Techniques a dentist can use to demonstrate the expected outcome of a smile makeover.
This page outlines some of the methods a dentist can use to simulate the way they expect a patient's dental makeover will turn out. These techniques include the use of imaging software (digital makeovers), plaster-cast and in-the-mouth mock-ups, as well as before-and-after pictures of cases completed for other patients.
Of course, every dentist will have their own favorite method, and therefore probably won't offer every one of these simulation techniques. But any serious dentist should be able to offer at least one of them. After all, the outcome of a smile makeover can have a large impact on your life. It only makes sense that you should be given an idea of what to expect before accepting a proposed treatment plan.
Imaging software. / Digital smile makeovers.
If you've seen some of our smile makeover simulations (like the one shown here to the right) you already know what a digital makeover is. This process involves using computer software that allows individual dots (pixels) of a picture to be edited.
Essentially any type of proposed cosmetic change can be simulated, depending on the capabilities of the software and the talents of the dentist using it.
If time permits, your dentist may be able to create your simulation during your consultation visit. In other cases, you may have to return for a second appointment.
Ask for a copy of the makeover.
If your digital makeover seems too perfect, ask the dentist why.
Some types of dental imaging software create makeovers by digitally "pasting" one of several stock smiles into a patient's picture (in comparison to true photo imaging where each one of the patient's teeth has been individually retouched).
While seeing a model-perfect smile pasted on your face may be flattering, it may or may not have much to do with what is possible for you. Ask how accurately the makeover simulation is intended to mimic the results of your case.
Before-and-after pictures of other patient's cases involving similar cosmetic issues.
Before digital imaging software became available, dentists often demonstrated aspects of proposed treatment plans by showing patients before-and-after pictures of actual smile makeovers completed for other patients.
While each person's case is different, some types of cosmetic deficiencies can be generalized. And the way they have been remedied for one person is often similar to the way they can be resolved for another.
Your dentist may show you pictures from a publication (book or dental journal). Other dentists may have mastered the art of dental photography and have a photo album in their office or on their website.
A sad note about some dentists.
Here's a story that is somewhat amusing, if not just sad. Some years ago there was a prominent speaker on the dental lecture circuit who, as a part of his line of products, sold a set of slides showing before-and-after pictures of smile makeovers.
It was the lecturer's selling point that when dental patients were shown the cosmetic dentistry in his slides that acceptance of a dentist's proposed treatment plan (most any dentist, most any treatment plan) usually followed.
One can only envision dentists across the nation showing the same set of smile makeovers to every prospective patient. No doubt at least some of these dentists implied that the pictures demonstrated the fruits of their own "gifted" hands.
It seems likely that while shopping for a dentist at least some dental patients saw the same set of slides more than once, leaving them to wonder who actually did perform the work. Our advice to you, when in doubt about who has created the dentistry you are being shown ... ask.
Demonstrating smile makeovers using plaster study models.
Another demonstration technique that a dentist can use involves the use of "study models." When this technique is employed, the dentist will take dental impressions of their patient's teeth. These impressions are then used to create plaster casts.
The dentist will perfect the appearance of the teeth on the cast either by trimming away plaster or else by adding white dental wax.
When the patient returns for their next appointment they can physically hold and evaluate the mocked-up models. Depending on the dentist's policy, they may be able to take the casts home to show to friends and family.
For some cases, plaster-cast simulations are quite telling.
There are times when cosmetic dentistry is used as a substitute for orthodontic treatment. With these cases, dental crowns, veneers or bonded restorations, having varying thicknesses, are placed on the patient's teeth so to give the illusion of a more perfect alignment.
A drawback of this technique is that some teeth may become quite thick or bulky. The use of study models, as opposed to just a photo, is an excellent way for a patient to evaluate these proposed changes. Some patients may find that the increased tooth thickness is greater that they expected and not something they want.
In-the-mouth makeover mock-ups created using dental bonding.
It's possible for a dentist to apply bonding to a person's teeth and then easily remove it later, if no dental-bonding adhesive is used. That means some types of cosmetic makeovers can be simulated right in the patient's own mouth.
Once the mock-up has been created, the patient can look in a mirror and see, first hand, how the proposed cosmetic changes will look. They will also be able to feel the tooth shape changes with their fingers, tongue, and lips. The dentist might offer to take the person's picture, so they can take it home and get the opinion of friends and family members.
This technique has limitations.
There are some types of changes that a dentist can't mimic with this technique. It can only simulate procedures where the final tooth shape will be greater in size (like when closing spaces between teeth). Those procedures where the end size or shape of the tooth will be reduced cannot be simulated.
You won't find many dentists that use this method. That's because, from a standpoint of cost (as measured in terms of a dentist's labor and cost of materials), this is a very expensive type of simulation to provide.