While general dentists perform procedures that are necessary to good oral health, such as cleanings and root canals, cosmetic dentists perform elective procedures to correct aesthetic flaws. Many elective cosmetic procedures, such as dental bridges, can also have a conservative purpose, and we'll discuss some of these in this guide.

Innovations in cosmetic dentistry have made a trip to the dentist's office an entirely new and rewarding experience for millions of Americans, and many procedures are even covered by dental insurers! So whether you're fixing a single tooth or getting a total smile makeover, arm yourself with these facts to help you decide on a procedure that fits your dental and aesthetic needs and budget.

What Is Dental Bonding?

A favored procedure for minor dental corrections, bonding – also known as composite bonding – is a quick and affordable way to correct a variety of dental flaws such as:

  • Cracks
  • Discoloration
  • Gaps
  • Low Bite Pressure (caused by short or uneven teeth)
  • Tooth Decay

If you have any of these dental issues you may be a good candidate for bonding.

How Does Bonding Work?

After inspecting the tooth in question, your dentist will select a color for the composite resin (the material used in bonding) that most closely matches your tooth. He or she will then roughen the outer layer of your tooth, removing a minimal amount of tooth enamel, and apply a strong adhesive that will help the resin stick. Next your dentist will apply the resin and shape it to fill in any cracks or gaps or change the contours of your tooth. Afterwards, a dental laser is used to "bond" the material to your tooth. A local anesthetic is generally only required when tooth decay or nerve damage is involved.

How Long Does Bonding Take?

Dental bonding can be performed in a single visit, unless you're having a few teeth bonded. The procedure usually takes between an hour and two. If you're having your teeth lengthened, it might take a few days for you to get accustomed to the way they feel.

How Long Does Bonding Last?

The composite resin used in bonding typically lasts 7 to 10 years before it needs to be repaired or replaced.

How Much Does Dental Bonding Cost?

Dental Bonding generally costs between $ 100 and $ 700 per tooth, and the cost can vary depending on the amount of work required and the skill level of the dentist.

Is Bonding Covered By My Dental Insurance?

Insurers will usually cover some or most of the cost of bonding, especially when its purpose is reconstructive rather than cosmetic.

Dental Bridges

Having one or more missing teeth can have a serious effect not only on your smile, but also on your dental health. Specifically, missing teeth can cause:

  • A shift in the alignment of your teeth
  • Increased risk of periodontal disease
  • Increased risk of tooth decay
  • Loss of adjunct teeth
  • Speech disorders
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

What Are Dental Bridges?

Like dental implants, dental bridges are used to replace missing teeth, except dental bridges gain extra support from being attached to surrounding teeth. Bridges are most commonly used on the front teeth, provided that the gums and surrounding teeth are in decent shape.

What Are the Benefits of Bridges?

Like many cosmetic dental procedures, placing bridges also serves a conservative purpose. A dental bridge will improve your ability to chew and speak as well as your smile. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, dental bridges were shown to dramatically reduce the risk of losing teeth that are adjunct to a missing tooth. In addition, dental bridges can help keep your jaw maintain its natural structure and keep from changing shape.

What Types of Bridges Are There?

Cantilever bridges are used to replace a tooth that does not have supporting teeth on both sides of the affected area.

Maryland bonded bridges include artificial teeth and gums, and are held in place by a metal frame.

Traditional bridges are the most common, and literally bridge the gap of an empty tooth space by securing a false tooth using crowns on the teeth on either side.

How Are Dental Bridges Placed?

The procedure of installing a dental bridge is typically completed in two visits. First, your dentist will determine if you are a good candidate for a dental bridge. If you are, your teeth will need to be prepared by reshaping or reconstructing any badly declined or damaged areas. Afterwards, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth, which is then sent off to a lab where it is cast into a mold, and give you a temporary bridge to wear. On your second visit, this mold will be fitted to your teeth, and any necessary corrections or adjustments will be made on that same visit.

How Long Do Dental Bridges Last?

Dental bridges can last from 8 to 15 years and even longer if you maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly.

How Much Do Bridges Cost?

Depending on various factors such as the experience and skill level of the dentist and the type of bridge being fitted, dental bridges can cost anywhere from $ 250 to $ 2500 a tooth.

Are Bridges Covered By My Dental Insurance?

Dental bridges are typically partly covered by insurers.

Dental Crowns

What Are Dental Crowns?

Sometimes referred to as caps, crowns are custom designed casings for damaged teeth. As opposed to other cosmetic and restorative procedures such as bonding, crowns cover the entire tooth, which is why they're sometimes called caps. Dental crowns are used to:

  • Cover a deformed or discolored tooth
  • Improve your ability to chew foods
  • Restore a tooth's size and shape
  • Shield a damaged, decayed or cracked tooth
  • Support another dental structure such as a dental bridge or large filling

Crowns do not require any maintenance away from standard oral hygiene practice – brushing and flossing. Even though the tooth is covered, it is still susceptible to decay from within.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

Typically, placing a crown requires two visits to the dentist. During the first visit, he or she will inspect the tooth and decide whether a crown is your best option and then whatever the tooth in question is damaged enough to require a root canal. Next your dentist will determine whether the tooth needs to be filed down or built up in order to fit a crown and perform the necessary procedure.

Afterward, an impression is made of the tooth in question and is sent off to a lab to be turned into a crown. If the crown is porcelain, your dentist will also select a color for it that best matches your other teeth. In the meantime, you will receive a temporary crown to wear for the 2 to 3 weeks until the permanent crown is ready. The permanent crown will be fitted during your second visit, after which your dentist will make any necessary adjustments. A recent technology allows dentists to create the crown on-site, in which case only a single visit is required. If you're interested in an expedited crown placement, ask your dentist if his or her office is equipped with CAD / CAM technology (computer aided design / manufacturing technology).

