Requests for elective cosmetic procedures have held steady

Teeth whitening, veneers, braces among most popular

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Dr. George Hanna of the Cedar Rapids Family Dental Center has been known to try to talk patients out of cosmetic dentistry.

He said cosmetic dentistry comprises about 10 percent of his practice. But for patients who already have very good teeth, Hanna recommends simple whitening, one of the more popular cosmetic procedures at his office.

Bonding veneers, porcelain veneers, tooth-colored fillings of composite resins and so-called six-month braces are among other cosmetic procedures Hanna performs.

Six-month braces, which have become particularly popular lately, are primarily for adults with crooked front teeth who have never worn braces. The process often leaves the patient with a much better smile when the braces are removed after six months, said Hanna, who has practiced in Cedar Rapids for 31 years.

Sometimes even regular dental work can provide cosmetic results. And though the economy has been sluggish, dentists in the Corridor report elective cosmetic dental procedures have either remained steady or slightly increased.


Teeth bleaching, for example, “has skyrocketed in the last eight years,” added Dr. Glen Miska of Premier Dental, also of Cedar Rapids.

Bleaching, as with many truly cosmetic procedures, is a patient’s elective procedure — Elective usually means the procedure is not covered by insurance with the patient paying out of his or her own pocket, Miska explained.

Bleaching involves using a fitted plastic tray containing a gel bleaching solution that the patient must wear for 30 minutes a day for 10 days, said Miska, in practice since 1975.

Also available are tooth-colored fillings for back teeth, and various porcelain-based veneers. When using veneers, Miska strives to attain the least amount of tooth reduction possible. The veneers are bonded to the tooth and can be colored to look like the patient’s other teeth, said Miska.

A new CAD-cam device — camera-computer technology — that allows milling of crowns and veneers in the office instead of sending them to a laboratory is one of the latest technology advances Miska has used in his practice.

Though he recently successfully fashioned a crown for patient using the device, Miska added that, “In our practice, a cosmetic result is often a secondary benefit of necessary dental work.”

They’ve done their research

Cosmetic dental work, noted Dr. Karen Wilson of Cedar Valley Family Dentistry in Marion, “is something the patient wants done, and most have done a lot of research already and know what they want.”

The goal is usually brighter, whiter, straighter teeth.

That doesn’t always require braces, she said. Popular porcelain veneers or crowns are long-lasting.

Newer composite resins veneers are also bonded to teeth, making them appear whiter. Composite resins are cheaper but only last from 5 to 8 years, compared to 15 to 20 years for porcelain veneers, Wilson said.

Whitening is the most sought cosmetic treatment at Wilson’s practice. Wilson offers an in-office soft tissue laser whitening procedure using a solution, about twice as strong and home kits. It stays on the teeth for less time.

The soft tissue laser also can be used to recontour gum tissue, giving the appearance of longer teeth for a better smile.

“The simple, inexpensive treatment is relatively pain-free and heals in 24 hours,” said Wilson, in practice for 14 years.

In Wilson’s practice, women comprise 80 percent of the patients seeking cosmetic dental work, she said.

“Men just don’t know how to ask for it. I kind of let patients lead into the discussion. I hate to have people feel like they are pressured,” Wilson said. 

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