Boston Dentist Takes Dental Industry to Task, Issues Call to Action

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Aesthetic/cosmetic services provided by dentists grew an average of 12.5 percent in the past five years yet no formal regulations exist for cosmetic dentistry practitioners.

Helaine Smith, DMD, recently took the dental industry to task for its reluctance to name cosmetic dentistry a specialty. Smith stated her comments in her cosmetic dentistry blog, http://cosmeticdentistryblog.blogspot.com/.

"No uniform guidelines exist regarding cosmetic dentistry," states Smith. "A dentist can take a seven hour course and then call himself a cosmetic dentist. The general public doesn't know that advanced cosmetic dentistry techniques, such as full-mouth reconstruction and replacing crowns and bridges with dental implants, are not taught at most dental schools. On top of that, the American Dental Association is reluctant to recognize dentists who have completed the rigorous requirements and examinations to achieve the title of Fellow in the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD)."

Smith's remarks come at a time when the cosmetic dentistry industry is booming in the U.S. and abroad. Television shows like "Extreme Makeover" educate the public about how cosmetics like veneers and professional toothe whitening can significantly change a person's looks. To date, no exact numbers exist on how much money U.S. consumers are spending on cosmetic dentistry. However, the AACD reports that in 2004, tooth whitening procedures had grown 300% in the previous five years.

According to the 2004 AACD survey http://www.aacd.com/media/releases/pr2005_05_02.aspx, 9,000 dentists queried stated the aesthetic/cosmetic services provided in their offices grew an average of 12.5% in the past five years, with some doctors experiencing close to a 40% increase. And while teeth whitening remained the most commonly requested procedure, it's not the most advanced cosmetic dentistry technique.

"People want to feel good about themselves," states Smith, "and it's understandable that that teeth whitening and veneers are what most people think of with regard to cosmetic dentistry. The growth rate in these services is due to the fact that general dentists can easily add teeth whitening and veneers to their line of services – indeed, you can find teeth whitening storefronts at the mall!"

"However," Smith adds, "highly trained cosmetic dentists also perform complex procedures for people with significant oral issues ranging from deformed musculature to full-mouth reconstruction."

Smith advises consumers considering cosmetic dentistry to carefully check practitioners' credentials. AACD Fellows, for example, must complete 500 practice hours and pass a 400-question examination. Cosmetic dentists with advanced training usually have a degree from the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Cosmetic Dentistry in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to LVI, more than 3,000 dentists world-wide have received their post-graduate training from the Institute.

Sums up Dr. Smith, "Consumers should find a dentist who treats the whole person, not just the tooth. Don’t be afraid to ask your dental professional for his or her credentials. The Internet is a wealth of information –- it pays to be informed before trusting anyone with your teeth."

About Dr. Helaine Smith

Dr. Smith, a Boston, Massachusetts dentist, has combined a dedication to patient care, volunteerism, and business acumen since beginning her dentistry career in 1991. She is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and an LVI graduate, and she recently completed an executive MBA program at Suffolk University.

Dr. Smith has taken 12 volunteer missions to third-world countries with Operation Smile and Cape CARES, organizations that send volunteer dentists and physicians around the world to help patients who would not otherwise have access to dental and medical care. She is also involved with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s “Give Back a Smile" program, which gives financial assistance and dental care to battered women. More information about her cosmetic dentistry services can be found at: http://www.helainesmithdmd.com

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