What Types of Crowns Are There?

  • Porcelain-fused-to-metal
  • Resin
  • Ceramic (all porcelain)
  • Metal, eg gold, nickel

Whereas metal crowns last a long time and require very little of the tooth to be filed down, all-porcelain or ceramic crowns are the best aesthetic choice since they can be color-matched. In addition, porcelain crowns are a good option for people with metal allergies. Resin crowns are cheaper than metal or porcelain crowns but tend to wear and tear faster.

How Much Do Crowns Cost?

Depending on the type of crown you¡¯re having installed and the skill level of your dentist, crowns can cost from $ 500 to $ 3000 per tooth, with porcelain crowns typically costing more due to the greater amount of time and skill required to place them.

Are Crowns Covered By My Dental Insurance?

Insurers generally do not cover the cost of dental crowns or will pay for a small portion of the cost, unless the crown is needed for a clear medical reason. However, crowns can be funded either through your dentist or an outside company such as Care Credit or DentalFeePlan.

Inlays / Onlays

What Are Inlays and Onlays?

A minimally invasive dental technology for repairing tooth decay and other damage, inlays and onlays are customized fillings that are made in a lab for a better fit, as opposed to traditional fillings, which are fitted in a single visit. The main difference between inlays and onlays is that:

  • Inlays are performed when the tooth damage is mainly bound to the tip, or cusp, of the tooth.
  • And onlays are performed when the tooth decay or structural damage is deeper or more widespread.

How Are Inlays and Onlays fitted?

Inlays and onlays are performed by removing any damage or decay sustained by the tooth with a drill. The area is first numbered with a local anesthetic. Afterwards an impression of the tooth is created and sent to a lab to be turned into a cast. While the cast is being made, your dentist will provide you with a temporary restoration, and your custom-made inlay or onlay will be ready to be fitted in about 2 to 3 weeks.

What Are Inlays and Onlays Made of?

Inlays and onlays can be made of gold, a malleable material which has a reputation for reflecting a long time – up to 30 years.

Porcelain and composite resin are increasingly popular options since they can be color matched and are generally considered more visually appealing.


  • Unlike traditional fillings, inlays and onlays actually reinforcement the structure of the tooth and strengthen its chewing power by up to 75%.
  • Unlike crowns, inlays and onlays do not require you to replace a large part of your tooth.
  • There is a minimum level of risk involved in this procedure.
  • Inlays and onlays require less tooth reduction than standard fillings or crowns.
  • New advances in inlay and onlay technology have made it possible to create a cast and perform the procedure in one visit.


  • A small number of people can have an allergic reaction to either the local anesthetic or the material used in the inlay / onlay.

How Long Do Inlays and Onlays Take to Fit?

Inlays and onlays can be fitted in two visits of about an hour each.

How Much do Inlays and Onlays Cost?

Depending on the skill level of your dentist, the quality of the material and the size of the inlay or onlay, it will generally cost between $ 600 and $ 1200 a tooth.

Are Inlays and Onlays Covered by my Insurance?

The full or partial cost of inlays and onlays is usually covered by dental insurance since they have a conservative purpose in addition to a cosmetic one, that is, inlays and onlays are used primarily to correct damaged teeth, which also has the effect of making them look cleaner and healthier.


What are Veneers?

One of the most popular and effective developments in cosmetic dentistry, veneers are thin, custom made casings that cover the front side of your teeth. Veneers are used to correct uneven teeth, worn enamel, discoloration, chipped teeth and irregular spacing, and can last over 20 years. In some cases, veneers can serve a conservative purpose and can protect a damaged tooth from further harm.

What Does the Procedure Involve?

After a thorough examination of your teeth, which may include X-rays and taking impressions, your dentist will remove a thin layer of enamel from your teeth. He or she will then create an impression and send it off to a laboratory to create the veneer. While the mold is being created, your dentist may provide you with temporary veneers. Finally, the veneer's size and color are given one last adjustment before they are cemented to your tooth on your second visit.

What Are the Advantages of Veneers?

Veneers can give your teeth a more natural, aesthetically pleasing appearance and are stain resistant and soft on gums. In some cases, veneers can serve a conservative purpose and protect a damaged tooth from further harm.

What Are the Risks of Veneers?

In rare instances, veneers can chip or crack, in which case they would have to be replaced. Since enamel is removed in the procedure, the process is not reversible, and you may become more sensitive to hot and cold foods for the same reason. If you grind your teeth in your sleep, you may be asked to wear a mouthguard when you go to bed. Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep do not even know it, but your dentist will be able to tell you if you do from the wear marks on your teeth.

Types of Veneers

  • Porcelain
  • Resin Composite
  • Lumineers

Since porcelain veneers are more resistant to stains and chipping, they are generally more expensive. Lumineers are a particularly popular type of porcelain veneers that do not require your teeth to be washed and can even be placed over crown or bridgework. A custom-made set of Lumineers can be installed in 2-3 visits and is proven to last over 20 years.

How Much Do Veneers Cost?

Depending on the experience of your dentist and the material or brand being used, veneers can cost from $ 500 to $ 2000 a tooth. Porcelain veneers are generally the most expensive and longest lying. Lumineers can cost from $ 700 to $ 1200 per tooth.

Will My Insurance Cover Veneers?

As this procedure is elective and primarily cosmetic, most dental insurers will not cover veneers. However, veneers can be advanced either through your dentist or an outside company such as Care Credit or DentalFeePlan.

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the counsel and expertise of a medical professional. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your dentist.

Source by Alex Tatarinov-Levin


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