Life Smiles back to a Beautiful Smile
Preventative dentistry and choosing the right dentist are core to enjoying a smile that makes life smile back at you.
Life smiles is a term you may hear around a dental office that prompts a few questions.
What does life smile mean?
The term life smile comes from the fact that you need your teeth for a life time. There won’t be more teeth coming in the event these are lost or damaged. Your dentist wants you to think about this like they do. Your family dentist has a different thought process when they see you. How may it pertain to you? Even though teeth are hard and strong, if not cared for they will not provide a lifetime of service for you. It goes far beyond making sure your teeth are squeaky clean or detecting if cavities are present.
So what exactly is a dentist looking at for your teeth to make sure you have a life smile?
How Does a Dentist Provide a Life Smile?
The journey toward owning a healthy smile for life begins at a young age. It is important that you associate yourself with a dentist who looks towards your future, not just today.
What are the steps in reaching the goal of a life smile?
STEP 1: Eliminate a fear of the dentist.
The first step towards the goal of a life smile is to be sure your child is comfortable seeing the dentist. Many of us baby boomers or even millennials have poor memories of visits to the dentist as children. The sound of the drill and discomfort associated with care made many of us infrequent visitors to the dental office. These infrequent visits have greatly contributed to the need for more comprehensive dental care.
As a general rule of thumb, the earlier dental disease is cared for the less comprehensive the need. Today children race in for dental care since the association with the dental visit today is a trip to the prize box for a good checkup instead of the sound of the drill or discomfort. This is an important first step to a life smile, the positive partnership with a dentist.
STEP 2: Ask your dentist if you need orthodontic braces or Invisalign.
The second step many of us take in the life smiles process is orthodontics, or more commonly known as braces. As we lose our baby teeth and our permanent teeth come in many times there are spacing issues with the teeth. There may be gaps, overcrowding or a bite is misaligned (either over or under). A dentist knows that permanent teeth coming in improperly can lead to many problems down the road with how the teeth look and wear.
There is also the social aspect to consider. Braces will help with how your child’s smile looks. A beautiful smile with nice, straight teeth will go a long way to build confidence, especially in a child. Knowing that they won’t get teased at school because their teeth do not look good will be one less worry for your child and something they can benefit from for the rest of their lives. This is a very worthwhile investment. Costs can range from $2500-$6500.
Step 3: Start a daily oral care routine that lasts a life time.
As we grow into our teen years maintenance hopefully becomes the main story on most dental visits. This is when good habits are reinforced. It’s when a lifetime of great oral health is established. The hygienist and dentist will try to keep the child invested in good brushing and flossing habits.
Hopefully this is also encouraged at home. Children are very observant. They learn by watching adults who practice a daily oral hygiene routine. Usually at this point most parents are motivated by lower out-of-pocket costs for dental care if visits to the dentist are routine. But no matter your motivation good care of your teeth pays off in many ways.
Step 4. Invest in a Smile Design at the right time.
How do smiles define success in life?
Healthy self-awareness of how our smile reflects on our attractiveness is positive. We may be trying to attract a special person in our lives! We look at each other and a smile may be the second thing after that initial eye contact. A bright smile communicates not only attractiveness but also health.
It can also provide confidence to approach someone you may be interested in if you know you will not be negatively judged by your smile. This confidence can also extend into your professional life. Having confidence when you meet a client, boss or subordinate can only help. Start a Smile Design Plan in the teen years that carries through for the rest of your life.
If the general health of your teeth is good, then for many of us the first dental procedure we may try at this stage to improve our life smile is teeth whitening. This is very simple, relatively inexpensive and can produce dramatic results. Things like coffee, wine and tobacco can discolor teeth over time and refreshing them to a white color can bring back confidence in flashing those pearly-whites again! Typically whitening can be done with products you can take home or done at the dental office. Teeth whitening costs can range from $250-$800.
If your needs are progressing past whitening products there are different options your dentist may review with you. Perhaps your teeth have become chipped, or they have worn over the years or you were simply not in a position to have braces at a younger age so your teeth may be crooked or misshapen.
No matter the oral problem is – a dentist can help. While you may be more interested in appearance your dentist will be looking not only at the appearance of teeth but also the way they function. It would be very disappointing if you get beautiful teeth only to find they don’t function well for speaking or eating. This is truly where the skill of your dentist comes into play. They must create the smile for you that not only looks great but functions equally as well.
