The term “smile makeover” can mean one thing to one person and something different to another. What goes into a smile makeover is very personalized, says Los Altos, CA cosmetic dentist Joseph Field, DDS, and it may not include all of the procedures one might think. As Dr. Field notes, sometimes just whitening or straightening is needed to make a significant impact. Here, he answers all of our smile makeover questions to pinpoint exactly what goes into these transformations and how to choose the best treatments that lead to the brightest smiles.
What does “smile makeover” really mean? Is it just another term for veneers?
“There are different types and ways of doing a smile makeover. It can be as simple as a whitening procedure to improve the color of the teeth and increase your confidence. Sometimes it can be a simple combination of whitening and a little reshaping called enameloplasty where we go in and do a little tooth contouring or blend some edges if you have sharp or pointy teeth. Sometimes a little cosmetic contouring with whitening is enough to greatly improve the smile and give people the confidence they need. At times, using Invisalign to straighten the teeth can also be enough.”
“When we start talking about a true smile makeover, that’s where we get in the conversation with porcelain veneers. With most makeovers you see, like the ones on Hollywood stars, using porcelain veneers to really dramatically change the shape, the color, size, etc. So in my conversations with patients, we start with what their desired outcomes are. What are they wanting to accomplish? What are they self-conscious about with their smile? For a true makeover that dramatically and permanently changes every aspect of the smile, that’s when veneers may be needed to use to accomplish the patient’s desired outcome.”
What are some common smile makeover myths patients have?
“With teeth whitening, a lot of people don’t understand that teeth whitening is not permanent. Results can last three to six months, depending on your dietary habits, but there’s also maintenance involved. Whether we’re doing in-office whitening treatments, or we’re doing regular at-home whitening, there’s always going to be maintenance involved. The myth people often have is that cosmetic contouring will make the teeth sensitive. The reality is we’re doing pretty minimal amounts, and we’re staying in the enamel of the teeth, so it’s not common. In fact, it’s really rare that I have patients that have sensitivity after contouring. With straightening the teeth, another myth is that the teeth will remain in position. However, after we’re done moving, patients need to be committed to wearing a retainer at nighttime, really forever; otherwise those teeth will start shifting again.”
What smile makeover treatment combinations do you perform the most?
“I’d say the number one thing that I’m doing is veneers combined with orthodontic Invisalign. And that can be either we do the orthodontics first, and get the teeth in a better position so that we can do veneers with minimal to no prep. Or we’re doing maybe veneers on top, and then Invisalign on the bottom to straighten the bottom. Is a smile makeover expensive? What is the typical cost? Dr. Field: It depends on what we’re talking about. Costs are dependent on the experience of your cosmetic dentist, geographical location and the cost of materials. At my practice, whitening can cost between $500 to $1000. Cosmetic contouring can cost about $300 per tooth or so. Invisalign can cost between $3500 to $6500, depending on severity, and veneers typically run anywhere from $2000 to $3500 per tooth.
How long does the process take and how many visits should I expect before my makeover is done?
“If we’re doing whitening and cosmetic contouring, that’s done in one visit. Invisalign can be multiple visits depending on the length of treatment. For veneers, we do all the prep work on the first visit. You will leave with temporary veneers on that serve as a rough draft or a test drive of the final product. Then we come back in a few weeks later and we set the permanent ones in at that second visit.
Will you remove or file down all of my natural teeth?
“This is another common misconception we get with veneer patients. With cosmetic dentists who are trained to do veneers properly, like myself, we can actually do them with minimal of the natural tooth structure. In some cases, we can do it with no reduction.”
How long will my veneers last?
“With regular maintenance like brushing, flossing, and routine cleanings, you can expect veneers to last 15-20 years. What is the best way to maintain my results? Dr. Field: Regular brushing, flossing and routine maintenance. Be mindful of dietary habits and anything that can damage veneers. Chewing on ice is never a great idea. Certain foods that are really hard or tough on the teeth should be avoided. Make sure you’re going in for all of your regular cleaning appointments and checkups because if there’s a small issue, it can be repaired really quickly, if left alone becomes a bigger deal.”