If your teenager has expressed concern about having overly “pointy” canine teeth that have them feeling like a cast member in the latest vampire movie, or of “bumpy” enamel, there is a little-known solution that can smoothen out these irregularities in a single visit. The procedure is known as “enamel shaping,” and is often used in conjunction with cosmetic bonding to re-shape, and better define chipped, cracked, and uneven teeth. Let's take a look at how this inventive process works.
Our Teeth are Works of Art!You may not realize it, but our teeth are uniquely ours. Just like our bodies and personality, the teeth in our mouth aren't like those of our parents or friends – they too have their own quirks, and most of those quirks show up in the form of a little uneven ridge here, a space between a tooth there, white spots, dark spots, cracks and everything in between! So, it’s no wonder that when some of these funky aspects of our teeth start to bother us, we wish they weren't there at all. Enamel shaping can “standardize” teeth, if you will, and make less noticeable what nature has gifted us with. So, if your teenager is concerned about the look of their teeth, and would like to consider enamel shaping, this is how things work:
- X-rays: Sometimes this step isn't necessary, but when your dentist believes it is, an X-ray may be taken of your teen's teeth to determine the thickness of the enamel. Since enamel shaping removes anywhere from 1-2 millimeters of enamel from the surface of the tooth, it's important to know how thick the enamel is before proceeding. If the enamel is judged to be too thin, your dentist may recommend a veneer for that tooth instead.
- The actual procedure: To smooth out a bumpy surface, or round-down excessively pointy canines, your dentist will glide a dental handpiece outfitted with a “burr” gently along the surface area of the tooth in question. A dental burr resembles the tip of a stiffened paint brush, and has rough edges that act like fine-grade sandpaper to smooth out rough surfaces. Burrs come in all shapes and sizes, and the thicker the grade of the burr, the more tooth surface the burr can remove. So, as you would imagine, with enamel shaping, a very “fine” grade of roughness is used. Once the re-shaping has been completed, your dentist would then apply a fluoride varnish to the treated area to seal the tooth, and prevent sensitivity.
- What about anesthesia? Because contouring of the enamel is not an invasive process, in nearly all cases, anesthesia isn't necessary. If your child has a particular sensitivity or anxiety, and would like to have anesthesia, it can be used, but is not often a requirement for a successful procedure.
- When is bonding used? Bonding is often used in conjunction with enamel shaping where a large chip exists, or if there is a gap your teen would like to have filled. Whereas enamel contouring removes a portion of the tooth, bonding adds to the surface of the tooth. So, in the two examples used above, a dentist may first contour the tooth, then add a tooth-colored bonding solution to correct the chip or space. Once the bonding material has hardened, it would be contoured a final time to ensure the desired look has been met.