Once upon a time, beautiful teeth were usually the result of good luck... something people were born with. Today, sophisticated cosmetic dentistry techniques can give almost everyone a terrific smile. "Improving one's smile can change their appearance dramatically, making them look happier, healthier and younger," according to Dr. Jonathan Richter, a dentist in Great Neck.
One of the most popular treatments is tooth-whitening to deal with stained, discolored or dull teeth. Whitening can be done in the dentist's office or at home with customized dental trays that prevent the bleaching material from leaking into the mouth. The trays are generally used daily for two to four weeks. Many people opt for power-whitening, which is done in the dentist's office in about an hour. A gel containing hydrogen peroxide and other ingredients is placed on the teeth and then activated by an ultraviolet bleaching light. Power whitening can remove coffee and tobacco stains and can last a year or more, depending on the patient. People who frequently drink coffee or red wine may need a touch-up every six months or so, and the dentist can provide customized trays to whiten the teeth at home.
For stains that are resistant to whitening products, porcelain veneers can make a tremendous difference, Dr. Richter says. Veneers are ultra-thin, custom-made laminates that are bonded directly to the teeth. They can dramatically change the appearance of discolored, chipped, cracked or crooked teeth. The veneer procedure can be completed in just two visits to the dentist that are generally a few days apart, and patients experience no discomfort. Depending on the patient, though, it may take more than two visits. Veneers can last up to 15 years.
Thanks to another advance in cosmetic dentistry, adults can now straighten their teeth without conventional braces. "The device fits right over the teeth and is removable, comfortable and almost invisible," Dr. Richter says. "We use a series of clear removable aligners to straighten teeth without metal wires or brackets. People wear each set of aligners for about two weeks, removing them only to eat, drink, brush, and floss. As they replace each aligner with the next in the series, their teeth will move - little by little - until they have straightened to the final position the dentist has prescribed." The aligners are made through a combination of orthodontic and cosmetic expertise and sophisticated computer technology. As with conventional braces, length of treatment varies according to the particular situation, but total treatment time averages nine to 15 months.
Many patients who have lost teeth are surprised to learn they have an alternative to a bridge or dentures, Dr. Richter notes. Dental implants allow artificial teeth to be permanently anchored in the jawbone. Considered a major advance in the field of cosmetic dentistry, implants are ideal for anyone who has lost teeth due to periodontal disease, according to Dr. Richter. For patients embarrassed by their dentures, implants are the next best thing to real teeth.
"Before any cosmetic treatment is provided, it is important that the dentist carefully examine the patient's teeth," Dr. Richter says. "If there is an underlying problem with the gums, it must be treated before any cosmetic procedure is started. The dentist should discuss all the alternatives with patients. "While cosmetic dentistry techniques can achieve dramatic improvements for patients, good oral care and periodic dental exams are fundamental so teeth not only look good, but stay healthy. For more information, or to make an appointment with Dr. Richter, call 516-282-0310.
Dr. Jonathan Richter is a practicing dentist in Great Neck, with additional specialty training and certificates in both periodontics and prosthodontics. He belongs to a number of professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Periodontology, the Northeastern Academy of Periodontology and the American Academy of General Dentistry. His phone number is 516-282-0310.