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Cosmetic dentistry – a necessity or vanity?

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Individuals with oral imperfections experience a setback in their smile, impacting their confidence (Lesly Juarez - Unsplash)

By: Associate Prof Dr Noor Azlin Yahya, Prof Dr Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

The beauty of our smile diminishes as we age and our teeth become discoloured or lost. Individuals with various oral imperfections, such as misaligned teeth, also experience a setback in their smile, impacting their confidence and overall psychological well-being.

Those with worn, stained, chipped, discoloured, broken, misaligned, or gapped teeth may benefit from cosmetic dentistry, which can restore confidence and potentially transform their lives with a ‘smile makeover.’

Cosmetic dental treatments have the potential to boost confidence and make individuals feel younger, offering clear advantages in both personal and professional spheres. Undoubtedly, self-confidence positively influences every aspect of our lives, contributing to the increasing demand for cosmetic dental procedures.

In many dental restoration procedures, such as dental fillings, crowns, and bridges, dentists consider both the appearance and the patient’s well-being. However, cosmetic dentistry primarily focuses on enhancing the smile.

The question arises: to what extent are cosmetic dental procedures necessary beyond purely ornamental purposes?

A dentist tailors a cosmetic treatment plan to meet specific needs. Before undergoing cosmetic dental treatment, individuals must have healthy teeth and gums. If cavities or gum disease are present, dentists address these conditions before proceeding with procedures to enhance the smile.

The most commonly requested cosmetic dentistry procedures include teeth whitening and veneers. Teeth whitening offers a simple way to improve oral aesthetics, whether performed in-office or using a home whitening kit.

However, one primary concern associated with teeth whitening is tooth sensitivity. Many individuals experience increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures following treatment. The bleaching agents used to whiten teeth can temporarily compromise the protective enamel, leading to heightened sensitivity. While this side effect is often temporary, it can be uncomfortable and may deter some individuals from pursuing further whitening sessions.

It’s crucial to recognize that teeth whitening is not a permanent solution. The effects of whitening treatments are temporary, and individuals may require periodic touch-ups to maintain the desired level of brightness. This maintenance necessity can contribute to the overall cost of teeth-whitening procedures over time.

Dental veneers are custom-made shells of resin or porcelain that cover the enamel. After removing a small amount of enamel, the veneers are bonded to the teeth, altering their shape, color, size, or length. As more individuals recognize the transformative potential of dental veneers, the demand for this cosmetic dental procedure continues to rise. The prospect of achieving a flawless smile in a relatively short timeframe has made veneers an appealing choice for individuals seeking to make a lasting impression with their pearly whites.

One notable drawback is the irreversible nature of the tooth preparation required for veneer placement. To accommodate the thin shells, a small portion of the tooth enamel must be removed. It’s crucial for patients to carefully consider this aspect and consult with their dentist to ensure they are comfortable with the permanent alteration.

Although dental veneers are durable and stain-resistant, they are not immune to wear and tear over time. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene practices are essential to ensure the longevity of veneers. Additionally, in the event of damage or chipping, repairs or replacements can be complex and may incur additional costs. Anyone considering such cosmetic procedures must be aware of the potential risks involved.

While we all desire a beautiful smile, we certainly do not want to compromise our overall oral health. Therefore, we need to always strike a balance between necessity and vanity in cosmetic dentistry.

Dr Noor Azlin Yahya is from the Department of Restorative Dentistry, while Dr Mohammad Tariqur Rahman is from the Department of Oral and Craniofacial Sciences, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.

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