There are many levels of cosmetic dentistry that can be achieved. In the simplest form, a person with a full compliment of healthy teeth with minimal to no previous restorations may just simply want or need to whiten their teeth. One step up from that may include Invisalign to now put their healthy teeth into a more esthetically pleasing position. Beyond that, there are endless combinations of restorative options to help achieve that perfect smile. When evaluating different restorative options there needs to be an understanding of what is being done and how these changes are going to effect the integrity of the teeth. The advancement of dental materials in recent years allows us to restore teeth much more conservatively. If the primary cosmetic concern is the look of older, broken down restorations, simply updating them with newer materials will not only make your smile look nicer, but will probably improve the strength of your teeth as well.
The art of cosmetic dentistry is also a very large part of proper treatment. It requires an eye for what looks right on any particular patient taking into account what the patient desires. There are formulas in dentistry that can be used to determine what the smile should look like, but ultimately these should only be used as guidelines. The dentist needs to have an eye for what looks right and then the ability to achieve it. It needs to take into account the limitations of what can be achieved because of patient conditions (it may be limited by the number of teeth, defects in anatomy due to injury, malposition of teeth and the list goes on). In the end, you need to be able to adjust and come up with the best possible solution.
The first step to an attractive smile is to have a healthy smile. Over time, whether it is bacteria or occlusal stresses that are out of balance, teeth can begin to show their age prematurely. That is why the first and most important step of any smile make-over needs to be a thorough evaluation of the health of all structures within the oral cavity. The mouth needs to be brought to a level of health which is predictably maintainable. After that, the repair and improvement of a broken or worn dentition becomes fairly routine.
Cosmetic dentistry is where the art and science of dental care are fully utilized. The ability to create a naturally beautiful smile requires a full understanding of all the different sciences involved. The science of how teeth relate and function in a healthy oral environment as well as the science behind attaining a healthy mouth are both paramount to achieving success. There also needs to be a full understanding of all the dental material choices and how best to use each option in a way that solves very individualized problems.