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Question: “Dr. Arnold, I have a lot of friends having cosmetic dentistry done to improve their smiles. I’ve always put my children’s needs first, but I feel like it’s time for me to do something for myself. What is the most popular cosmetic dental service?”

Answer: It does seem like many people are focused on smile enhancement procedures. I have several patients who ask me what their options are every day. That trend is indicative of the importance our society has placed on having an attractive, healthy smile. Over 90% of people in some national polls agree that having a nice smile can impact professional success and personal relationships.

Which cosmetic dental option is most appropriate for you depends completely upon the condition of your teeth and your objectives because there are many options. The first step in determining what your specific options are is to see a dentist for a consultation and comprehensive examination.

Ideally, the goal should be to achieve the desired results in the most conservative manner possible. Sometimes whitening or recontouring the teeth is all that is needed to improve one’s smile. Sometimes straightening the teeth with braces or Invisalign orthodontic treatment is a great option. These options are very conservative and can yield excellent results when used appropriately.

For people who show a lot of gum tissue when they smile, laser recontouring of the excess tissue can often give them a dramatic result. Sometimes recontouring the gums a bit can improve the gingival symmetry and give the teeth a longer appearance. Cosmetic bonding is a conservative solution to chipped or stained front teeth.

Porcelain veneers may be the most popular cosmetic enhancement modality because the improvement is often quite dramatic. They commonly help to correct stained, chipped, crooked, gapped, and cracked teeth, along with many other issues associated with unattractive smiles. It’s certainly not a “one size fits all” solution, but veneers are an excellent option for many people.

Sometimes porcelain veneers can be completed without having to reshape the teeth (with DURAthin veneers), but the majority of cases require some removal of tooth structure in order to create space for the porcelain.

Sometimes veneers are insufficient to do the job, and porcelain crowns are necessary, but the amount of tooth reshaping needed completely depends upon the case, the position of the teeth, and the amount of decay or previous restorative material in the teeth in question.

It is very important that you discuss your objectives with your dental team in order to ensure an excellent result. With thorough planning, good communication, and reasonable expectations, you should be very happy with your new smile.

Dr.  Jim Arnold is a practicing dentist in Chesterton and Valparaiso.  He is also a clinical mentor with the Hornbrook Group and serves on the Advisory Board for the Academy of Comprehensive Esthetics as the Fellowship Chairman.  You may send questions to his office at 1830 South 11th Street, Chesterton, IN 46304, or email them to  More information on this or any other dental topics can be found at