Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Minimally Invasive Cosmetic Dentistry

What Cosmetic Dentists Don’t Want You to Know About Veneers

I saw a thirty-something man in my office last week with a cosmetic emergency. One of his veneers had fractured off of a front tooth. For somebody whose job involves meeting the public, this was a rather embarrassing situation. He had the broken piece, so we were able to bond it back temporarily and get him to his meeting on time.

What got my attention was a question that he asked me: How long are veneers supposed to last? When somebody asks me how long certain dentistry will last, I have usually asked how long their car would last. After all, your car will fail quickly if it runs out of oil. And it will last a long time if you take good care of it and get it serviced regularly. And most of the dental repairs we do are similar in life expectancy. If you have great oral hygiene, and see your dentist and hygienist regularly, your dentistry will last a long time.

But one of my favorite dental school professors, Dr Roger Riley, used to tell us that “there was nothing we could do for them that was as good as what God gave them, and they had already screwed that up”

But the underlying question behind his how long will they last question, was really: How much will this cost me to maintain for the rest of my life? Is it possible that those veneers that cost me about $1000 each eleven years ago will wind up costing me $10,000 each or more to keep them nice during my lifetime? Would he have made the same decision if he understood that was a likelihood?

But what about elective cosmetic dentistry like veneers? Most people realize that is unrealistic for repairs to their teeth to last longer than the teeth had lasted before they needed repairing. People intuitively realize that Dr. Riley was right. But what about the longevity of an elective procedure? The teeth he had veneered had perhaps had nothing more wrong with them than being stained, crooked, or mis-shaped. He had not realized that the veneers would need to be replaced many times in his lifetime at the time he made the decision to have the teeth veneered.

What if he had another choice to improve his smile? Today, in many cases we can use short term orthodontics to straighten your front teeth in less than six months, whiten them by many shades with our exciting new whitening protocol, and do a minor reshaping of the teeth to get a great smile that does not need periodic replacement for the rest of your life. Even if it cost more (it does not), wouldn’t that be a more reasonable choice in the long run?

We at Los Gatos Dental Group take our minimally invasive philosophy seriously. We can even extend our philosophy to include some elective cosmetic procedures.