Thanks to Hollywood and “makeover” TV shows, people are taking a good look in the mirror. Advances in dentistry means people born with less than perfect smiles can have a mouthful of pearly whites.Winter 2007Thanks to Hollywood and “makeover” TV shows, people are taking a good look in the mirror. Advances in dentistry means people born with less than perfect smiles can have a mouthful of pearly whites. The demand for cosmetic dentistry has grown in Greater Sudbury.
Dentist Dr. Roch St-Aubin is known for his work in cosmetic dentistry. Many other dentists in the area are also offering these services.
“Sometimes people are laid off, and they find themselves with great backgrounds, but have appearances that aren’t as marketable,” he said.
“They (can) fix themselves up by doing a makeover. They fix up their teeth, get laser eye surgery, lose some weight and change their wardrobe.
“Teeth are a major part of your appearance because people look at your mouth when you talk. If you go into an interview, and the rest of you is really nice, but your teeth aren’t nice, they’re going to say. ‘What else is he holding back’?”
St-Aubin said when he finishes a restoration on a patient’s teeth, the difference in the appearance is usually “like night and day.”
There are also sometimes health reasons to get cosmetic dentistry done. It allows people to chew food properly, and also it boosts self-esteem, which may improve mental health.
Although the procedures are expensive, some people have good dental insurance plans that cover the costs.
St-Aubin first got interested in cosmetic dentistry while attending dental school at the University of Western Ontario in the 1980s.
When St-Aubin set up his practice in Sudbury in 1986, he was on the leading edge of cosmetic dental restorations. He took extra courses on the subject and started developing a reputation as a specialist.
Porcelain veneers came into prominence when St-Aubin was still in school.
“A porcelain veneer is similar to a fake fingernail. It’s custom-made to fit over the front of the tooth, so you’re only restoring the front part of the tooth,” he said.
“You shave off about the thickness of a thumbnail off of the front of the tooth, and then take an imprint of that. The lab we use in Toronto makes the veneer. It fits over top of where you’ve removed a little bit of the tooth.
Veneers can correct a number of problems such as teeth that are discoloured, misshapen, too short, too long, too narrow or rotated.
In recent years, there have been advances in the way dental bridges are made so people’s smiles look a lot more natural, said St-Aubin.
Bridges, or fixed partial dentures, are prostheses used to replace missing teeth. They are not removable by the patient.
“Before, they had a metal base with porcelain over top that was baked on. You could see the metal shining through. Over time, as the gum pulled back, you could see that black line at the top of the bridge,” he said.
“Now we have all-ceramic bridges, so it’s all white. The base is white, and the porcelain is white, so you don’t see that dark line at the gumline.”
Dental implants are another method of tooth replacement. A titanium screw is inserted into the jaw bone, and an artificial tooth is attached. The bone actually grows on and into the rough surface of the implanted titanium. Implanted teeth can also be used to anchor bridges and dentures.
“It’s like putting in an artificial root,” he said. “You drill a small hole into the bone and screw in the root.
“Over the course of a few months, the implant actually binds to the bone. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. It’s revolutionary, as far as dentistry goes.”
Orthodontics (or braces) aren’t just for kids, said St-Aubin.
He refers his patients to orthodontic specialists in the city. Orthodontists fix improper jaw alignments and tooth irregularities.
Ceramic brackets are sometimes used in place of metal to make braces look less noticeable, although St-Aubin thinks they look like bread on people’s teeth.
A form of orthodontics where a series of clear retainers are used to move teeth can only be used to correct very minor problems, he said.
Teeth can also be whitened quickly and easily, said St-Aubin. Whitening gel is squirted into a clear retainer, and during the treatment period, patients wear the device for a few hours each day.
“A long time ago, people used to be bring the whitening systems back because there were sensitivity problems. There was a de-sensitizing gel that you wore after the fact,” he said.
“Now the de-sensitizing gel is incorporated into the bleaching gel. It also used to be an overnight process, and now it just takes a few hours every day.”
St-Aubin helps patients visualize what their teeth will look like after treatment. Often the results are beyond their wildest expectations.
“We started to do white wax mock-ups so we can show a before and after model to the patient.”
Approx. cost of cosmetic dentistry:
• Porcelain veneers - $700 per tooth
• Bridges - $2,800 per unit
• Implants - $2,500 per tooth
• Whitening - $400 for entire treatment
• Orthodontics - $6,000 for entire treatment
Glossary of Cosmetic Dental Terms
Bonding : The technique of applying composite resin or porcelain to the teeth by etching the tooth surface and using special adhesives to attach the composite resin or porcelain to the tooth.
Caps or Crowns : The restoration of teeth with colour-matched porcelain. Made from porcelain, crowns are bonded to the prepared teeth, providing lasting changes by altering the colour, shape or position of the tooth.
Diastema : A space or gap that occurs between two adjacent teeth.
Gum Lift : The gum line is surgically lifted, exposing more of the tooth that is buried under the gums, yielding a more balanced appearance as well as longer looking teeth.
Veneers : Made from porcelain, veneers are bonded to the prepared teeth, providing lasting changes by altering the colour, shape or position.
Whitening of Teeth (Bleaching) : Can be accomplished through various means. The three most common means are: home whitening, power bleaching and laser bleaching.
Implants : Surgically placed into the site where teeth are missing, they are can be used to replace single teeth or to secure dentures when multiple teeth are missing.
Amalgam: Many concerns have been voiced over the safety of this material due to the mercury content.
Composite Resin : Tooth coloured “plastic like” material used to restore teeth to a natural appearance, restoring decay or changing tooth appearance.
Cusp : the part of the molar or bicuspid that is pointed (unless worn down) and used to grind and tear food.
Dentin : The tooth material directly under the enamel layer. It is somewhat softer than enamel and more yellow in colour.
Diastema : A space or gap that occurs between two adjacent teeth.
Enamel : Enamel is the outermost layer of a healthy tooth. It is translucent in nature, as well as very hard and shiny.
Gingival : A dental term to describe “gums.”
Orthodontics : The movement of teeth into healthier and more esthetic positions in the mouth. This is accomplished through the use of “braces” (wires and brackets) or removable devices called “orthodontic appliances”.
Porcelain : A glass-like substance (much like porcelain dishes), that is made in special ovens. It is used to create dental restorations such as veneers, crowns, onlays, inlays and bridges.