Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for: May, 2014

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
May 27, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
PadmaLakshmisSmileARecipeforBeauty

Before she began hosting the long-running TV competition Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi was a well-known model and successful cookbook author. (Appropriately, she is said to have been “discovered” by a modeling agent while sitting in a café in Madrid.) Yet the Indian-born beauty's striking look — at once exotic and familiar — doesn't come from any cookie-cutter mold.

So when Lakshmi had cosmetic work done on her teeth, early in her career, her dentist didn't use a cookie-cutter approach either: Instead, her smile was carefully designed, using small amounts of bonding material to brighten her teeth and to bring their shape and spacing into harmony with her facial features.

Dentistry by Design
What exactly is smile design — and what could it do for you? Essentially, it's the process of evaluating your smile in concert with the appearance of your entire face, and visualizing the changes — some dramatic and some subtle — that will make it really shine. Some aspects we consider include the face's shape, the proportion or “balance” of facial features, the complexion, eye and lip color and form, and the overall dimensions of the smile.

Based on dental aesthetics and clinical experience, we will probably have a number of suggestions to make on how you can improve your smile. Your input will also be very important; while some individuals prefer perfectly even teeth and a sparkling “Hollywood white” smile, others are looking for a result that's more in keeping with a “natural” look: slight irregularities in tooth shape, spacing, and even color.

There's no right or wrong answer here: Having a “perfect” smile means what's perfect for you, so it's very important for dentists and patients to communicate openly during the smile design process. But sometimes, words alone just aren't enough to convey the subtle dimensions of beauty.

The Trial Smile
Fortunately, it's now possible to preview your “perfect” smile using a number of different techniques. Advances in computer imaging make this the first step in previewing your new smile — you can see the changes before a single tooth is touched! Still, many people find that having a more concrete picture is helpful. The next step is to make a 3-D mock-up the proposed dental work on an actual model of your mouth. That way, you can see a physical representation of the final results — and even turn it around and hold it in your hands.

There's still one more way to really experience the difference cosmetic treatments can make without committing to a permanent change: the provisional restoration. Here, tooth-colored bonding material and other techniques are used to actually create the new smile — temporarily. This gives you time to “live with it,” and see if the proposed changes work for you. If everything goes well with the provisional work, the permanent restoration is guaranteed to please.

So if you want holiday treats, get out the cookie cutter — but if you're looking for a smile that's uniquely yours, and one that enhances your own individual appearance… call our office and ask about a smile design consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Great Expectations — Perceptions in Smile Design” and “Beautiful Smiles by Design.”


DidYouKnowMinorToothContouringandReshapingCanEnhanceYourSmile

Some dental procedures that can beautify a smile — orthodontics or implants, for example — take months. Others take only minutes! Tooth contouring and reshaping is one of them. So just what is this remedy, and why would you need it?

Tooth contouring involves removing a tiny amount of enamel (the tooth’s outer covering) with a dental drill to sculpt a more pleasing shape and make the tooth fit in better with its neighbors. It is most often used on highly visible teeth that have minor yet noticeable cosmetic flaws.

For example, you may have a tiny chip in a front tooth, a slight size discrepancy among adjacent teeth, or extra-pointy canines. None of these issues are as serious as, say, a misaligned bite or a tooth that’s missing altogether — but they can be annoying nonetheless. If you find yourself staring in the mirror at any of these subtle yet distracting imperfections in your own smile, you may want to consider having us reshape a specific tooth or teeth.

Contouring can correct small chips, uneven tooth length, slight overlaps, and tooth edges that are too flat or pointy. We can also give teeth a more “feminine” or “masculine” appearance, simply by rounding or squaring the edges. Contouring also has a non-cosmetic use: It can be employed to adjust the bite so that the teeth come together more evenly. For example, if one tooth is just a little higher than the others, it might be subjected to more than its share of stress during chewing. This brings up another important point: We would not recommend tooth contouring if any bite imbalances could result from the procedure. And if we do determine that tooth contouring would not be the best way to go in your particular case, don’t worry — we can come up with a solution for any cosmetic issues that are of concern to you.

If you have any questions about tooth contouring and reshaping — or any other cosmetic dentistry procedures — please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How and Why Teeth Wear.”


EarlyOrthodonticCareHelpedChildStarNolanGouldGetReadyforPrimeTime

Nolan Gould, who plays Luke on the popular TV comedy Modern Family, has beautiful, straight teeth. But in an exclusive interview with Dear Doctor magazine, the young actor said it wasn't always that way.

“My teeth used to be pretty messed up,” Nolan said. “I had two extra teeth when I was born. They hadn't come out (erupted) yet. And all the other teeth that were already there were starting to point backwards because it was getting so crowded in my mouth. At about the age of 7, I started going to the orthodontist to get my teeth checked.”

Age 7 may sound early for a visit to the orthodontist, but in fact that's exactly the age we recommend for a first orthodontic evaluation. Malocclusions (bad bites) often become noticeable around this time, as the child's permanent (adult) teeth erupt. We might already be able to see evidence of the following problems: crowding, too much space between teeth, protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth, and sometimes problems with jaw growth. So even if your child is too young for braces, it is not necessarily too early for an orthodontic evaluation.

This type of exam can spot subtle problems with jaw growth and emerging teeth while some baby teeth are still present. Early detection of orthodontic problems makes it easier to correct those problems in the long run. Waiting until all of the permanent teeth are in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction more difficult or even impossible. That's why the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that all children get a check-up with an orthodontist no later than age 7.

Orthodontic treatment itself usually begins between ages 7 and 14. Therapy that begins while a child is still growing, often referred to as “interceptive orthodontics,” helps produce optimal results. In Nolan's case, an early orthodontic evaluation allowed his orthodontist enough time to plan the most effective treatment. Nolan's two extra teeth were removed before they had a chance to push his other teeth even further out of alignment, and he was given orthodontic appliances which fit behind the teeth.

“You can remove them, which is really good for acting, especially because you can't see them. I can wear them 24/7 and nobody will ever notice.”

One thing that is noticeable, however, is Nolan's perfectly aligned smile!

If you would like to learn more about improving tooth alignment with orthodontics, please contact us to schedule an appointment for a consultation. To read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Nolan Gould, please see “Nolan Gould.” Dear Doctor also has more on an “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”




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Holly A. Scott-Hetchler DDS, PC 919 Chester RdLansing, MI 48912