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Veneers, Crowns, and Bridges: The Ultimate Guide to Your Smile Makeover

Did you know that roughly three-quarters of Americans develop a first impression of new people based largely on their smile? Having a smile you can be proud of is incredibly important for your confidence, self-esteem, and desire to socialize with others.

That’s why learning the ins and outs of a smile makeover could be one of the best choices you could make.

What Does a Smile Makeover Look Like?

A smile makeover will look a bit different for each person. A skilled dental care professional can work with you to assess your unique needs and determine what kind of work you need to have done so you can finally have the smile of your dreams.

With that being said, there are some common cosmetic dental procedures that most people who experience a smile makeover will go through. These include dental veneers, crowns, and bridges, all of which are intended to give you a new and improved smile.

What is the Difference Between Veneers, Crowns, and Bridges?

All three of these dental procedures are intended to give you the smile you’ve always wanted. They do so in different ways. For example, a dental veneer is a thin layer made of porcelain or similar material that makes your tooth look as good as new to the naked eye.

Meanwhile, dental crowns “cap” the top of your teeth, addressing cosmetic concerns while simultaneously protecting your oral health. Finally, dental bridges fill in areas where you are missing an entire tooth.

Your need for any of these three dental applications will depend on the severity of your teeth damage or cosmetic worries. If your teeth are stained but otherwise undamaged, you can get by with dental veneers alone. However, any significant tooth damage (such as a badly chipped tooth) will probably need to be fixed with a dental crown.

A dental healthcare expert will be able to talk with you and determine which procedure is best suited for your oral health situation. 

Dental Veneers

If your smile is negatively affected by cosmetic imperfections such as chipped or cracked teeth, stained or otherwise discolored teeth, or even a gap between at least one pair of teeth, then dental veneers may be just what you need.

A cosmetic dentist can create custom-sized porcelain shells that fit directly on the front of your teeth. By bonding these pieces to your natural teeth with dental cement, an expert in cosmetic dentistry can give you a whiter smile or correct spacing between misaligned teeth.

Dental veneers cover up some of your teeth’s most glaring aesthetic problems at the same time that they enhance the color, sizing, and more of your smile.

Types of Dental Veneers

There are a few different types of dental veneers, varying based on the material used and the method of application.

As the name would suggest, composite veneers are made of a tooth-colored composite resin. This kind of veneer tends to be cheaper for the patient and easier for a dentist to repair. However, resin-based veneers tend to stain more.

On the other hand, porcelain veneers (which are made out of, you guessed it, porcelain rather than resin) do a better job matching the appearance of natural teeth. They also tend to be more stain-resistant. However, they are more expensive.

No-prep and minimal-prep dental veneers can be installed without your dentist needing to remove as much natural tooth enamel prior to the bonding process. Finally, removable or pop-on/snap-on veneers are similar to dentures or retainers in that they can be taken off at will. However, this convenience is a trade-off because removable veneers can impact your eating as well as your speech.

Dental Crowns

As the name suggests, dental crowns fit on the top of a tooth. Like a dental veneer, dental crowns can be used to cover up imperfections in teeth, such as chips, cracks, noticeable stains or other forms of tooth discoloration.

However, dental crowns are also able to provide more serious support in the case of decayed teeth or teeth that have been badly broken. Crowns can also be used to support a weak tooth or one that has become worn down with age and use.

Dental crowns are also used as part of a dental bridge, but we’ll discuss that in more detail a bit further down in the article.

Types of Dental Crowns

As with dental veneers, there are multiple kinds of dental crowns depending on the material used. Perhaps the most well-known form of a dental crown is a metal crown, especially one made from a gold-based alloy or similar metal. Metal crowns are incredibly durable and provide the greatest longevity. However, they are also highly noticeable.

On the other end of the spectrum, porcelain and all-ceramic dental crowns imitate the natural appearance of tooth enamel. Ceramic crowns made of zirconium dioxide (i.e. zirconia) can withstand great amounts of chewing force compared to other ceramic crown materials.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns represent a middle ground between all-metal crowns and porcelain or all-ceramic crowns. PFM dental crowns look natural like regular porcelain crowns do, yet they have strength comparable to all-metal crowns. The major drawbacks of PFM crowns are that the porcelain exterior may chip over time, and the crown can wear down the enamel on the opposing tooth surface. 

Dental Bridges

The most serious type of smile makeover we’ll discuss today is a dental bridge. These dental appliances can replace anything from an individual tooth to an entire row of missing teeth.

Dental bridges work by filling in the gaps between teeth in your smile. Synthetic teeth (called “pontics”) replace the missing teeth with the support of abutments on either side of the tooth gap. A dental bridge abutments come in the form of either dental crowns that cap over your natural teeth or posts that connect the pontics to dental implants.

Types of Dental Bridges

The forms of dental bridge that a cosmetic dentist recommends to you will vary depending on your particular oral health needs.

Traditional dental bridges fit in with your natural teeth by using dental crowns as abutments on either side. This works best when you have healthy-looking teeth on each side of your tooth gap.

If you only have healthy teeth on one side of the gap, however, a dentist may recommend a cantilever dental bridge. This dental appliance has its pontic extend across the gap in your teeth, similar to a cantilever structure in architecture. As you might imagine, cantilever dental bridges are less secure than traditional bridges.

If you have at least three teeth in a row that are missing, a dentist may opt for an implant-supported bridge. This requires installing threaded posts so that they fuse to your jawbone. Once the bone grafting process has finished, your dentist can install the bridge with the artificial teeth in place.

How Much Does a Typical Smile Makeover Cost?

Your geographic area and the level of work you want to be done in your smile makeover will affect the overall cost. For instance, a dental veneer could cost around $1000-$2000 per tooth, so the overall cost would vary depending on how many teeth you wanted to be covered.

Dental crowns tend to vary based on the material used, with PFM crowns typically being the least expensive option (around $500 on the low end) and crowns made of other materials ranging from about $800-$3,500.

Given the amount of work and material that go into making a dental bridge, it understandably costs the most out of the three cosmetic procedures (between $2,000-$5,000).

As far as dental insurance is concerned, a typical policy would cover up to half of the cost of a crown or bridge as long as they are medically necessary. Check your particular insurance policy to be certain.

Preparing for Your Smile Makeover Appointment

Since the requirements of a smile makeover vary from patient to patient, your journey starts with an initial consult with a cosmetic dentist. After determining which procedure is best for your teeth, your dentist will create a plan for you.

The length of your smile makeover treatment visit will vary depending on which procedure you need. A veneer may be installed within 30 minutes to an hour, while a dental bridge requiring implants may take up to two hours. You can expect to receive anesthesia for the most invasive procedure types. 

How to Care for Your Dental Work After Placement

Your dentist or orthodontist will provide instructions on the recovery process following any invasive dental surgery. This includes knowing which food and drinks to avoid, whether or not to avoid physical recreation such as sports, and which medications can help reduce your pain.

Depending on the extent of your smile makeover surgery, it could take up to 12 weeks to recover fully. Let your dentist know immediately if you notice any severe symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling around the operation area
  • Itching of the gum tissue
  • Hives on the surface of your gums
  • Continuous pain 

Contact Stuart Curry Dentistry Today to Schedule an Appointment

Our dental office team will be happy to explain how our cosmetic dental services can help you achieve the beautiful, healthy smile you’ve always wanted. Join the Stuart Curry Dentistry family for exceptional general and cosmetic dental care in Birmingham, Alabama. Proudly serving Vestavia Hills and the surrounding areas – call us today to schedule your appointment!