Inside Dental Technology
March 2013
Volume 4, Issue 3

Trends in Cosmetic Dentistry

Today’s patient-driven treatment means faster and more cost-effective care

By Dennis J. Wells, DDS

Conservative dentistry will continue as the driving force in emerging trends in cosmetic dentistry. These conservative approaches require thin, highly esthetic restorations that do not excessively damage natural tooth structure. Patients also want these thinner, more conservative restorations more quickly, so practices and laboratories poised to respond by taking advantage of technological innovations—such as intraoral scanning devices that enable the dental team to capture images accurately and transfer them to their laboratory immediately—stand to improve their production. These and other advances in materials and imaging will improve overall case management and accuracy as well as speed up turnaround time while allowing the dental team to offer acceptable smile improvements more affordably.

In today’s market consumers are pushing dentists by their choices—choosing one procedure over another and choosing one dentist over another. And now they are choosing conservative procedures, especially young patients who understand the importance of preserving enamel for future restorative options. To meet this demand, laboratories and dentists will need to adapt to these realities. This means dentists who continue to unnecessarily sacrifice enamel for their own convenience may sacrifice patients.

No doubt, the economic downturn had a very profound and marked impact on the cosmetic dentistry market. In the heyday of cosmetic surgery, patients were looking to enhance their smiles and had the disposable income to proceed with big-ticket work. That spending attitude changed with the onset of the recession. Although patients still want cosmetic treatment, they have pulled back on how much they will spend. However, in recent months, the author and many of his colleagues have experienced a rebound in cosmetic treatment demand, with anterior restorations creeping up to pre-recession levels.

Porcelain veneers continue to be the workhorse restoration, but materials in general have changed the landscape. In recent years more and more is being done with lithium disilicate. Beyond that, composite materials are improving. Someday there will be a hybrid material with properties that will give dentists the advantages of both composite and porcelain—a material that won’t stain, dull, and discolor like composite, but won’t be as brittle and hard and prone
to chipping like porcelain.

Another trend in cosmetic treatment is adult orthodontics, moving teeth to achieve a more pleasing outcome as opposed to restorative dentistry that would destroy natural tooth structure. The hottest trend in orthodontics today is the 6-month-smile. Patients are much more receptive to orthodontic treatment if treatment time can be shortened and be undertaken in an attractive manner so it doesn’t overly hinder their lives.

Another trend that continues is the demand for smile improvement among cosmetically motivated patients. While the ultimate in the creation of high-end anterior esthetics will continue to require the more conventional methods laboratories use to build restorations, digital technologies are closing the gap in the design and production of fairly sophisticated and natural-looking restorations. Digital technologies are poised to drive us toward a baseline in smile design that could be much more cost effective and yet offer a reasonable and pleasing end result. As an industry, we are moving toward stamping out some nice smiles and doing it fairly efficiently to the point that they can be offered more affordably to both dentist and patient. We are still a distance from being able to stamp out a smile that will meet the expectations of discerning patients, however, but we may one day get there.

Laboratories would be wise to recognize that customer service to the patient, is what is going to ultimately drive the business side of this segment of dentistry. The lives of consumers are busy and complicated. Anything the dental team can do to minimize the impact of treatment on their time—including the amount of time spent in temporaries—should be a focal point. Currently, we are reliant on the quality handmade work that discerning patients demand, but perhaps that treatment can be offered more quickly. Perhaps in the future, we’ll have milling machines that can produce high quality work in a much faster and consistent way.

The moral here is that both dentists and laboratories would be wise to focus their skill sets and work hard to push dentistry in the direction consumers want it to go. And that direction is to offer highly esthetic, thin restorations using a conservative approach and minimize turnaround time.

About the Author

Dennis J. Wells, DDS, has a private practice in Nashville, Tennessee.

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