To achieve a truly effective smile makeover, talented cosmetic dentists rely on a variety of tools and procedures. The ones that are used depend on the condition and quality of the existing teeth and the way they currently affect your smile. Regardless of why you’re unsatisfied with your smile, you can rest assured that there are solutions. With options like crowns, bridges and braces, cosmetic dentists can take your smile from being so-so to simply stunning.

What are Crowns, Bridges and Braces?
Like many people, you may not know the first thing about options like crowns, bridges and braces. Here’s a quick primer:

A crown is a thin piece of material—usually porcelain—that is designed to replace the entire external part of a tooth down to the gum line. It’s permanently affixed to the underlying, natural tooth using a special light-sensitive resin that’s hardened using a curing light. A crown can restore the original functionality of an impaired tooth, and it can also restore—or even improve upon—its appearance.

Crowns may be used to correct a variety of flaws. If you have a tooth or teeth that are still viable but marred by discoloration, decay or spacing issues, a well-designed crown may be the optimal solution. Crowns may also be used to restore the strength and appearance of teeth that have been damaged. From cracks to chips to unevenness, crowns slip right over natural teeth to instantly improve the way they look.

While a crown can restore the appearance and functionality of existing teeth, it isn’t a viable solution for teeth that are missing altogether. When one or more teeth are missing or need to be removed, a bridge is often the best option.

Fixed bridges replace a tooth or teeth that are no longer viable for one reason or another. From advanced decay to severe damage, all kinds of things can render teeth unviable and require them to be removed. Sometimes, of course, teeth fall out—or are knocked out—before you ever even make it to the dentist’s office.

As the name implies, a bridge “bridges” the gap between remaining teeth and missing teeth. It does so by using the adjacent, remaining teeth as anchors. Therefore, the remaining, nearby teeth are often called anchoring teeth, or abutment teeth.

To fill the gap between the anchoring teeth, a false tooth or teeth are created in a lab. They’re usually made out of porcelain and are known as pontics. Like crowns, porcelain bridges are cemented in place using light-sensitive resin that is cured, or hardened, using a curing light.

While crowns can help correct small gaps and minor issues with unevenness, there’s only so much they can do. If your teeth are severely crooked or misaligned, or if you have a misaligned bite like an underbite or an overbite, a retainer or braces could be an option.

Braces work by applying constant pressure on the teeth to slowly move and adjust them over time. This causes the actual bone to change shape too, which results in a more attractive smile and more effective bite. Braces consist of many components, including brackets, bands, spacers, arch wires and ties.

The length of time that you’ll need to wear braces will depend on a variety of factors. However, most people need to keep them on for one to three years. During that time, you’ll need to visit the dentist regularly for adjustments to the springs, wires and bands. These adjustments ensure that the braces are moving teeth properly.

Why are Bridges, Crowns and Braces Important?
Crowns, bridges and braces are important because they are highly effective tools for helping people achieve ideal smiles. They’re not just suitable for making aesthetic improvements to the teeth, either. They also work to improve or restore functionality.

Without bridges, crowns and braces, cosmetic dentists would have no easy, effective way to make permanent improvements to people’s teeth. Until you go in for the initial consultation for your smile makeover, you can’t really predict which of these options—if any—are right for you.

Issues They Correct Individually and Collectively
As highlighted previously, bridges, crowns and braces all correct different issues. Crowns improve the appearance of existing teeth that are strong enough to remain viable. Bridges bridge the gaps left by missing teeth by using the adjacent ones as anchors, and the gaps are filled in with false teeth known as pontics. Braces are meant to reshape the entire structure of the teeth. They don’t just correct crookedness and unevenness; they also correct bite misalignments and other issues.

Depending on the outcome of your initial smile makeover analysis, which uses high-tech imaging technology to assess the overall symmetry and visual appeal of your smile, one or all three of these options may be required. The nice thing is they can be used collectively to make dramatic transformations to your smile. The order in which they are used will depend on the nature of the issues that need to be corrected. You might have to start by wearing braces for a year or two and then be fitted for crowns and/or bridges as needed, or your cosmetic dentist may decide to use crowns and bridges first and to move on to orthodontia later.

In the case of a smile makeover, crowns, bridges and braces can collectively work to restore the crucial symmetry that’s needed to achieve a beautiful smile. Crowns and bridges can actually help to reshape the contours of the face. For instance, missing teeth or misshapen teeth can make the lips and mouth look unnatural. Bridges and crowns replace the teeth that used to support the lips and mouth, so the end result is a more natural—and visually appealing—smile.

What to Expect
Like most people, you’re probably wondering what it’s like to have crowns, bridges and braces placed. Do they hurt? How long will the results last? Will you need to do anything special or different to maintain them?

