Straight white teeth are not the definition of a beautiful smile. A beautiful smile is one that balances with an individual’s face, lips and skin color. It is one that looks like mother nature placed it there…natural in its purest and most pristine form. A well trained cosmetic dentist not only understands the engineering of how to build a smile from start to finish but also has the photography skills to properly communicate with the lab technician who creates the actual porcelain restorations. The dentist must have a balance of both science and art to visually predict what the final case will look like.
When I first meet a patient who seeks cosmetic changes, we spend a lot of time simply discussing what they want their teeth to look like. The real question is “Am I creating a smile you’ve never had or am I giving you the smile you USED to have?” The question may seem simple enough. However, if the patient desires the smile they used to have but they currently have piece meal dentistry done by different dentists using different materials and labs, this can be difficult. In this case, the current dentistry masks my ability to know what the teeth used to look like. This is when I ask the patient to bring in historical photos of the way they looked in the past. We look at the chronology of events that have occurred to determine how their teeth ended up looking like they do now. If the patient desires a smile they’ve never had then the discussion becomes one of new design. Do they like longer, more rectangular teeth? Do they want smaller, rounder teeth? What if they don’t know? I spend a lot of time listening, asking and understanding what the patient wants. I then take series of photos so that we can evaluate their smile on the computer screen together. Seeing their smile from different angles enables the patient to observe their smile in ways that they would otherwise never see.
The price of lab work for a general factory lab versus an individual can be huge. As such, when patients ask what our fee is for a single crown or veneer, it can be difficult. When they are comparing our fee with another dentist’s fee, they usually only consider the services that we provide in-office and not the other half of the service, which is the lab work. This would be like hiring a highly trained engineer and designer to create a set of plans for your dream house. The design may be perfect, the foundation has been planned, and all functional elements accounted for and now those plans must be handed off to a builder. Do you want to hire the cheapest builder with less skill who takes shortcuts and lesser quality materials? We all make decisions that fit our needs and my point is that you cannot compare crowns / veneers as commodities. They are not all the same.
Here are some beautiful photos from my lab technician that demonstrate his art of creating natural looking teeth. (Yes, great lab technicians take photos too!). Different colored porcelain powders are layered, baked and polished. Notice the fluorescence that mimics real enamel. The surface texture is irregular like real teeth, not flat and manufactured. This takes hours and hours to create. It takes true artistic skill and talent to achieve this result. This is not factory made. This is artistry at its best.
This collaboration between the patient, myself and the lab technician is crucial to achieving the desired result. Through comprehensive photo documentation, open dialogue and practiced skill, the results are incredible! At the end of the process, it leaves the entire team – Park West Dentistry Staff, myself and the lab technician – excited to deliver beautiful, natural-looking smiles to our wonderful patients!