What Options can I Discuss with my Dentist for a Life Smile?
Most general dentists and cosmetic dental specialist will bring up the following:
* Composite veneers
This is a hard, dental material that a dentist can place over your natural teeth. It can help to repair chipping, do some minor shaping and since the dentist can make the dental material any color, it can provide a new white appearance to your teeth. This is a choice that a patient can make if they are needing more than whitening but more cost friendly than porcelain veneers (I will talk about veneers in a little bit). Cost for composite veneers is by tooth and can range from $800-$1000 per tooth. While composite veneers are less costly compared to porcelain veneers the material is not as strong as porcelain veneers and more susceptible to damage.
* Porcelain Veneers
As I mentioned above, porcelain veneers are a great choice for the person who has minor chipping and shaping needs and wants a material that will last for a long time. It is not intended for teeth that have extensive damage. Porcelain veneers are a covering for your tooth made from a very hard material. It can be made any shade of white you want so it can provide a brilliant smile.
Typically, when this choice is made it is applied to teeth people see when you smile, the top 6-8 teeth and the bottom 6-8 teeth. The cost per tooth for a porcelain veneer may be $1300-$1600 per tooth so while it is the most-costly it also provides the best long-term result.
As your dentist looks to your long-term health, they will be looking beyond your cosmetic needs and coaching you on keeping your teeth for your life time. They will be checking not only for dental decay (cavities) and infections but also looking at the general health of your gums. Periodontal (gum) disease is very prevalent and insidious. By this I mean a large portion of the population has it but may not be aware of it because you can typically not see or feel gum disease. Left untreated gum disease can negatively impact your whole body and may cause a loss of teeth. Regular trips to your dentist can help keep you disease free and your teeth in great condition for your life!
Perhaps you have not been so lucky in your life with teeth breaking or avoiding dental disease. Whatever the case, your dentist has solution to keep your mouth and teeth in great shape and functioning as long as you need them. If your teeth have become damaged, broken of have decay greater than a filling can repair there are options:
Dental crowns are for teeth that have more damage due to breakage or decay. Typically, the damaged portion of the tooth is removed and the remainder of the tooth is covered with a porcelain or metal covering, or crown. Porcelain is the material of choice most times since it also has a cosmetic benefit. It is very hard and can be made a color to match your other teeth or brighten a smile. Since the material is very hard it will last a long time. Charges for a crown are calculated by thetooth and can vary from $1100-$1600. It is again very important to be seeing a dentist who not only has an artistic eye in creating your crown but understands it needs to function equally as well.
If damage to a tooth is such that it cannot be repaired there are options to replace the tooth that has been lost or needs to be removed. Dental bridges are a popular treatment that baby boomers may be familiar with. It involves placing a crown over teeth adjacent to the missing tooth and making a false tooth to fit in the middle. The teeth are joined and form a “bridge” over the missing tooth area. Costs are on a per tooth basis and similar to the cost per tooth of a crown.
While bridges are still a very viable option, modern dental implants are now gaining more popularity in cosmetic dental trends. A dental implant is a procedure where a screw is placed into the jaw of a patient and after a period where the screw bonds to jaw bone a natural looking crown if placed over the implant. It fills the missing tooth gap and there is no need to touch the teeth adjacent to it. This makes a preferable option to many dentists. Costs for a dental implant will vary depending on exact needs but can range from $5000-$6000.
Having a dentist you trust is important. This relationship will hopefully last for many, many years. Through the years a partnership develops between patient and doctor that in the dental field is called co-diagnosis. With today’s advanced dental technology, typically dentists are able to show patients what they see and discuss alternatives. This is called (co-diagnosis) and to ensure that you keep your “life smile”! Be associated with a dentist who involves you in your care and understands not only the cosmetic component of a smile but also the function. Your smile will be happy you did!
Call us at 763-537-1238.
Brian Denn is the Clinic Manager at Smile Design Dentistry in Plymouth, Minnesota. Brian has over 25 years of dental practice management involving making practices run smoother and patient experiences better. He also leads a dental practice managers group staying abreast of the latest dental practice management trends.