In the case of crowns and bridges, the only thing that’s typically done to the remaining, healthy teeth is for a very small amount of enamel to be removed. This is done to make room for the crowns, and the procedure itself is painless. Your cosmetic dentist will numb the area locally to ensure that you don’t feel a thing. Once your crown or bridge has been permanently affixed, it should look and feel like your natural teeth. In the very beginning, you may notice a difference. Before too long, though, you should forget they are even there.

Having braces put on doesn’t hurt at all. However, the period immediately after placement may result in soreness and pain that can be sufficiently managed using medications like Tylenol and Motrin. The same applies to the adjustments that need to be made periodically after braces are installed. Immediately after each adjustment, you may experience a small amount of pain or discomfort.

Crowns and bridges are long-lasting solutions. You can expect them to last for anywhere from five years to more than 15 years. It all depends on how well you care for them. As mentioned previously, braces are typically kept on for anywhere from one to three years. Afterwards, you usually have to use a removable retainer for a year or two as well.

How are crowns, bridges and braces applied? That differs from patient to patient, but the procedures are typically as follows:

  • Crowns—Impressions of your teeth will be made and sent to the lab, where a porcelain crown will be made. When it’s ready, your dentist will remove a tiny amount of enamel from the tooth and apply a light-sensitive resin. Once the crown is placed, a curing light will be used to bond it to the underlying tooth. Your dentist may need to make additional adjustments later.
  • Bridges—A similar procedure is used to place a bridge, but the crowns are placed on either end of the gap. The false teeth, or pontics, are also created in the lab. Once the crowns are bonded, then, the pontics fill in the gap to produce a natural, beautiful smile.
  • Braces—The procedure for applying braces is very specific to the condition of your teeth and the issues that need correcting.

Dental crowns range in price from $3000 to $3500 per tooth. Bridges range in price from around $3000 to $3500 per tooth. The average cost for braces is around $10,000. Please note that all of these prices are merely averages. These are all subject to an overall case fee depending on your needs.

Care and Maintenance
Porcelain crowns generally don’t require any special care. Simply continue to care for them as you would your natural teeth. Keep in mind that they may be somewhat sensitive to hot and cold temperatures for a while after they are placed.

Bridges don’t really require any special care or maintenance, either. However, special care should be given to maintaining the surrounding, natural teeth. They are acting as anchors for your bridge, so if they also decay and fall out, a lot more work will be necessary.

Braces don’t require special care or maintenance, per se, but they present unique challenges when it comes to caring for the underlying teeth. Brackets, wires and other appliances make it difficult to properly, thoroughly and effectively clean the teeth. Decay is a serious threat under these circumstances, so it is crucial to use the best dental hygiene and maintenance practices possible.

Why is a Smile Makeover Important?
Now that you know the basics about crowns, bridges and braces, you’re probably wondering why a smile makeover is needed at all. Here’s the thing: While braces, crowns and bridges correct specific issues, they don’t address the smile as a whole. Think about it: Your smile is about way more than your teeth. It affects the bottom third of your entire face. When it’s not properly balanced, your whole facial features wont appear properly balanced.

With a smile makeover, the overall appearance and symmetry of your smile and face are taken into consideration. Through the use of smile imaging technology, your cosmetic dentist will determine which areas need to be addressed. From there, veneers and other tools can be used to shape and contour the smile to achieve eye-pleasing harmony. While crowns, bridges and braces can be placed by any skilled and experienced cosmetic dentist, a skilled artist is needed to achieve a true smile makeover.

How do crowns, bridges and braces come into play during a smile makeover? Most typically, they will be used prior to the makeover to bring the teeth and smile up to a better level of quality. From there, smile imaging technology is used to assess the symmetry of the smile and face, and the cosmetic dentist then uses various tools and techniques to help you achieve the most attractive, youthful-looking smile and face possible.

A Cosmetic Dentist’s Point of View on Braces, Bridges, and Crowns
“I am often approached by patients who’ve done a little research and have decided that crowns, bridges and/or braces are right for them. Many times, they are correct, and such options are required to help correct various aesthetic and functional issues. What patients often overlook, though, is the actual art of
creating a beautiful smile.

Through a smile makeover, I’m able to look beyond the corrective capabilities of things like braces, crowns and bridges to consider the patient’s face and smile as
a whole. This crucial final step is often overlooked. After investing so much money and time into things like braces, crowns and bridges, a patient deserves to have a smile that brings out the best in his or her face. We can make that happen through a thorough smile makeover, which is easy, painless and typically takes just one week to accomplish.”