The search for a good dentist isn’t always easy, particularly when you’re looking for a qualified, caring cosmetic dentist to help you improve your smile. This difficulty of this search can be compounded for people with anxiety about visiting the dentist or complex oral health issues. However, there are a number of tools available online to help you in your search – but before we start looking for an excellent practitioner near you, let’s be sure you understand what a cosmetic dentist has to offer.
What is Cosmetic Dentistry?
According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), it is “aimed at creating a positive change to your teeth and to your smile”. While for many people this includes procedures to repair chipped, missing or stained teeth, a good cosmetic dentist will be able to consult with you on many other matters, including your general dental health, along with other aesthetic issues. These dentists are highly skilled at working with people, invest heavily in their continuing education and the advanced technology that it takes to keep a beautiful smile going and to restore that sparkle to teeth that may have been neglected along the way.
The only drawback to choosing a dentist based on their “cosmetic” services is that any dentist can claim to undertake cosmetic procedures – many do, and do it well. But, not all of these dentists are accredited or even trained to carry out complex cosmetic procedures. AACD Membership is offered at different levels, tailored to suit the commitment of time, training and education that a member dentist has done. For example, a General member of the AACD is up-to-date with information about the latest technology, techniques and materials for the practice of cosmetic dentistry. Accredited AACD Members, on the other hand, have invested time and money in training; submitted their work for review; taken part in a clinical examination process; and, completed an oral evaluation. In either case, you’re visiting a dentist that has the backing of one of America’s leading organizations for dental professionals – this guarantees they’ve done far more than just adding the words “cosmetic dentist” to their ad in a professional directory.
How can a Cosmetic Dentist Help?
For some, visiting the dentist is a fairly straightforward affair – you go in, sit down, have your teeth cleaned and checked, have a chat with the practitioner and go about your day with fresh feeling teeth that look amazing. For others, a visit to the dentist can be very stressful. Often, the reason for this stress is rooted in a person’s lack of confidence in their smile, which can come from less than perfect teeth. One thing a good cosmetic dentist will tell you is that there is no such thing as a perfect smile – they’re all different in their own way, all unique and special, just like the people who wear them. However, excellent cosmetic dentistry is about more than reassuring folks.
A great deal of the process involves open communication between the dentist and the patient. Whether your teeth suffer from stains due to your love of red wine, coffee or cigarettes or bear the chips and other damage from your active lifestyle, there are plenty of cosmetic procedures that can improve your smile. The key is finding the right solutions for your specific problems. Will whitening treatments aggravate your sensitive teeth? Can veneers help reshape your smile? Are implants a better option for your missing tooth than the partial you’ve had for years? Answers to all these questions, and more, await during your consultation with a qualified cosmetic dental practitioner.
How can I Find the Right Dentist?
Before we talk about that first critical appointment, let’s be sure you’ve found the dentist that’s right for your needs. If you’ve already decided that a visit to the cosmetic dentist will be the right move for you, you’ll want to find a local professional with a solid reputation. Feel free to check with your friends and relatives for their recommendations, after all, that’s where most of us find the best leads for medical professionals of all sorts. Once you’ve rounded up a short list of names, you can use the AACD’s member finder to locate an appropriately-qualified dentist near you. Because of the nature of cosmetic dentistry, it’s important to be clear about what your insurance may or may not cover from the start – luckily, most practices have a staff member who can assist you in determining the best path for affordable cosmetic dental care.
Having done all that ground work, make an appointment to meet the dentist providing your treatment before your first consultation as a patient – this gives you a great opportunity to assess the surroundings your appointment will take place in, and meet the dentist before he or she is “armed” with tools and talking to you through a mask. This is a vital first step, particularly for nervous patients, in guaranteeing your success with the cosmetic dental work you’re hoping to achieve. During this initial appointment, ask about:
- The ongoing training the dentist and his/her staff does regularly – this is an important clue to how truly “cutting-edge” the practice is, and whether it suits you;
- References from patients – a good dentist should be willing and able to provide references from current patients willing to be contacted;
- Before and after pictures of smiles the dentist improved – not library photos or images of models, but actual pictures from real patients the dentist in question has treated; and,
- Where the lab work is done – some offices send lab work across town, others out of state or even overseas, this makes a difference to the timing as well as materials used to construct pieces that you’ll be living with for years to come so it does matter.
What Should I Expect at My First Appointment?
If you feel like you’re in the right place, schedule that initial consultation and get ready to change your smile for the better. It’s important for you to consider the things you want to achieve before meeting the dentist to determine your course of treatment. So, think about the things you want to change in terms of how your teeth look and feel, as well as any wider issues you might have regarding your smile.
When you’re meeting with the cosmetic dentist, expect a fairly traditional oral exam (yes, they’ll poke at your teeth with instruments, check your bite and gums, and most likely do some x-rays). In addition to this run-of-the-mill dental evaluation, your consultation will also include a frank conversation about the aesthetics of your smile – this is where you have to be clear about what things you want to change and the things you’re satisfied with in your mouth.
The dentist should be able to give you a preview of what the changes you’re discussing will look like – in many cases this means you’ll have a temporary restoration in place to determine whether you like the look and feel of it. Sometimes, it involves simple computer renderings of the change. In any case, you should be able to discuss your concerns openly with your cosmetic dentist, allowing for changes along the path to your own perfect smile.