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Cosmetic Dentistry In-Depth Overview

Facial Esthetic Dentistry for Every Dental Practice

Cosmetic dentistry has been one of the centerpieces for most family and cosmetic dental practices and is no longer relegated to those few best “cosmetic dentists” that have looked to limit their practices. Even if a dentist is only placing tooth-colored composite resins restorations, esthetic principles need to fall into place to achieve an optimal result both clinically and facially. Unfortunately, most of the time we as dentists have limited ourselves to the intra-oral arena of esthetics when in reality, the beautiful picture you are painting inside the mouth does not stand alone but is only part of the story.

We all can do a magnificent job of making teeth look great and giving people a healthy and beautiful smile. Cosmetic dentistry has been an absolute boom over the last 30 years when it comes to such innovative techniques as teeth whitening and minimally invasive veneers. Now that the teeth look good, what about the peri-oral areas around the mouth? If the teeth look great but we ignore the rest of the face, then we have really limited what we have can accomplish with esthetic dentistry.

The advancements in cosmetic dentistry have been nothing short of spectacular when you think about it. In terms of dental materials, composite resins perform better and are more esthetic than ever before. Certainly, when the perfect self bonded, strong for all surfaces, no microleakage, bioactive restorative material comes out, that will take us to the next level but we have a ways to go before that happens. Teeth whitening can now be done in less than one hour. Minimally invasive cosmetic dental veneers at .3mm can’t get much thinner. CAD-CAM and other technologies will definitely impact all of these areas in the future by making esthetic delivery systems that will make procedures faster. The final result though will all be the same – patients will still be receiving a beautiful smile just like they are today.

What can possibly be next in cosmetic dental work? Once the teeth are straight, you can’t get them any straighter. Once the teeth are the whitest 010 shade as some patients request, you can’t get them any whiter. The question is, where else is there to go? How do we break through the plateaus we are at in esthetic dentistry?

Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry

It is certainly time to advance what we have done in cosmetic dentistry and incorporate the surrounding tissues outside of the mouth which will fully complete the entire esthetic dental picture we are creating.

It is about time that we realize that esthetic dentistry does not begin or end inside the lips. Teeth need to fit into the entire framework of the face. This is especially true of the immediate areas which surround and outline the mouth. While certainly it is expected to have a perfect midline, golden proportions, white teeth, and exquisite occlusion on your completed esthetic makeover case, but if unsightly nasolabial folds, marionette lines and downward facing oral commissures frame your patient’s nice white teeth, then there is something missing from the esthetic result you are trying to create.

Most pictures that I see of dental esthetics are retracted intra-oral views of the final result. You certainly can see in the retracted view that the margins are precise, embrasure form and the emergence profile are correct, and all other accepted dental principles have been met. That is the picture that seems to impress dentists the most when in reality, no one else in the world looks at the view or really even cares about that view. We need to start looking at the view that is most important to the patient and to everyone else in the world – that is the full-face view of a finished case. It is time to provide a complete case of esthetics that would include both hard and soft tissues, in and out of the mouth.

Restoring Lost Facial Volume with Dermal Fillers

Dermal filler therapy restores the lost volume in the soft tissues of the face. Younger people have that “baby face” smooth skin look which fills their cheeks and face. As people age, volume is lost as collagen and the fat pads dissipate and people develop deeper folds and wrinkles in their face.

Dermal fillers as a correction of this aging process has been widely accepted by patients worldwide because of its immediate effects, reasonable cost, and ease of delivery. If you are a man, you may not know what I am talking about but feel free to ask the women in your life and in your office if they have heard of dermal fillers. Start asking patients if they have ever had Botox® or dermal fillers and you will quickly find that these are immensely popular esthetic therapies.

