You’ve probably not ever spent much time thinking about how the earliest humans cared for their teeth, but for thousands of years before modern dentistry, people improvised ways to keep their teeth clean. From as early as 3000 B.C., there is documented evidence of people using sticks to clean their teeth, and the first toothbrush, constructed out of animal hair, was made in the 1400s.
The Egyptians were one of the first groups of people to use toothpaste. Their version was made with pumice stone and vinegar. The Romans had their own version that contained urine, which is actually a natural tooth-whitening agent. This ammonia toothpaste was used into the 18th century.
DuPont began to modernize dentistry with a more sanitary nylon toothbrush in 1938, and the first electric toothbrush hit the market in 1961. Of course, in the 20th century many advances were made in toothpaste and other dental care products. It makes sense that people have spent centuries, even millennia, being resourceful to prioritize cleaning your teeth, but you may be surprised to learn that teeth cleaning isn’t the only dental care with ancient roots.
While cosmetic dentistry is considered a very modern field, people throughout history have come up with ways to improve their smile. In this article, we’ll tell you all about cosmetic dentistry, its evolution through time, and what it can do for you today.
What Is Cosmetic Dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry is a method of dentistry that blends art and science to improve the aesthetics of a patient’s smile and self-image. Having strong teeth and a beautiful smile are important, for many reasons, to overall health. Dental issues that might make your smile less attractive, like cracked, chipped, or broken teeth, can also lead to serious health issues if left untreated.
Since the smile is one of the first features noticed by everyone you meet, cosmetic dental issues can impact your self-confidence. Cosmetic dental procedures like crowns, bridges, teeth whitening, and dental veneers are all ways to improve your dental health and, simultaneously, improve the look of your smile.
The Evolution of Cosmetic Dentistry
The 20th century catapulted cosmetic dentistry into popularity, but people were working on their smiles as early as 700 B.C.
The Etruscans made the first dentures out of bone and ivory, using either the teeth of dead animals or extracting them from live human donors. This method of denture making continued into the 1800s.
The Etruscans begin using gold to make dental crowns and bridges. The Egyptians begin hammering seashells into their gums as the earliest form of dental implant.
1100 – 1200
In the Middle Ages, dental work was performed by a barber. They filled teeth, had methods for tooth whitening, and even performed dental surgery.
By the 1400s, dentistry shifted out of the hands of barbers to specialized professionals. Europeans began adopting the creation of ivory and bone dentures.
Human teeth begin to be used as dental implants. Late in the century, the first porcelain dentures were created.
Instead of human teeth, dental implants are made with metal inserts. Porcelain dentures begin to make their way into the United States, and dentists begin to make plaster molds of patients’ teeth to create better fitting dentures. The first dental lab for dentures opened in the 1850s.
Dental labs begin using acrylics and plastics for dentures to make them more affordable. During the 1950s, dentists began fusing porcelain with metal to make dental crowns more comfortable and durable. In the late 1900s, the term “cosmetic dentistry” was first used, and procedures like bleaching, veneers, and modern implants became standard cosmetic dentistry practices.
Who Can Benefit From Cosmetic Dentistry?
Cosmetic dentistry can boost the self-esteem of anyone who has a dislike for any aspect of their teeth, whether it is color, damaged teeth, or alignment. Even this subtle change in appearance can reinvigorate your self-image. Here are a few examples of who can benefit from cosmetic dentistry.
Those With Discolored Teeth
Tooth whitening is one of the simplest and most affordable cosmetic dentistry procedures. Over time, staining drinks like coffee and red wine can discolor your teeth and make them less bright. Tooth color can also be affected by changes in the dentin underneath the tooth enamel, so you may experience tooth discoloration after trauma to a tooth. While tooth discoloration can be subtle, it can keep you from fully showing off your smile for fear of being judged.
Professional whitening polishes off surface stains and uses lightening agents to penetrate and remove discoloration from the dentin layer. Significant lightning can be achieved often in one session, but it may require a few sessions depending on your starting color and desired results. Professional whiting is much more effective than over the counter options.
Those With Missing Teeth
Decades ago, those with missing teeth didn’t have many available or affordable options to repair their smile. Now, dental implants are the most effective and permanent way to replace your teeth. With a dental implant, an artificial root is placed in your gums and jaw. Over time, the synthetic root fuses with the jaw to become an anchor for a new tooth.
A prosthetic tooth will be affixed to the root, and within four to six months, you’ll have natural feeling and looking teeth. Dental implants can be used for a single missing tooth or as support for bridges and removable or non-removable dentures. Keeping a rooted structure in the jaw is important for maintaining jawbone density, volume, and original shape of your face, so dental implants can make a huge difference in the long run.
Those With Chips and Gaps
If you have issues with the shape and spacing with your teeth, it can feel daunting to find a solution to the problem. Porcelain veneers and dental bonding can resolve these issues much faster than other treatments like braces. Chips in teeth can be smoothed out and filled with resin, and larger gaps or misaligned teeth can be fixed with porcelain veneers. Veneers are also a great way to significantly whiten teeth that do not respond to professional whitening.
The Details on Veneers
Since porcelain veneers are a great way to fix a number of cosmetic dental issues, they are an extremely popular treatment. Let’s take a closer look at the details of porcelain veneers.
What Are Veneers?
Veneers are a very thin covering of custom-fit porcelain that is bonded to the surface of the tooth to enhance appearance
Who Shouldn’t Use Veneers?
We mentioned above that veneers are a good way to treat discoloration, chipping, or gapping, but not everyone is a great candidate for veneers. Veneers cover the surface of the existing tooth, so patients with tooth decay would not be a good candidate for veneers. The veneer can trap the decay and cause it to spread to other parts of the teeth and mouth, potentially causing health issues.
Before considering veneers, your dentist will recommend fixing your tooth decay issues. Additionally, since the porcelain veneers will adhere to the existing tooth structure, your dentist will not recommend using this treatment if you have weak or crumbling teeth.
What Is the Process of Getting Veneers?
Getting veneers requires a few visits to a cosmetic dentist. First, you will have a consultation where you will discuss your concerns and your desired results. Your cosmetic dentist will explain the process to you, answer any questions you have, then take x-rays and impressions of your teeth to use for creating your veneers.
At your second visit, the cosmetic dentists will remove a small amount of tooth enamel, then repeat the dental impressions. You’ll have a temporary veneer placed over your teeth. The impressions and smile design will be sent to a dental lab, where your final porcelain veneers will be created. At your last appointment, the temporary veneers are removed, and your permanent set is bonded to your teeth.
What Is the Maintenance for Veneers?
Your veneers will not need any more maintenance and care than your natural teeth. You should brush twice a day and floss daily and keep up with your semi-annual cleaning and exams. With this proper care, your veneers should last about ten years before needing to be replaced.
Will Insurance Pay for Veneers?
Because porcelain veneers are a cosmetic dental procedure, it is unlikely that your insurance will pay for the cost of the treatment. However, there can be exceptions, so it is a good idea to check with your insurance provider before getting porcelain veneers. During your consultation, your cosmetic dentist should discuss the cost of the treatment and inform you of any payment options or financing that might be available to help you manage your investment in your new smile.
For the Best in Veneers, Choose Austin Cosmetic Dentistry
Dr. Tejas Patel and the team at Austin Cosmetic Dentistry have been creating beautiful smiles with high-quality porcelain veneers for 20 years. If you want a carefully curated smile from the most experienced cosmetic dentist, schedule your free consultation today.