Rather than feeling free to express joy with a smile, some associate their smile with a feeling of insecurity. And while loving and accepting your body is always the goal, gaining confidence for some means making physical changes through cosmetic dentistry. West Michigan Woman spoke with Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Bakeman and Dr. Heather Cadorette to learn more.
While cosmetic dentistry isn't formally recognized as a unique specialty, professionals like Dr. Bakeman and Dr. Cadorette have undergone thousands of hours of continued education to bring science and art together. Cosmetic dentistry procedures could be as simple as whitening teeth and fixing a gummy smile to straightening and a complex full mouth makeover.
"Sometimes we're correcting a congenital problem, reversing the effects of trauma, or addressing years of wear and tear on originally normal teeth," Dr. Bakeman said. "On some occasions, we replace old dentistry, improving its appearance with modern techniques, methods and materials."
Examples include changing a metal-based filling or crown to a tooth-colored composite filling or all-porcelain crown; improving worn, chipped, discolored teeth with porcelain veneers or all-porcelain crowns; and replacing missing teeth with implant supported crowns, bridges and dentures.
Dr. Cadorette, who is also certified by the American Academy of Facial Esthetics in the use of botox and filler for mouth and facial aesthetics, recommends a consultation as the first step for those looking into cosmetic dentistry procedures, as so much more can be done now compared to decades ago.
"Before procedures, we might get photos, diagnostic casts or wax up to show what the tooth arrangement can look like, and a consultation to see what exactly the client is hoping to achieve," Dr. Cadorette said. "We talk about the smile and any other areas of the face the client may be unhappy with. We may do a muscle examination to evaluate for muscle pain and dysfunction."
Dr. Bakeman says if something concerns you about your teeth, ask your dentist about potential solutions for improvement.
"If the problem has developed over time, it's important for both the dentist and patient to understand what caused the teeth to appear as they do as a means of defining an appropriate solution to the issue," said Dr. Bakeman. "Ask to see actual before and after images of previous patients who had similar issues; this will allow you to be confident with your chosen provider and their ability to address your concerns. Do your homework and feel free to seek second opinions, especially if the proposed treatment will be complex or costly. It's always best to invest time on the front end to improve the likelihood of long-term satisfaction."
If cost is a barrier, remember that intricate treatments can often be staged over time to spread out payments, and many offices offer a variety of financing options.
Ultimately, cosmetic dentistry is all about helping people gain their confidence back and feel like the best version of themselves.
"When someone is happy about their smile and how they look, it often makes them feel better and more confident," Dr. Cadorette said. "This confidence can lead to someone becoming more outgoing and social, which opens up more possibilities."
Dr. Bakeman and her staff see the transformational power of cosmetic dentistry on a daily basis.
"Embarrassment about one's appearance can lead to isolation and personal inhibition. The hesitancy to smile may create a perception of sullenness or even hostility," she said. "Conversely, when a person can eat, smile and speak proudly and confidently—without hesitation—a whole new person emerges. It's a true pleasure to see the outward signs of joy and happiness unabashedly displayed in someone previously considered reserved and hesitant."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Jun/Jul '22 issue of West Michigan Woman.