Are you considering a permanent improvement to the shape, or possibly the color, of your teeth?

Over the past 35 years, the dental profession has recommended porcelain veneers when the desired result is to greatly improve the appearance of a patient’s natural teeth.

Porcelain is a material that most closely imitates tooth enamel. Light is absorbed and reflected similarly between the two. Veneers and crowns (caps) are both made of porcelain. The benefit of veneers over crowns is that they are more conservative, removing less natural tooth structure.

In a trained dentist’s hands, porcelain veneers have a lot of versatility. They can be used to lengthen small teeth, reshape teeth damaged due to wear or fracture, brighten stained teeth, allow crowded teeth to look straight, close spaces between the teeth, and, last but not least, the patient can choose what the final shade will be for the teeth.

Oftentimes, due to what is called a “contact lens” effect, some of the natural color of the tooth influences the final shade of the teeth, creating a natural appearance. Because of this effect, the edges of the veneer can be placed above the gum line, blending in naturally with the teeth and preserving the surrounding tissues in the best way.

One of the general rules most professionals know is that when dealing with a patient’s smile, you treat either two, four, eight or 10 teeth, never six. This is what “the countdown to dental cosmetics” refers to.

Most patients have cosmetic myopia when looking at themselves in the mirror. They only see the six front teeth.

However, others rarely view someone’s smile straight on, but rather at many other sideways angles. When reviewing thousands of photographs of many different patients, it becomes apparent that the smile goes back a lot farther back in the mouth than most people think – even if the patients claims they “do not smile very big.”

This is especially true when dealing with very darkly stained teeth. Repairing or enhancing less than eight or 10 teeth would be very apparent in most patients. This is not very attractive.

Now that you know the rule, you will notice the difference in a truly captivating smile versus a segmented partial smile. If you are observant, you can see this in actors and actresses in movies and television quite often.

As you are considering dental esthetics, remember the “countdown to cosmetics” to get the result you want.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.