Tooth contouring can improve the appearance of your smile, boost your self-confidence, and help you feel better about your teeth.
Some people use braces to improve their smile, yet tooth contouring is a low-cost alternative. Although it’s an option, this cosmetic procedure — also known as dental contouring — isn’t right for everyone.
Here’s what you need to know about tooth contouring, including the process, aftercare tips, and whether it’s right for you.
What is tooth contouring?
Tooth contouring, also known as odontoplasty, is a convenient, low-cost cosmetic dentistry procedure for fixing a tooth that’s chipped, uneven, misaligned, or cracked.
This quick and painless procedure involves removing some of the tooth enamel, and then shaping or lengthening a problem tooth.
To achieve a desired shape, your dentist might also apply a tooth-colored bonding resin that attaches to and hardens on your teeth.
Who’s a good candidate for tooth contouring?
It’s important to note, tooth contouring is designed to correct minor or subtle imperfections on your teeth. It’s not an option for major dental issues.
If your teeth overlap or are severely crooked or misaligned, your dentist might suggest dental braces or another procedure instead of tooth contouring.
To be a candidate for tooth contouring, you’ll need healthy teeth and gums. This procedure involves removing some of your tooth enamel. Your dentist will not perform this procedure if you have decayed teeth, unhealthy gums, or an infected pulp.
Disadvantages of tooth contouring
Tooth contouring is ideal because there’s no healing process, no anesthesia, and usually no numbing agent. In most cases, your dentist can complete the procedure in a single session.
Although tooth contouring makes subtle changes to your teeth and might alleviate the need for costly braces, it can cost between $50 and $300 per tooth, depending on the required amount of work.
Keep in mind that tooth contouring is a type of cosmetic dentistry, so your insurance might not pay for the procedure. They might cover the procedure when contouring corrects damage resulting from an accident.
There’s also the risk of your dentist removing too much of your enamel. And if so, you might experience sensitivity to heat or cold.
How does tooth contouring work?
For the most part, tooth contouring is a simple, fast process. The first step is to have a dental examination and X-rays, so your dentist can check the health of your teeth and gums.
Your dentist will also check your enamel. If you have weak or thin enamel, your dentist will likely recommend another procedure, such as dental veneers.
Getting veneers involves placing a porcelain cover over the front surface of your tooth. This can also improve the appearance of a chipped, cracked, or misaligned tooth.
If you have healthy teeth, gums, and enamel, your dentist begins the process by removing some of your tooth enamel by using a sanding disc or fine diamond bur. This part of the procedure helps minimize imperfections in a tooth.
Next, your dentist will trim or shorten the length of longer teeth, as well as shape and smooth uneven teeth. This can improve your alignment and bite.
If you have a chipped tooth or gaps in between your teeth, your dentist can combine tooth contouring with bonding.
Bonding uses a tooth-colored resin — similar in appearance to putty — to mold and further shape a tooth. When applied to teeth, the bonding material hardens and matches the appearance of your natural teeth.
Your dentist applies the bond, shapes it, and then allows it to harden. If you require bonding, this procedure can take an additional 30 minutes to an hour.
Understand that bonding also increases the overall cost of tooth contouring, as you might pay between $300 and $600 per tooth.
Tooth contouring aftercare tips
Tooth contouring and/or bonding is an excellent way to improve the shape and appearance of teeth. However, good aftercare is crucial for maintaining your results. Your dentist will provide aftercare instructions.
If your dentist uses a bonding agent, although it will harden during the procedure, there’s a risk of the resin chipping or cracking. To lower this risk, for example, you should avoid biting your nails, eating hard foods, and chewing gum.
There’s also the risk of staining with bonding, so make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day to avoid teeth stains. You should also reduce consumption of foods and drinks that can stain your teeth, such as coffee and red wine.
Even though there’s no downtime after tooth contouring, you might have some minor sensitivity for a day after the procedure.
A chipped, cracked, or misaligned tooth can lower your self-confidence, and you might hide your smile from others. Dental work can correct many issues, but these procedures can be costly.
The good news is that tooth contouring provides a low-cost alternative for improving the appearance of your smile. This procedure isn’t right for everyone, though. Make sure you understand the pros and the cons.
An odontoplasty can solve minor cosmetic issues, such as small chips, tooth length, and minor misalignment. Depending on the health of your teeth and enamel, your dentist might suggest another procedure to improve your teeth like braces or veneers.