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    Why cosmetic dentistry matters to every practice

    From ensuring precise composite color matching to offering in-office teeth whitening, cosmetic dentistry can take your practice to the next level.

     

    Getting started

    It’s easy enough to offer cosmetic services. Dr. Watts explains that one does not even have to promote himself or herself as a cosmetic dentist — just reach out to patients.

    “Cosmetic dentistry starts by asking the right question,” Dr. Watts says. “Every dentist has the materials in their office to do cosmetic dentistry, they just might need a better lab. It really just starts with asking the proper question of, ‘What don’t you like about your smile?’ That simple question will open the door to cosmetic dentistry. You don’t need to advertise that you are a cosmetic dentist unless you’re doing it routinely, but you just find those patients who may not be happy with themselves because of their smiles, so they don’t smile. And those are the best candidates for cosmetic dentistry. If you have a bur and a handpiece in your office and you can cut a crown, you can do cosmetic dentistry.”

    And each patient is unique in his or her cosmetic dentistry needs.

    “Every mouth is unique in what it needs to be treated with,” Dr. Watts explains. “Sometimes cosmetic dentistry for a patient may be putting veneers on to eliminate staining because the patient is older and their teeth are just drying out and they’re just more yellow. Sometimes cosmetic dentistry could just be covering up cervical lesions on a patient and doing nice composite work. There’s no reason why any dentist shouldn’t say they won’t do cosmetic dentistry, because all dentistry is cosmetic.”

    Dr. Watts agrees that asking patients a simple question can get the process rolling.

    “Just say, ‘Hi, are you satisfied with your smile? No? What don’t you like about it?” Dr. Watts says. “And then you hand them a mirror and they start pointing everything out. They tell you this tooth is crooked, that tooth is crooked. Or they tell you they used to have braces on and their teeth just started getting crowded again. Or you say, ‘Tell me a story about how your teeth got the way that they are.’ And they may say, ‘Well, when I was a kid, I got hit by a hockey puck in the face.’ Or maybe, ‘I was addicted to drugs’ or ‘I love coffee and orange juice’ and that destroyed their teeth. Everyone has a story; you just have to be willing to listen. Once you listen, you’ll be surprised about what other treatments you can get.”

    Related reading: 4 ways cosmetic dentistry opens doors to new opportunities

    Best practices

    For clinicians considering expanding their cosmetic services, there is some helpful advice available. Education is always a great place to start.

    “If you have the hunger and drive to do it, get the training to learn how,” Dr. DeSanto advises. “There are so many different kinds of bonding agents and kinds of porcelains and materials. It’s really gaining knowledge of the materials and knowing all the eggs in your basket. Get it all sorted through, what might work best for each patient situation.”

    Dr. Bakeman recommends adding digital photography to your practice. For those who may not be comfortable with digital photography, she says the obstacle is not difficult to clear.

    “It seems like a big hurdle, but there are courses,” Dr. Bakeman says. “Mastering the camera is really important from the get-go. Photographic documentation is used in diagnosis and treatment planning, laboratory communication, and communicating competency to other patients who have similar problems and who could benefit from comparable solutions. Well-done images also provide a learning tool for us to improve. We are able to critique our outcomes and determine where things went well and where there is room for improvement.”

    Finding a mentor can also maximize your success when it comes to diving into cosmetic dentistry.

    “It’s easier to do it by finding a mentor and developing a relationship with somebody who’s already done it,” Dr. Rowe says. “And that’s what’s going through the AACD in the accreditation process. One of the real benefits it offers is to help you get in touch with others who share that same interest, that same passion, and developing those relationships. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when other amazing clinicians who have already done it are out there and are willing to help you, just because they want to see the best thing for the profession.”

    “A good mentor can guide you,” Dr. Bakeman adds. “I have numerous people email me and say, ‘I’m interested in doing more cosmetic dentistry, getting better at this. Where do I start?’”

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    “It is important to know where each person has been,” Dr. Bakeman continues. “‘What is your educational background? What have you done so far?’ Then, depending on where they are, I send them on their way to take a photography course or learn about occlusion, attend hands-on workshops at the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. It is a continuum of learning and a process and it is not going to happen overnight. It’s really exciting to see people grow and improve. The people I mentor send me images of the dentistry they are providing. Requesting feedback is an important element in improving — humbling, but important. To see the dentistry improve over time is really exciting because you know it has an incredible ripple effect. The dentist’s confidence and skill level increases at the same time the dentist and their team are providing better dentistry, so much more eloquent and refined. The patients are the ultimate beneficiaries.”

    Function is, of course, important to dentistry. However, cosmetics matter, and, to some degree, every dentist is a cosmetic dentist.

    “You may not believe that you do cosmetic dentistry,” Dr. Watts says. “But as a dentist, you are a cosmetic individual helping patients achieve a healthier, better mouth and better smile, and that’s what cosmetics is.”

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...

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