As a general rule with many exception, esthetic injectable treatment generally include botulinism toxin (Botox® Cosmetic) for the top half of the face and dermal fillers for the bottom half of the face. Dermal fillers are primarily used are for the nasolabial folds, the oral commissures, and the marionette lines. These are the areas that frame the teeth and are certainly within the realm of every dentist to treat. We already inject these areas on a daily basis so we are very familiar with the anatomy of the lips and surrounding areas. Dermal fillers are gently placed in these areas through an extra-oral injection right underneath these folds and creases to plump them up. The only difference is that you typically inject these areas intraorally when you deliver local anesthesia. You as a general dentist are already familiar with the anatomy in these areas and you didn’t even realize it.

Dermal filler materials are easy to deliver – dermal fillers are injected underneath the skin in the labionasal fold, marionette lines, and oral commissures which add volume to these facial areas, plump them up, and smooth out the facial wrinkles. Lip augmentation is also done with dermal fillers. As we age, our lips get thinner as well and the corners of lips begin to turn down. A little bit of dermal filler material in the properly placed in the lips can make a huge difference in the end result of any cosmetic dental case.

Cosmetic Dentistry Training is Imperative

Certainly, you as a dentist should not pick up some dermal fillers and begin injecting patients. The rightcosmetic dentistry training is an absolute must in developing the proper clinical and esthetic skill to performing this treatment successfully. I have trained many dentists in dermal filler and botulinism toxin facial injectable therapies. Dentists are by far the easiest healthcare professionals to train in these areas. There is a very short learning curve because dentists are already know how to deliver injections.

What a dentist needs to learn is competency in understanding the mechanisms of these materials, reviewing the facial expression muscles, indications, risks and benefits of these treatments, and hands on patient training in placing these materials and preventing and managing complications. Dentists also need to learn how to integrate these esthetic therapies with esthetic dental principles and challenges such as high lip lines. With some practice, you can be well on your way to performing these procedures. Many state dental boards allow dentists to deliver these esthetic facial injectable therapies within the realm of dentistry. Liability insurance companies are also starting to cover botulinism toxin and dermal filler therapies after a dentist shows proof of proper training.

The Facial Esthetic Dental Practice

One of the biggest advantages a dentist has in performing dermal filler therapy is the ability to deliver profound dental anesthesia for these procedures. Most of the other health professionals who delivered this therapy are poorly educated in dental anesthesia techniques and even after learning them are unable to do as good of a job as any dentist can in anesthetizing a patient. Therefore, what usually happens is that most dermatologists and plastic surgeons forego dental anesthesia and use some form of topical anesthesia cream or anointment on the skin for a period of 20 to 45 minutes prior to performing dermal filler therapy. It has been my observation that most of the patients that I witnessed who had used topical anesthetic creams were very uncomfortable during the procedure and immediately stated that they would never go through this again.

Traditionally, plastic surgeons and dermatologists offices are the most common providers of these services. What I mean by that is that most dermal fillers are placed by nurses and medical estheticians who work in an office of a plastic surgeon or a cosmetic dermatologist. I am not putting anybody down, but I would bet when it comes to injection experience and technique, oral and facial anatomy, and the natural skills that are required to provide these services, dentists are much better trained in these areas than plastic surgeons, dermatologists, or their employees.

In the past, we as cosmetic dentists would try to build a relationship with plastic surgeons and try to work on esthetic cases together and establish a cross-referral arrangement. Very few dentists were ever successful at this simply because most plastic surgeons were not convinced that this relationship would be fruitful because of the dentist’s lack of knowledge of plastic surgery procedures. As my experiences have grown in the dermal filler field and in teaching and speaking with other healthcare professional colleagues, cosmetic dermatologists and facial plastic surgeons often express wonder why it has taken so long for dentists to get into this field, understanding that it is a totally natural fit and complement to everything that we are trying to accomplish in total esthetic dentistry. I have had many requests from plastic surgeons who want to take us out to lunch because they now consider us a strong referral source and are much more interested in working with us as peers.

