Cosmetic dentistry is the branch of dentistry concerned with the appearance of the teeth. While traditional dentistry has focused primarily on treating dental disease and improving the function of the teeth and jaw, cosmetic dentistry aims to prioritize appearance over function.
Some cosmetic services are strictly cosmetic in nature, while some services offered by your general dentist have both the impact of improving tooth form and function as well as the appearance of the teeth. This is true in the case of crowns following root canal therapy.
Root Canal Therapy and Crowns
If you have developed an illness or disease inside of the tooth and your dentist has indicated that you require root canal therapy, this indicates an opportunity to treat the diseased tooth without requiring it to be removed from the dental arch.
In root canal therapy, your dentist accesses the inside of the tooth by drilling an access hole through the enamel and the dentin. Once the dentist is able to access the inside of the tooth, the diseased pulp and nerve tissue is removed, and the chamber is cleaned and filled with a substance called gutta-percha. Smaller teeth may have their access holes restored using filling material, however, it is common that the access hole required to facilitate a root canal proves to be too large to support the structure of the tooth without putting it at risk of breakage with a traditional filling material. In this case, your dentist will likely recommend that you have a crown placed over the tooth following the root canal.
Crowns offer both cosmetic and structural support to the tooth. They are fabricated to match the exact size and color of your natural tooth and they provide full coverage of the entire tooth surface from the crown to the point at which the tooth meets the gumline. Crowns are made of durable material, and their structure offers the ability to distribute bite forces across the tooth surface evenly to alleviate worry about breaking a tooth with normal use.
In order to ensure a strong bond between the natural tooth and the crown that covers it, your natural tooth will be filed down using special dental tools to provide more texture for the bonding agent to adhere to.
If a tooth has been lost due to extraction or accident, dental bridges can offer the ability to conceal the gap left behind and simultaneously decrease the likelihood of teeth drifting into this space. A dental bridge is made with a pontic, which is an artificial tooth. Like crowns, pontics are made in the size and color needed to match natural teeth, however a pontic is a solid structure rather than a cover for a prepared natural tooth.
Since a bridge does not have a natural tooth to anchor to, your dentist will use one or both of the adjacent teeth to provide an anchor for the bridge. The result is a pontic which is placed over the gum tissue and attached to the teeth on either side, resulting in its bridge-like structure.
Dental veneers represent an example of a strictly cosmetic service. Unlike bridges are crowns, veneers concern themselves only with the part of the tooth that is visible during normal speaking and smiling. For this reason, the backsides and crowns teeth are not of concern, rather, a veneer is placed on the outside of a tooth only.
Veneers require that your natural tooth be etched using a special dental tool to remove a portion of the enamel (about the depth of an eggshell) in order to allow the veneer to bond well with the surface of the tooth. For this reason, veneers are not removable or reversible. They can however be redone if needed. Planning for a veneer involves discussion with your dentist about the ideal shade and shape of the veneer and may require that the veneer be placed using a non-permanent bonding agent to allow you to evaluate the size and color before having it bonded to the teeth using a more permanent bonding agent.
Tooth whitening is another cosmetic service concerned only with the appearance of the teeth. This service has become one of the most requested cosmetic services offered by general dentists and is commonly offered as an addition to regular maintenance service appointments. Tooth whitening uses a peroxide-based bleaching agent to penetrate the pores in the tooth enamel to reach the dentin. Dentin forms the inner structure of the tooth and houses the inner chamber containing the pulp and nerve tissue. The benefit of tooth whitening with your dentist rather than using an over-the-counter product is twofold. First, the clinical strength products that dentists are able to provide offer more effective treatment in a shorter time span. Second, patients who struggle to achieve results with over-the-counter products due to pain and sensitivity may find that professional tooth whitening products are better tolerated since they make use of gum sealants to decrease soft tissue irritation and rehydrating serums to mitigate symptoms of sensitivity.