Glossary of Terms – Cosmetic Dentistry

  • Veneers
  • Bonding
  • Crowns
  • Cosmetic Contouring
  • Laser Gum Contouring
  • Invisalign
  • Implants
  • Microabrasion
  • Bleaching
Veneers – Outpatient
Description: Natural-looking, strong and stain-resistant, wafer-thin porcelain veneers can be used to correct just one, or multiple teeth.  Veneers can be used to correct crooked teeth, or to improve the appearance of a discolored, worn, or chipped smile.  To create a perfect fit and adhesion, the dentist reduces the thickness of the teeth, then chemically etches the enamel before placing the veneers.
Average Cost: $1,200 – $3,500 per tooth.  The average patient gets 8-10 veneers on the upper teeth.
Length of Procedure: Varies by patient and practitioner
Anesthesia: Local anesthesia
Recovery Time: None.
Treatment Frequency: 2, plus the initial consultation
Risks: In rare cases, increased sensitivity to heat and cold.
Duration of Results: The procedure is irreversible and, when properly done, can last 10-15 years with good dental care.
Inside Tip: 1. The biggest misconception about bleachng is that whitening will brighten ceramic resortations.  The only way to lighten veneers or crowns is to replace them.  And, if you try to bleach at home and you don’t have veneers on every tooth, there will be a color difference between your natural teeth and your ceramic restorations.

2. In order to keep your newly bleached teeth looking fresh and white, eat crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and cucumbers that encourage the production of saliva, which works like tiny toothbrushes to scrub away stubborn stains over time.


Bonding – Outpatient
Description: The tooth enamel is gently etched to enhance adhesion before a dentist applies color-matched resin compound over a crooked, short, chipped, decayed, or broken tooth.  A special light is then used to harden and bond it to the tooth underneath.
Average Cost: $500 – $2,000, depending on treatment area.
Length of Procedure: Up to 60 minutes per tooth.
Anesthesia: None, unless bonding is being done to cover a cavity.
Recovery Time: None
Treatment Frequency: One
Risks: None
Duration of Results: 5-8 years on average – if you’re careful.


Crowns – Outpatient
Description: Also called caps, crowns can be used in place of veneers to make a crooked smile appear straighter, to repair broken or damaged teeth, or to cover a bridge or implant.  The tooth surface is reduced, then covered with a custom cap in porcelain, porcelain bonded to metal, or another durable substance.  Crowns are sometimes used side-by-side with veneers in a full-mouth restorative procedure.
Average Cost: $1,000 – $4,000 per crown
Length of Procedure: Depends on position in mouth and other factors.
Anesthesia: Local, conscious sedation may be offered
Recovery Time: Minimal
Treatment Frequency: Two
Risks: Complications related to anesthesia
Duration of Results: 5-15 years
Inside Tip: 1. Whereas veneers cover only the front of a tooth, crowns cover the entire tooth.


Cosmetic Contouring – Outpatient
Description: In this economical aesthetic procedure, the dentist gently sands and shaves away small areas of the teeth.  The procedure can help bring harmony to slightly uneven teeth, smooth ragged edges or bulges, soften pointy canines, and even round square-angled teeth to create a more feminine smile in women.
Average Cost: $50 – $350 per tooth; up to $5,000 for the entire smile.
Length of Procedure: 1 Hour
Anesthesia: None
Recovery Time: None
Treatment Frequency: One, plus consultation
Risks: None, but results are permanent, so choose your dentist carefully.
Duration of Results: Permanent
Inside Tip: 1. Orthodontics can only change the positon, not the shape, of your teeth, which is why additional procedures like cosmetic contouring or veneers may be needed.


Description: A minimally invasive way to address the gum line and enhance the smile when teeth appear shorter than they should be (or one tooth looks too long) because gums cover tooth surfaces that should be exposed.  Often performed before veneers are placed to enhance results without bleeding or stitches.
Average Cost: $50 -$350 per tooth.
Length of Procedure: Depends on each individual case; usually less than 1 hour.
Anesthesia: Local
Recovery Time: Pain-free recovery in 3-5 days
Treatment Frequency: One
Risks: None, but results are permanent, so choose your dentist carefully.
Duration of Results: Permanent
Inside Tip: 1. Don’t settle for cosmetic shaping of your gums when what you really need to improve your smile is a gum lift, which might require more extensive surgery.


Invisalign – Outpatient
Description: A process that straightens the smile almost undetectably with a series of 18-30 thin, clear, removable plastic aligners worn for a period of 8-15 months.
Average Cost: Starting at about $5,000.
Length of Procedure: 12-24 months from start to finish.
Anesthesia: None
Recovery Time: None
Treatment Frequency: Checkup every 8-10 weeks after initial fitting.
Risks: None
Duration of Results: Similar to traditional braces.
Inside Tip: 1. Each set of aligners is worn for 2 weeks and removed only for eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing.


Implants – Outpatient
Description: A natural-looking, permanent, secure way of restoring or replacing missing teeth.  Titanium anchor posts are implanted in the jawbone and covered with a full crown on top.
Average Cost: $1,500 – $3,500 per tooth for the implant (the crown is additional)
Length of Procedure: From one to several hours.
Anesthesia: Local, local with sedation, or general.  Any surgery with general anesthesia should be performed in a hospital or an accredited outpatient surgical facility.
Recovery Time: It takes 2-6 months for the bone to grow around the implant anchor; gums require several weeks to heal after anchor post is implanted.
Treatment Frequency: May require two or more visits.
Risks: Risks associated with anesthesia, otherwise, almost no risks but must be maintained with proper oral hygiene and dental care.
Duration of Results: 35 years or longer


Microabrasion – Outpatient
Description: A safe, minimal treatment to correct discolored teeth, usually used when stains are restricted to the enamel layer and bleaching has proven ineffective.  The dentist applies a mild acid compound, then gently scrubs out the stain with a textured polisher.
Average Cost: $100 – $285 per tooth
Length of Procedure: 1/2 hour per tooth
Anesthesia: None
Recovery Time: None
Treatment Frequency: 1-3
Risks: None
Duration of Results: Depends on diet, tobacco use, and consistency of dental maintenance.
Inside Tip: 1. Although microabrasion can get rid of many stains, if the technique does not work well enough, be prepared to have the dentist mask your tooth with direct bonding, a porcelain laminate or a crown.


Bleaching – Outpatient
Description: Professional tooth whitening can be significantly more effective than over-the-counter home remedies.  The dentist polishes away superficial stains, applies a bleaching solution, then uses a special lamp or laser to optimize results.  You may also be sent home with a gel to use every day for up to several weeks.
Average Cost: In office: $500-$1,500.  At home follow-up: $200-$600.
Length of Procedure: In office: 45 minutes to one hour.  At home: 1-3 hours a day for several weeks.
Anesthesia: None
Recovery Time: None
Treatment Frequency: Usually one but stubborn staining may require additional in-office treatments or longer at-home treatment.
Risks: Worn-down enamel or large pulps (interior structure of tooth) might make teeth too sensitive for the treatment.
Duration of Results: Depends on many factors: diet, original tooth color, individual response to bleaching products, tobacco use.
Inside Tip: 1. Teeth with stains caused by aging, antibiotics,or trauma can be treated with bleaching, veneers, or crowns.  Talk to your dentist about which treatment is best for you.

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