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In today's modern world of dentistry the trend is much more towards doing the least amount of dental work possible, and we believe this is a good thing. Not only does it keep the cost down for you but it helps you to retain as much of your natural tooth as possible.
In the past dental veneers or crowns were popular because they were able to radically change the shape of your smile very quickly, placing veneers or crowns looked good but ultimately meant losing a small amount of your natural tooth structure in order to seat the new veneer or crown. We still use these treatments occasionally as they are still excellent and provide good solutions in certain situations however with modern techniques and materials it is becoming less necessary to prescribe veneers and crowns as often.
Modern cosmetic dentistry revolves around the principle of what is known as Align, Bleach, Bond.
What is Align, Bleach, Bond?
The principal is very simple, your dentist will start by aligning your teeth into the perfect alignment, assuming that your teeth are in good condition to start off with. Once your teeth have been moved to their new position we can then consider whitening them with dental bleaching. Finally if there are any imperfections in the teeth themselves, for example small pits or tiny chips then we can bond a tooth coloured composite resin onto your tooth to replace this area.
This all means that you end up with a new straighter, whiter and more cosmetically pleasing smile by moving your teeth, whitening your teeth and finally bonding to your teeth to restore any small imperfections.
How does the align, bleach, bond process work?
The first thing to establish is that you are dentally fit. If you're oral hygiene routine is not as good as it could be you could have plaque or the first signs of gum disease. Before any form of cosmetic dental procedure is undertaken we need to ensure that gum disease is under control, this could mean a series of visits to our hygienist or simply a change in your oral health care routine at home. Your dentist will be able to advise you on the best way forward is if this is required.
For the purposes of this article we will assume that your oral hygiene has no causes for concern and that you are ready to go ahead with these cosmetic treatments.
So let's look at each of them in turn.
Aligning Crooked Teeth
Before you begin the process of aligning crooked teeth you need to make a simple decision about the type of treatment that you would like, the decision is which would you prefer?
- To align crooked teeth rapidly.
- To align crooked teeth invisibly.
- To align crooked teeth with the lowest cost.
This is not a mutually exclusive list and many of the treatments on offer today fall into more than one category example, Six Month Smiles is both a rapid treatment and almost invisible treatment.
Rapid orthodontic braces include the use of the Inman Aligner, Six Months Smiles and Cfast. The Inman aligner is a removable orthodontic appliance which can typically straighten crooked teeth in 12 to 16 weeks, this tends to be the fastest orthodontic treatment. Six Month Smiles and Cfast are next in line and, as the name suggests, typically take about six months. Comparing this to conventional orthodontics which can take up to 20 months this is much faster.
Invisible orthodontics include treatments such as Invisalign, Six Month Smiles and Cfast. Invisible orthodontics can be broken down into two areas:
- Removable orthodontics using clear aligners
- Fixed orthodontics using tooth coloured brackets
Six Month Smiles and Cfast are fixed systems and Invisalign is a removable system. Typically Invisalign is more invisible than the other two fixed systems because the alignment trays are completely clear. The fixed systems can still be visible because the braces are fixed to the front of your teeth but because they are tooth coloured they are much less visible than conventional train track braces.
Lower Cost orthodontics is generally achieved using the Inman aligner. Because this system is removable however, you do need to make sure that you wear it every day in order for it to be effective.
You also need to bear in mind that whilst you may want lower-cost orthodontics using an Inman Aligner this may not be clinically suitable for you. This article is designed purely as a guide to give you an overview so that you can make the most informed decision when you go to visit your dentist.
Bleaching Dark Teeth
This it is a little easier to understand than the align part of cosmetic dentistry as there are far fewer options. Teeth whitening is one of the most common cosmetic dentistry options provided today in the UK because it is simple, quick and very cost-effective.
As with any form of cosmetic dental treatment you need to be dentally fit before you begin any form of whitening or bleaching, this is why it is important that you visit a dentist and not someone with no dental training, for example a beauty salon or someone that has just set up doing teeth whitening.
We will always begin any form of treatment with a full dental health check to ensure that we whitening your teeth and not just plaque on the surface!
The whitening process works by wearing a custom made precision clear tray which fits over your teeth, into this tray you will place a small amount of the whitening gel. The tray holds the gel against your teeth and is precision made to ensure that the gel does not come in contact with your sensitive gum area. You can only be assured of this precision if you go to visit a dentist.
Generally you will need to wear the trays for two hours per day for two weeks, although you may achieve your desired result a little earlier than this.
We generally recommend whitening your teeth slightly lighter than you actually want to end up, we tend to find that teeth darken very, very slightly after the whitening process has ended so it is a good idea to go a little bit lighter than you finally want.
The other good thing with whitening is that if you encounter any sensitivity you just stop. If this happens to you we recommend you contact your dentist immediately to discuss your options, another good reason to visit a dentist the teeth whitening rather than anyone else!
This is the final stage in the process and once your teeth are in the correct position and the correct colour we can look to make small additions to the tooth to fill in any pits or tiny chips. In fact we can actually go a little further than this and use dental bonding to create instant veneers on any teeth that require it.
Sometimes teeth are exceptionally dark, so if you have one tooth which is a lot darker than the others when you whiten them you might find that they all whiten by the same degree. In other words the darker truth will still remain darker. If this is the case then a single instant veneer could be used.
The process works by us ruffling up the area we wish to add the composite resin to, your tooth will be delicately treated to ensure that the composite resin bonds exceptionally well to the tooth structure. Once we have prepared your tooth in this way we will apply the composite resin, which looks like putty, to your tooth.
Your dentist will add different colours of this composite resin to mimic the natural tooth structure of dentine and enamel. We will add these different colours and ensure that they are perfectly set or cured by the use of a high-powered intense blue light. This turns the composite resin from a malleable putty like material into a hard to dislike material which can then be polished to mimic your natural teeth.
Our dental practice in St John's Wood, North London has a great deal of experience in cosmetic dentistry and using the minimally invasive align, bleach, bond protocol. Using this protocol ensures that you keep the cost down (using this three step protocol often works out less expensive than veneers) and ensures that you retain as much of your natural tooth as possible.
Once treatment is complete you will have your natural teeth with almost no dental work done to them at all, they will simply be in a new position and whiter than they were before. This is often the preferred choice as it keeps your ongoing dental costs down and ensures that you keep your natural teeth for as long as possible.