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Cosmetic surgery for the teeth may include such procedures as dental implants, root coverage, crown lengthening, and tooth contouring. Other cosmetic procedures that don’t require actual surgery include teeth whitening, crowns, porcelain veneers, and correction or straightening of the teeth with braces or other orthodontic devices. The overall goal of cosmetic surgery for the teeth is usually a more symmetrical smile with limited gum and tooth root exposure.
Dental implants are made of titanium, and are screwed into the patient’s jawbone during a surgical procedure. After the implant is placed, an artificial tooth can be fastened to the implant to take the place of a missing tooth. Some patients undergo surgery for multiple implants due to having several missing teeth. Implants can serve as a desirable alternative to dentures since they do not need to be removed for cleaning and function more like regular teeth.
Root coverage involves placing surgical tissue grafts over the exposed root of the tooth. A patient's gum line can recede due to age, gum disease, or other dental problems. In addition to being a cosmetic concern for many patients, exposed tooth roots are susceptible to cavities, which could lead to more severe problems like tooth decay or complete tooth loss, if they are not diagnosed and treated promptly.
Crown lengthening is another type of cosmetic surgery for the teeth that involves removing excess gum tissue to create a smile that shows less of the patient’s gum line. When extra gum tissue is removed, more of the tooth’s crown is exposed. Some cosmetic dentists use soft-tissue lasers instead of a scalpel to restructure the gums, which contributes to quicker healing times and more precise results. More than one treatment may be needed for some patients because the gums must heal before the dentist can reassess the patient’s smile to determine if more gum tissue needs to be removed.
Tooth contouring is often done without general anesthesia, though some patients are put under anesthesia if there is extensive work to be done or if the shaping will be done close to sensitive gum tissue. These procedures use lasers or small sanding tools to sculpt and remove small parts of a misshapen tooth to create a more natural, symmetrical appearance. Contouring does remove some of the protective tooth enamel, so these procedures are typically limited to teeth that only need minor corrections.
Most types of cosmetic surgery for the teeth or gums aren’t considered truly medically necessary, so insurance plans usually won’t cover the associated costs. Some dentists specialize in cosmetic work and may be willing to work out a payment plan or other financing arrangement, however. As with any surgical procedure, a thorough consultation including past medical history is necessary. A consultation addresses questions and concerns and sets a reasonable expectation for the treatment, as well as assesses the potential risks of anesthesia, bleeding problems, and potential infections.
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