosmetic Dentistry

Creating Custom Teeth

To manufacture the required veneers, ceramicists in Rosenthal's in-house lab mix liquid porcelain to the desired shade, and hand-paint it onto platinum foil to form each tooth-shaped veneer. To avoid an unnatural whiteness, the color is built in layers along the surface of the veneer in tones varying from something approximating two-percent milk near the gum line end of the "tooth," to more of a skim-milk shade at the tip. The porcelain is then baked in an oven for two minutes at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. When they're done, and the foil is peeled off, the resulting half-millimeter-thick wafers are translucent, with a surface texture virtually indistinguishable from natural tooth enamel.

In some ways, they're an improvement on real enamel. "Saliva can't penetrate, stains can't penetrate, the color will stay the same and the shine will stay the same, for 10 to 15 years. It's one of the hardest substances known to mankind," explains Rosenthal. As an added plus, he says, "It's almost like a skating rink to bacteria. You put your tongue around your teeth and you don't feel that morning plaque because the bacteria can't stick to it."

The porcelain veneers are attached to the patient's teeth with a bonding agent derived from the substance that NASA developed to attach ceramic heat shield tiles to the space shuttle. Because the veneers are created in Rosenthal's own lab, simple smile-lifts can be completed in a single day, and even complex jobs can be done in under a week. And since the entire process is non-invasive, there is no recovery time. This new lease on beauty, however, doesn't come cheap.

Cosmetic Dentistry: How and How Much?

To get a star-quality ceramic smile, the cost can reach astronomical levels, depending on how much work your mouth needs. Individual veneers range between $700 and $1500 per tooth, so a whole mouth restoration can run into the five-figure range. However, Rosenthal says there are cosmetic dentistry options for every price range and sometimes all a patient really needs is one or two veneers, combined with bleaching and other techniques. Simple in-office chemical bleaching, for example, only costs a few hundred dollars, and laser bleaching runs about $1,000.

If you're interested in finding a cosmetic dentist in your area, Rosenthal has this advice:

  • Find a dentist who has taken some hands-on courses, either at universities or accredited institutions.
  • Make sure the dentist has information to give you about all the procedures (pros and cons), so you have a realistic understanding of what you're going to go through and the results you can expect.
  • Make sure the dentist has performed the procedure before, even written papers about the procedure.
  • The dentist should be able to show you before and after photos of other patients, and should be able to put you in touch with previous patients so you can ask about their satisfaction with that dentist's work.
  • There is no licenser for the specialty of cosmetic dentistry, but you can contact the field's largest membership organization, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, to find a cosmetic dentist in your area.