Originally posted 21 January 2011 
It sometimes seems that a lot of people have come to believe that style is indeed substance, that what you see is what you get because what you see is all there is…that it is indeed, to quote Billy Crystal’s old Fernando Lamas routine, better to look good than to feel good. Just think of the booming business in cosmetic surgery and how people seem to have no qualms about doing things like injecting botulism (i.e., Botox) into their faces to remove wrinkles. There’s a desire to look as much as possible like the digitally enhanced ideals staring out at us from magazine racks and billboards and screens everywhere. Looks trump everything.
And it happens in dentistry, too. Many dentists have found that they can make a killing through bleaching, veneers and other forms of cosmetic dentistry. Ads for bleaching products are everywhere. Celebrities with too-straight, too-white teeth become walking advertisments for veneers. Individual dentists or dental groups promote their practice via selling cosmetic procedures. Some even have their staffs taught how to sell them while patients are right there in the chair. Dentists who may not promote such services often feel they can’t say no to patients who demand an unnaturally white, symmetrical smile. (Interestingly, some are finally requesting more realistic-looking smiles, at least according to this article  in the New York Times.)
But not all dentists are pleased with this turn of events. According to one Wealthy Dentist survey , nearly half of the dentists polled (45%) said they thought that “the entire profession of cosmetic dentistry is too dependent on veneers.” Here’s what one dentist – an orthodontist – had to say, which sums up many of the concerns expressed by other surveyed dentists:
Compromising morals, ethics and values is shifting the dental landscape. Ask a specialist how dentists are perceived and most will tell you (although not to your face) that at least 3 of 4 dentists are ‘scumbags’ based on unnecessary cosmetic procedures, sealants that are not needed, extractions done poorly, dental implants placed improperly and restored terribly, root canals improperly shaped and filled, and orthodontics done poorly. Many know their work is bad, but are living a lifestyle that necessitates these procedures be done to ‘fill their chairs.’ It is exacerbated by too many general dentists graduating from schools with too much debt and a willingness to compromise morals, ethics and values while chasing the almighty dollar. It will destroy the profession and make us poorly regarded in the minds of others if this continues.
Of course, if you want veneers – or any other cosmetic procedure – it’s your choice. But you should know what you’re getting into: what the risks and limitations are, as well as the benefits. You should discuss your desires and expectations with your dentist beforehand. Ask questions and get the facts before you make a decision that could cost you down the road. For veneers aren’t a one-time thing. Like any dental restoration or prosthesis, they will eventually need to be replaced – and this isn’t cheap. The going rate is somewhere in the area of $1000 to $1400 per tooth. Furthermore, if they’re not sized or fitted just right, they can contribute to a lot of pain throughout the jaw, face, head and neck. There can be other complications, as well – as this individual  found out.
Our own position? We say that the best dentistry is the least dentistry. This is about protecting the health of the teeth, so they “look” (and function) as good (and well) on the inside as on the outside. For if they don’t look good there, they probably won’t look at all after a while. You’ll eventually lose them. No teeth, no veneers. Then you’re talking implants – which we don’t recommend, due to their negative effects on the body’s energetic system and the emerging link between implants and systemic health conditions, including cancer – or dentures.
We want to help you keep all of your teeth looking good and working well as long as possible.
For more discussion of the ethical issues involved in modern cosmetic dental practice, check out this excellent, accessible essay from Oral Health Journal, “The Ethics of Cosmetic Dentistry: Beneficence, Beauty or ‘Bucks’?”.
Image by giveawayboy , via Flickr