FIXING A MISSHAPEN TOOTH
A quick and usually painless procedure that can make a difference in a person’s smile is enamel shaping. This involves contouring or removing part of the tooth enamel.
“Somebody may come in with really pointy canine teeth or maybe a couple of front teeth that are not the same length,” Drumm says. “As long as the enamel is really thick, I’ll say, ‘Let me just reshape that.’ I do it with a drill. It can make all the difference in the way the tooth looks.”
Enamel shaping—also known as enamoplasty—takes minutes, requires no anesthetic, and is inexpensive, says Markowitz. He considers the shape of a person’s face, mouth, and eyes before reshaping a tooth: “It’s a combination of mechanical skills and artistic talent.”
Imholtz underwent enamel shaping as part of his smile overhaul. Using a slow-speed drill with a sandpaper disk on the end, Gray shaved less than a quarter of a millimeter off of Imholtz’s four top front teeth as well as one eye tooth that was too pointy.
Was Imholtz nervous? “Not a bit,” he says. “I had a relationship with Dr. Gray as my dentist, so when he said he was going to shave a tooth a bit, it didn’t occur to me not to do it. I trusted him completely.”
Enamel shaping does mean changing a tooth permanently. Once enamel has been removed, it’s gone for good.
BONDING: AN EASY WAY TO HIDE A DISCOLORED TOOTH
Bonding is a procedure that can improve the appearance of teeth that are chipped or stained or that have spaces between them. Tooth-colored materials are applied—or bonded—to the surface of a tooth.
Drumm has used bonding to repair a front tooth that’s discolored. “I can put two or three shades of resin on your tooth and have more control over the color and end result,” he says. “The problem is that it’s a filling material, so it’s going to wear out and chip more easily than porcelain, and it will stain more easily. Its life expectancy is five to seven years.”
Yet sometimes bonding can address a problem better than a veneer can. “Materials today are more durable, with better finishes,” says Gray, who used bonding in Imholtz’s case.
Generally, bonding requires no tooth preparation or anesthesia, and it’s much less expensive than veneers. You want to be sure the end result gives you a tooth with luster and translucency—accomplished through layering the resins.
LIFE AFTER TREATMENT
Nora Davison says her months of cosmetic treatments taught her all sorts of things about teeth.
August Imholtz remains impressed by the treatment’s precision and its ability to transform his smile—even though it required spending two-to-three-hour stints in the dental chair with a bite block wedged between his cheeks.
“Probably the biggest challenge to all of this was the time and patience it required,” he says. “It didn’t hurt at all.”
Both Imholtz and Davison say they’re pleased with their outcomes and that friends and family have complimented them on their new smiles.
“I know I won’t be able to stop looking in the mirror,” Davison confesses.
Imholtz’s wife has begun cosmetic procedures with Gray.
“I think she saw me and it motivated her,” he says, flashing a bright, white, natural-looking smile.
This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.