She wanted to improve her smile. Her life benefited in unexpected ways.

SPONSORED: Cosmetic dentistry can be a gateway to better health and a happier life.

Presented by Alaska Premier Dental Group

Anchorage resident Nicole Coleman didn’t like her front teeth. They were worn down from years of grinding, and after a child remarked about their flat appearance, it was all she saw in the mirror.

“I avoided smiling,” Coleman said.

Coleman became a patient at Alaska Premier Dental Group, where she saw Dr. Clark. Her front teeth were good candidates for veneers, he said. But he found something else. She had undiagnosed sleep apnea — and it was the underlying cause of her worn teeth.

Sleep apnea causes teeth to grind during the night as the jaw thrusts forward; it is a serious health condition. On Dr. Clark’s recommendation, Coleman saw a specialist and is now outfitted with an airway pressure mask. Her sleep has improved, as has her overall quality of life.

Coleman still didn’t commit to veneers right away. She saved up and got other work done first. But a few years ago, she had the procedure completed and saw the difference right away.

“People noticed something was different about me,” she said. “I think because I smile more.”

Cosmetic dentistry can have unexpected benefits. Patients may come in with aesthetic wants and uncover other health issues, like in Coleman’s case. Or, by fixing one issue, the overall function of the mouth may improve. And the benefits of a healthy smile cascade into other areas of life, boosting self-confidence.

At Alaska Premier Dental Group, “we approach all our dentistry as cosmetic,” said Dr. Clark.

Cosmetic dentistry: Misunderstood?

Much of the time, patients arrive at the dentist with a specific concern, whether chipped or missing teeth, misalignment or discoloration.

“I talk about cosmetic dentistry with patients every day,” said Dr. Sam, dentist at Alaska Premier Dental Group. “We’re very fortunate that modern dentistry provides us with lots of solutions.”

But for some people, the word “cosmetic” can carry negative connotations.

“It implies the dentistry is unnecessary, or only for vanity. But all of the best dentistry is functionally sound and cosmetic,” said Dr. Sam. “It really is an opportunity to improve on the function of the teeth, to improve the way a person’s bite works.”

When Dr. Sam joined the practice in 2021, he was impressed with its focus on cosmetic dentistry. He gained a new appreciation and understanding of what it means.

“Dentistry is a blend of science and art, and with any work I do, my goal is for the product to be as natural as possible,” said Dr. Sam.

Veneers, crowns, orthodontics and fillings can all be cosmetic and improve the overall health of the mouth. By straightening teeth, patients may have an improvement of bite function and pain relief. And fixing overcrowded teeth can make flossing and brushing easier, preventing future tooth decay.

During the initial exam, other issues may present themselves, said Dr. Clark. Maybe there is an infection in a tooth that needs attention before any cosmetic work can be completed. But it is always up to the patient to decide the next step.

“We may have education and experience that helps us see things that would be potentially concerning for someone, but our job is only to educate and provide a treatment plan,” said Dr. Clark.

For instance, Coleman needed additional work before she got veneers. She never felt pressured to rush into a treatment — and that’s one of the qualities she likes best about the practice. She was able to work it into her budget and plans, taking the time she needed for her best results.

“It was money well spent for me.” she said.

The confidence boost can be life changing. People who are uncomfortable with their smiles tend to hide their teeth, like Coleman. Unfortunately, that can negatively impact their overall wellbeing, and how they are perceived.

“Smiles are a core aspect of personal identity and a major part of non-verbal communication,” said Dr. Sam.

When patients get veneers, it can have a “dramatic, and almost instantaneous change,” said Dr. Clark. “That treatment can be some of the most rewarding.”

For Coleman, who spent years getting incremental work done, the sudden shift had a huge impact.

“I’m more confident and happier. I smile more, for sure,” Coleman said.

Starting the conversation

For people considering cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Clark advises they start planning far in advance, especially if there is a major life event coming up, like a wedding.

“If there’s something bothering you about your smile, have the conversation now,” said Dr. Clark. It’s also a good time to discuss financial options and how to fit treatments into one’s budget with ease. The clinic has a variety of options to support its patients.

“For many people, it is an investment,” said Dr. Clark. On the flip side, “sometimes treatments can be simpler than they think,” he added.

Alaska Premier Dental Group also knows that some people suffer from dental anxiety, and the clinic provides exceptional anxiety support to its patients, no matter their concerns or needs.

Cosmetic dentistry can seem like an overwhelming process, but Alaska Premier Dental Group is ready to help patients who want to move forward.

“It’s going to be a major life change, and it’s going to be an investment in your self-esteem and your self-confidence,” said Dr. Clark.

Coleman makes sure to care for her teeth by visiting the dentist every six months. And she’s thankful for the care she received. Cosmetic dentistry improved her outward appearance, but it also did so much more.

“It kind of fixed me on the inside, too,” she said.

Alaska Premier Dental Group provides exceptional cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, family dentistry and so much more to their patients from their offices in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska.

This article was produced by the sponsored content department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Alaska Premier Dental Group. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.