Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Cosmetic Dentistry


Tooth-shaping

Tooth shaping involves removing a small amount (generally 1 to 2 millimeters) of the enamel of the teeth. Tooth shaping can shorten long teeth, round off pointed teeth, and help create a pleasing smile that gently follows the contour of the lower lip. The procedure is quick and painless (the enamel has no nerves), and is usually completed in less than 30 minutes. A small minority of patients gets slight sensitivity after tooth shaping. This can be remedied with prescription strength fluoride or in-office desensitizers. The procedure does not appear to cause any long-term damage to the teeth. Tooth shaping is relatively economical, and generally costs about $25 to $75 per tooth.

Resin or Tooth Colored Fillings

Resin fillings, also referred to as composite, white fillings or bonding, can make a substantial improvement in the appearance of the teeth in a short period of time. Resin is what dentists use to repair small cavities or chips in front teeth, as well as fill cavities cosmetically in back teeth. Resin can do virtually the same thing as porcelain veneers with respect to improving the appearance of the teeth. Using resin instead of porcelain veneers for cosmetic dentistry saves time and money, however there are disadvantages with resin. They are not as strong as porcelain veneers, and require repairs every few years. Resin can discolor over time, and does not have as much natural beauty as porcelain veneers. Resin cosmetic procedures can usually be completed in about an hour. The cost ranges from about $100 to $400 to per tooth.

Bonded-Bridge

A bonded-bridge can replace a missing tooth in far less time and for less money than a porcelain bridge or an implant. It is basically a resin or porcelain tooth with resin or metal wings on each side of it. It is ideal for a missing tooth in the front of the mouth, where biting forces are not that strong. The procedure involves removing a small amount of the inside of the teeth on either side of the missing one and then taking an impression or mold. The laboratory makes the bonded-bridge, which can then be adhered to the backs of the teeth surrounding the missing one.

I prefer the all resin bonded bridge because it is more esthetic (no metal shows through and "grays" the surrounding teeth) and does not fall out and have to be re-cemented nearly as much as a metal bonded-bridge. The procedure takes about a half an hour and costs between $700 and $1200. For comparison, a bridge to replace one tooth can cost anywhere from $1600 to $3000 and an implant from $1800 to $3500.