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Before she began hosting the long-running TV competition Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi was a well-known model and successful cookbook author. (Appropriately, she is said to have been “discovered” by a modeling agent while sitting in a café in Madrid.) Yet the Indian-born beauty’s striking look — at once exotic and familiar — doesn’t come from any cookie-cutter mold.
So when Lakshmi had cosmetic work done on her teeth, early in her career, her dentist didn’t use a cookie-cutter approach either: Instead, her smile was carefully designed, using small amounts of bonding material to brighten her teeth and to bring their shape and spacing into harmony with her facial features.
Dentistry by Design
What exactly is smile design — and what could it do for you? Essentially, it’s the process of evaluating your smile in concert with the appearance of your entire face, and visualizing the changes — some dramatic and some subtle — that will make it really shine. Some aspects we consider include the face’s shape, the proportion or “balance” of facial features, the complexion, eye and lip color and form, and the overall dimensions of the smile.
Based on dental aesthetics and clinical experience, we will probably have a number of suggestions to make on how you can improve your smile. Your input will also be very important; while some individuals prefer perfectly even teeth and a sparkling “Hollywood white” smile, others are looking for a result that’s more in keeping with a “natural” look: slight irregularities in tooth shape, spacing, and even color.
There’s no right or wrong answer here: Having a “perfect” smile means what’s perfect for you, so it’s very important for dentists and patients to communicate openly during the smile design process. But sometimes, words alone just aren’t enough to convey the subtle dimensions of beauty.
The Trial Smile
Fortunately, it’s now possible to preview your “perfect” smile using a number of different techniques. Advances in computer imaging make this the first step in previewing your new smile — you can see the changes before a single tooth is touched! Still, many people find that having a more concrete picture is helpful. The next step is to make a 3-D mock-up the proposed dental work on an actual model of your mouth. That way, you can see a physical representation of the final results — and even turn it around and hold it in your hands.
There’s still one more way to really experience the difference cosmetic treatments can make without committing to a permanent change: the provisional restoration. Here, tooth-colored bonding material and other techniques are used to actually create the new smile — temporarily. This gives you time to “live with it,” and see if the proposed changes work for you. If everything goes well with the provisional work, the permanent restoration is guaranteed to please.
During most of your life, your dental healthcare will be mainly provided by your general dentist. Sometimes, though, certain situations and conditions call for the skills of a dental specialist. One such specialist is an oral surgeon.
An oral surgeon is a dentist who has undertaken further training and residencies in the practice of oral surgical procedures and treatments. They are especially distinguished by surgical procedures that may require advanced forms of anesthesia.
The field of oral surgery touches on a wide array of conditions. They are adept at tooth extractions, especially difficult cases like impacted teeth, and surgical procedures that correct issues involving the underlying bone of the jaw. They perform procedures as part of treatment for diseases of the jaws or facial region (including biopsies, and the removal and treatment of oral cancers), reconstructive surgeries of the mouth and jaw following disease or injury, and orthognathic surgeries that correct malocclusions (bad bites) caused by the size of the jaw and its placement with the skull.
Oral surgeons also provide treatments in the area of pain management like temporo-mandibular disorder (TMD), a group of conditions involving the joint that connects the lower jaw with the skull. Because of their background training in oropharyngeal (pertaining to the back of the mouth and the throat) physiology, many oral surgeons have received further training in the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). They also play an important role in cosmetic dentistry, as with the surgical placement of dental implants.
All in all, these professionals are an important part of your dental healthcare team. Along with your general dentist and other oral specialists, they’re committed to helping you gain the highest degree of dental health possible, as well as a vibrant, healthy smile.