If you or a loved one are considering cosmetic dentistry, you may be wondering what the long-term outlook is on your investment. To help, we’ve broken down four of the most popular types of cosmetic dentistry and included the average lifespan of results, as well as ways they can be maximized.
So, what determines if a dental procedure is “cosmetic” or “general”? General dentistry focuses on preventing and treating oral disease, whereas cosmetic dentistry refers to any dental work that adjusts the appearance of teeth, gums and/or bite. These procedures and treatments are considered elective and primarily focus on improving dental aesthetics (i.e., color, position, shape, alignment, and overall smile appearance).
Inlays and Onlays
Also known as indirect fillings, inlays and onlays are used when a tooth has mild to moderate decay or there is not enough tooth structure to support a traditional filling. Using an adhesive dental cement, an inlay is placed directly on the tooth’s surface. When greater damage is present, an onlay is used instead to cover the tooth's entire surface. Made of durable materials, inlays and onlays can last up to 30 years with proper oral hygiene (i.e. daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental check-ups and cleanings).
Veneers are a great option for patients who have a tooth that is cracked, chipped, or severely discolored. This form of cosmetic dentistry can also be used to close a gap or fix teeth that are worn down or uneven. Cosmetic veneers are ultra-thin shells made of porcelain or composite resin materials that cover the front surface of a tooth. Custom created to look exceptionally realistic, these shells bond to a patient’s tooth with a strong dental adhesive designed to hold up to daily rigors. Though not exactly “permanent,” the average well-placed veneer lasts around 10 years but can last longer with proper maintenance. To increase your veneer’s lifespan, gently brush with a non-abrasive toothpaste, take extra care when flossing around veneers, limit consumption of staining foods and drinks, and avoid cigarettes and tobacco products.
Bonding is generally used for the repair of decayed, damaged, or discolored teeth. Dentists apply material that resembles the color of tooth enamel onto the tooth's surface, then sculpt it into shape before curing it with a high-intensity light. Similar to veneers, bonding covers the damage and creates the appearance of a healthy tooth. Bonding is a good choice for patients who have minor aesthetic issues that don’t require extensive treatment. Depending on tooth location and a patient's bite and eating/chewing habits, enamel-colored bonding can last four to eight years on average. Because the composite resin used is not as strong as natural teeth, patients should avoid biting their fingernails, chewing on pens or pencils, and biting down on hard food or candy.
Everyone desires a whiter smile, which makes professional whitening treatments one of the most commonly requested forms of cosmetic dentistry. Depending on a patient’s lifestyle, the results can last anywhere from six months to two years and may require occasional touch-ups. To make the most of your whitening, brush regularly with a whitening toothpaste and minimize your intake of staining food and beverages, such as red wine. If you need another reason to quit smoking, this habit is one of the fastest ways to reverse whitening. It’s important to note that outcomes are not permanent, as some degree of enamel staining is inevitable, but good oral hygiene will help to extend the whitening.
Schedule Your Cosmetic Dental Consultation
No matter what type of cosmetic procedure you select, your dentist will help you come up with a plan that fits your needs. If you think you might benefit from cosmetic dentistry, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with our practice to learn more.