Teeth come in all sizes and shapes. As a person ages, teeth naturally grind down and become less rectangular and more square. In fact, a person can lose anywhere from 1-5 mm of tooth length as they age.
But, prior to that, sometimes people are sensitive about the shape of their teeth. Perhaps they’re slightly overcrowded or irregular. For whatever reason, even a slight shape anomaly can make a person sensitive about not only their teeth but their whole smile.
Teenagers, especially, can have mamelons, the tiny ridges which make the edges of the teeth look serrated. Mamelons are perfectly healthy and are caused by the manner in which new, permanent teeth grow. Close examination will reveal there are three humps on the tip of each tooth. While they will naturally wear away during the process of chewing food, a teen can be sensitive about their appearance and therefore be embarrassed by their mamelons.
Another common complaint is excessively pointy canines, which can make a person look a little like a vampire. Pointy canines can also make a person look aggressive.
Teens or anyone who is sensitive about the shape of their teeth may want to consider asking their dentist about a procedure called enamel shaping. Enamel shaping is the process of removing or restructuring existing tooth enamel to reshape teeth or remove irregularities. Uneven teeth, overly-rounded or pointed teeth, chips, crowding, ridges and other shape issues can be corrected this way. Enamel shaping is usually completed in one to three appointments, requires no numbing, and the results are immediate.
Some dentists call this re-contouring, and it can be performed in conjunction with the use of bonding, which is a process using a tooth-colored resin to fill in small irregularities and pits in teeth.
Before the procedure, an X-ray is sometimes needed to ascertain the general health of the tooth and thickness of the enamel. The tools in enamel shaping are the same as the ones used in regular cleaning and polishing, and then the teeth are marked, sanded, smoothed, and polished. Even slight re-contouring in which very subtle changes are made can have dramatic effects on a person’s appearance.
In addition to appearance, enamel shaping can eliminate odd, tight spots where the buildup of plaque can cause decay or gum disease.
Enamel shaping is a highly affordable cosmetic option, too, between $50 and $350 per tooth, which is considerably cheaper than veneers, braces or crowns. If a tooth or teeth were damaged in an accident, the procedure might be covered by the patient’s insurance. The downside of re-contouring is that it may cause sensitivity.
The most important thing a patient can do is to talk to their dentist if they have concerns about irregularities in the size, shape, color or placement of their teeth. Because a person’s smile can have such a significant impact on their self-esteem and happiness, it’s essential to have that conversation and to revisit dental goals periodically.