Cosmetic Dentistry & Emotional Response


Dentistry is a great profession. Daily I am able to change peoples lives. I've had person after person, after we helped them get the smile they want, they got jobs, went into relationships, went back to the gym, and improved their diet. I've seen people cry tears of joy after we deliver a smile that changes their lives! What a rewarding profession!!

One of my talents as a dentist, is that I have an eye and the patience for cosmetic dentistry. I'm very detailed oriented. I'm wired that way. I usually notice things more than my patients do.

One of my gripes coming into the dental profession, is how it seemed like I was encouraged to be fake in order to make the sale. I was told what to say, how to say it, and coached on body language. Now, I think this is actually all fine, it just depends on the intent. Now I just happened to work with an office manager who was willing to make stuff up in order to get them to do the treatment that they might need. And that's where I drew the line, I won't lie to patients.

One of the things I hear from time to time from patients is about their "fake tooth". Usually I would think of that as a flipper or an implant, but I've had patients call teeth "fake", with crowns, bridges, veneers and even just fillings. The reason I thought about the word "fake" was because my experience in dentistry has been that the industry unfortunately gets more and more "fake" with the emphasis on making money only.

Well, back to cosmetic dentistry. I did a cosmetic case on a patient who was in her 40s and had gone through some pretty drastic life changes. She wanted to replace some veneers, and I tried to really go into detail with her about some of the risks and expectations we'd face. Well, I don't think she really listened to what I said (or maybe I didn't communicate as well as I thought!)

When we started the appointment, I tried to do her a favor I tried to meet her time expectation. This was a mistake. The case was a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated. The next few weeks were an emotional roller coaster for her. I wasn't prepared for it, and it was a challenge for me as a relatively young dentist to deal with. Yet, each time I calmed her down and guided her through the case.

When the final result was cemented, the result was spectacular. My beautiful 22 year-old assistant couldn't believe how good she looked. How did she feel? Indifferent. This indifferent or sometimes blah reaction has happened a small handful of times.

Perhaps one reason is that when you change your appearance with a new hairstyle or makeup, the change is temporary. I've known enough beauticians and cosmetologists, not to mention episodes of "What Not to Wear", to know that a person's appearance is deeply emotional. I believe it relates to how we perceive our identity, and one's identity is very important to him or her. When we see a change in our appearance, we might perceive a change in our identity. We might be anticipating a positive change in our appearance and an enhancement in our identity. Or, we might be fearing a negative change. Not to mention that our appearance might have deep meaning to us. Perhaps a scar or a birthmark. My step-sister has a gap between her front teeth, and she loves it!

Often on those episodes of "What Not to Wear" even with the encouragement of family and friends towards the new appearance and wardrobe, the person often will resort back to their old appearance. I notice that usually the contestant will revert her hair and makeup, even if she does stick with the wardrobe changes. Our face is a very important to us. That's why hairstyles are so important to us, generally. And our smile, even more so!

I learned a lot from that veeners case. That's why I won't do another cosmetic case without a detailed consultation as well as the patient acknowledgement of the pros and cons, and what to expect. Not to mention that there are always risks with any procedure, no matter the dentist, office, time of day or moon phase. That's why it is so important not to rush into any extensive change. To the best of my ability, I will always want the patient to know what to expect. It is then my goal, to exceed those expectations.

In dentistry we change lives every day. If you would like to change your smile please give us a call!

Written by: Harold Henderson, DDS December 11, 2019