If you are embarrassed about your smile, or have a difficult time eating and chewing, there is hope for you. Cosmetic dentistry might be the answer to your prayers.

Cosmetic dentistry can be performed anywhere in the oral cavity on both back and front teeth. Most procedures can be completed in just two visits.

Porcelain restorations, resin-colored fillings, bonding of front teeth, bleaching and tooth shaping are all methods of cosmetic dentistry.

Porcelain units, such as crowns and veneers, are by far, the major workhorses of cosmetic dentistry. In general, a crown covers an entire tooth, while a veneer only covers the front and sides of a tooth. However, patients can receive anything in between.

Similar to enamel, porcelain is strong and can correct decay, crowding, short teeth and spaces between teeth. It also can be used to establish a solid bite and a terrific smile.

One of the most recent trends in cosmetic dentistry is to use a zirconia material that is the color of a tooth and as strong as metal. It can be used for posterior bridges or anywhere where strength is of the greatest concern.

Another new trend is to combine cosmetic dentistry with injectable cosmetic procedures, such as Botox, and fillers, such as Juvéderm. This can enhance the cosmetic result by reducing “gummy” smiles and black triangles at the gum line between adjacent front teeth, and by framing spectacular smiles with nicely shaped lips.

Not all dentists perform these procedures. It’s always a good idea to do a little research first. When visiting a dentist for a consultation, pay attention to the esthetics of the office, the quality of education you receive and take a look at patient treatment albums.

There is a great deal of overlap between dental restoration and cosmetic dentistry. All dental treatment can be esthetic if that is the goal of the patient and the practitioner.

Oftentimes, what is clearly a dental problem – even from the insurance company’s standpoint – will be covered whether cosmetic or not.

A typical cosmetic case starts with impressions of the patient’s existing condition. These are mounted on a chewing simulator, and changes are made to the model in the lab as a diagnostic wax-up of the desired result.

From this, prep guides and temporary guides can be made to aid the dentist with conservative tooth preparation and temporization at chair side. The patient leaves with a beautiful new smile in temporaries.

About two weeks later, the patient returns to have the temporaries swapped for the final long-lasting result: a smile they can really love.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.