Dermal Filler Choices

There are temporary dermal fillers and there are permanent dermal fillers. Depending on the dermal filler used, the effects of dermal filler therapy can last anywhere from six months until forever. Most healthcare professionals do not use a permanent dermal filler because if something goes wrong, you have just created a permanent problem that may need surgery to correct and this can become a liability. Most dermal fillers placed are overwhelmingly temporary in nature and will then dissolve in a time period of six to eighteen months.

The choice of dermal filler material is very important depending on the areas you are volumizing and correcting. It is essential to know which material you are using and as with everything else, the right material should be used the right application.

There are a number of dermal filler materials on the market. Different types of collagen have been used in the past but are not very popular these days. Calcium hydroxylapatite is also a naturally occurring substance in the body and is used in a dermal filler called Radiesse® (Bioform Medical). Radiesse® is a thicker, more viscous material which may last longer than hyaluronic acid fillers as it takes longer for the calcium hydroxylapatite material to break down. Radiesse® can be used for deeper facial folds but cannot be used for lip augmentation.

Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers are by far the most popular today. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance in the body and is lost as we age. Hyaluronic acid adds volume to the facial structures and can create a very natural appearance. These fillers can be used for the areas of the lower face and also can be used for lip augmentation. Hyaluronic acid fillers are more fluid and may last anywhere from six months to a year. Some examples of dermal filler products in this category are Restylane (Medicis) and Juvederm® Ultra (Allergan). Figures 1 & 2 shows a moderate nasolabial fold correction using Juvederm® Ultra. Figures 3 & 4 shows a before and after patient using Restylane using various techniques to correct multiple issues.

Dermal filler therapy by their very nature are temporary procedures and need to be repeated over time, usually every six months or so. For a dentist, this requires a little different thought process than the dentistry that we put into the mouth which we expect to last forever. We typically want our dentistry to last for a long time, preferably five to ten years or ideally for the patient’s entire lifetime. Dermal filler therapy is much more like teeth whitening in terms of its temporary nature and the need for repeat treatments. Patients who have not had dermal filler therapy before need to be educated on that fact that this is a cosmetic therapy that needs to be repeated on a regular basis.

Interestingly, because of the temporary nature of the dermal filler materials, liability issues and treatment that can go wrong are very limited. The areas that you have treated with dermal fillers will completely return to normal within six to twelve months so that there is no long lasting result that occurs with this treatment. Most dental treatment is much more invasive than dermal filler therapy.

Learn What Your Patients (and Team Members) Want

You would be amazed at the number of patients in your practice right now who use dermal filler therapy and Botox® therapy now. A dentist recently called me to relate that as they asked their team members if getting trained in dermal fillers is a good idea, some of the women in the office “confess” to the dentist that they have been getting Botox® and dermal filler therapy for a long time. He was shocked!

Dermal filler therapy is an immensely popular treatment. Any patient that has had this kind of therapy before doesn’t need any kind of education and they basically walk in and say, “Let’s get started”. They know what to expect and will be very pleased that you can attain a profound level of anesthesia to make this a completely comfortable experience.

Dermal filler procedures are easy to accomplish by general dentists with proper training. Patients are motivated to accept these therapies, are very comfortable with their dentist giving these injections, are prefer to have these procedures done using local dental anesthesia. With the thorough understanding of esthetics that we have, all of this makes the dentist the healthcare professional of choice to deliver these procedures. Dermal filler therapy is the perfect complement and next breakthrough for esthetic dentistry.

It is also imperative that cosmetic dentists have good cosmetic dentistry marketing to provide cosmetic dentistry information, and to be possibly join a cosmetic dentistry association, in order to be up to date on any cosmetic dental treatments and new cosmetic dentistry education.

The American Academy of Facial Esthetics (AAFE) is the industry leader in providing the most updated and comprehensive training in all facial esthetic fields. We offer two full days of live hand on patient training to teach proper procedures and technique with regards to Botox® and dermal fillers. For more information about our courses check out our Botox® and Dermal Fillers Training page.