An Overview of Cosmetic Dentistry

At Sunrise Dentistry, Dr. Strietzel and his assistants strive to accomplish beautiful, high functioning, and healthy dentistry for all of our patients. When we are protecting the life of a molar with a crown, filling a cavity to meet both restorative and aesthetic goals, or helping a patient get back their smile, we want the best for our patients. We think of those who, after they have spent years not smiling in public or covering their mouth when they laugh because they have been embarrassed by their teeth. We remember the giddy patients who were so excited for the results of their teeth whitening, veneers, or the removal of their mercury fillings.

In this blog, we will focus primarily on cosmetic dentistry and provide brief overviews of options that are available in dentistry today.

Cosmetic dentistry can bring out the best in ourselves. When you like the teeth you see when you look in the mirror, you are more likely to smile and laugh, work up the courage to ask the person you like out on a date, or even just let yourself shine, all because you are not worried someone is judging your teeth. Unique, individualized crowns and veneers, made to fit the face and mouth, can bring back the shape and look of youthful teeth and even build confidence. Our office strives to make all our work fully address each patient’s unique needs, so work is customized for them, resulting in stunning dentistry created around optimum bite, erosion, and wear needs.

Teeth Whitening

One of the more common cosmetic questions we are asked in our office is “How do I get my teeth whiter?” When a patient has done all they can through their dental and diet regimen to keep their teeth white, sometimes it takes a little help. In our office, we use whitening trays; with these, patients take home a whitening kit that they use until they are satisfied with the results. A mold is made of the teeth, and after applying a whitening solution, patients wear them for a set period of time. The molds can be used for many years, and new solutions can be purchased when patients run out.

There are many other methods for whitening teeth. In the office, some dentists can use a high peroxide solution on the teeth, wait for a while, rinse, and then reapply if needed. A special light is sometimes used in this process. Some use infrared. What consumers need to know is that over-the-counter whitening products are not recommended as treatment options. They can be overly abrasive and damage enamel. Ask your dentist about the options that best suit your needs.


Many stars walking the red carpet are sporting their veneered smiles. This is perhaps one of the most common cosmetic dentistry procedures being done all over the world. Though these are also considered to be a whitening solution, veneers are meant more for cosmetic restorations that address deformities in the smile line, such as permanently discolored teeth, chips, and gaps. A veneer, typically porcelain, is placed by first slightly filing down the teeth that will be getting the veneers. It is laid over the tooth and cemented on. It is thinner than a crown, and not thought to be as strong as crowns.

Mercury fillings: YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

For me personally, I had an experience a few years ago that really made me think about aesthetics and teeth. Each person has their own opinion about their teeth. Some may be quite happy with what they see when they look in the mirror, and others may feel downright embarrassed. I was ok with mine until one day, when I was sitting across from a five-year-old girl trying to teach her some new guitar chords, she said to me, “What is all that black on your teeth?” Taken aback by such a question, knowing she was looking at all the mercury fillings I had all the way up to the edge of my upper and lower front (anterior) teeth, I replied, “Oh those are all fillings I got from cavities I had when I was a kid. Much to my chagrin, she asked, “you had THAT many cavities?” While I took the opportunity to counsel her on the evils of sugar, in the back of my mind it raised questions to me. “Is this what people see when I open my mouth to sing? Laugh? Engage in lively conversation? And should I consider mercury filling removal?” (After all, most of those fillings were more than 30 years old and I hadn’t been to a dentist in more than two decades to see if they were still holding up).

In a conversation with a dental assistant, I asked her if she had cavities as a kid. When she said yes, I asked her if they were mercury fillings she said, “My mom wouldn’t let the dentist use mercury fillings. She thought they were ugly.” Ugly. That is quite a word to put on any part of someone’s experience, yet many of us inflict those words on ourselves, and we think that others are doing the same.

In most dentists’ offices, when back teeth are diagnosed with decay that needs to be addressed, the dentist will prescribe treatment of an amalgam filling (aka mercury). If the filling is on the surface of a tooth that will be seen when you smile, the dentist will prescribe a composite filling, which is a filling that is matched to the shade of your tooth and uses materials other than mercury. The reason for this is that, due to the cost of continued research into resins and curing methods, composite material is slightly more expensive than amalgam material. Insurance companies expect a dentist to use cheaper material on fillings that are not usually visible on teeth. Because of this, they will often only pay up to the cost of an amalgam filling if a composite is used on teeth they feel should receive an amalgam filling instead.

In our office, we have made the choice not to offer mercury fillings. We recognize that we do not have only an obligation to our patients to provide top quality, restorative care to maintain tooth health and functionality. We also have a responsibility to our patients to help them look and feel their best. Therefore, we offer cosmetic dentistry. When we hear, “that looks great! Thank you!” so often, we know our patients like what they see. This makes me think of the unabashed five-year-old asking about the blobs of metal in my mouth (my interpretation). How could I EVER look at those and say, “That looks great!”?

We want you to know, that if you do not want metal fillings for ANY reason, you can choose what you DO want, like the mom telling her daughter’s dentist not to do ugly amalgam fillings. Know that there may be a slightly higher out-of-pocket expense, even with insurance. It is worth it to be able to look at all your teeth and say, “I like what I see!”

I did eventually have all of my mercury fillings replaced, and today, when I open my mouth and see tooth shade instead of black blobs that almost looked like rotting teeth, I realize I like what I see. I also remember what I was thinking nearly every time I brushed my amalgam-loaded teeth. “That look’s terrible.” I said it so much that I just got used to it, accepting it, thinking at least people don’t see it. It turns out, they did see it. Today I am so happy to say, “My teeth look great!” Through cosmetic dentistry, I have a reason to smile much bigger!