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Ask About The Person Behind The Scenes At A Dental Practice: The Ceramist

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Selecting the right cosmetic dentist is the first step towards getting the perfect smile. Your decision on which practice to go to will depend largely on the dentist, but they are not the only person you should inquire about when interviewing cosmetic dentistry practices. There is someone who works behind the scenes but will have an equally significant impact on your smile: the ceramist.

The Ceramist is a Master Artist

A ceramist is a master artist, skilled in the craft of designing veneers. A dentist, even a cosmetic dentist, approaches the field of dentistry from a medical standpoint. That's why they're referred to as doctors and have Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degrees on the wall. Ceramists come to dentistry from the viewpoint of an artisan, studying and perfecting the skill of designing ceramic veneers.

Questions to Ask About a Ceramist

You may never meet a dental practice's ceramist, but their role is just as important as that of your dentist. Therefore, you should inquire about them when you're considering a cosmetic dentist. You might ask:

  • Did your ceramist study under anyone as an apprentice?
  • How many years of experience does your ceramist have?
  • Does your ceramist hold any certificates or degrees?
  • Can I see examples of your ceramist's work?
  • Will I have a chance to meet and talk with your ceramist?

If you receive blank stares when you ask about a ceramist, consider having your cosmetic procedure done elsewhere. Dentists can install stock ceramic veneers without the aid of a ceramist, but a customized look requires the attention of a skilled artisan.

The answers to these questions may vary widely, so listen carefully to your dentist's explanations. First, training is not as formalized for ceramists as it is for dentists, so a ceramist might not have a degree or formal training yet still do great work. You'll have to gauge their expertise by the details of the dentist's answer to the first three questions.

Second, while you should be able to see examples of their work, you might not be able to meet them. Some of the world's best ceramists have their own companies that dentists hire. For instance, Terry Shapiro tells about how ceramist Peter Kouvaris left a dental laboratory to start up his own dental studio. If you can't meet the ceramist because they have the equivalent of a dental art studio, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If your dentist farms the creation of veneers out to a large company in another state, though, you may want to find another practice.

Perfection Lies in the Imperfections

A ceramist will make your smile perfect, by infusing it with imperfections. A New York Times article explains that the best smiles actually contain minute flaws, which make them look natural. Some examples of intentional imperfections they provide include:

  • faintly discoloring the veneers near the gumline
  • adding miniscule grooves to the veneers
  • slightly rotating the teeth next to the front two
  • texturing the surface of the enamel

It's flaws like these that make a smile look genuine. Creating them in a way that enhances your smile, though, requires great attention to detail: The New York Times notes that Alexa Vega's veneers have 18 different shades to create a natural but smooth look. It's the ceramist's role, not the dentist's, to artfully infuse veneers with the imperfections that make them look perfect.

Before you have a cosmetic dental procedure done, ask your dentist at a clinic like Valley Oak Dental Group Inc about the ceramist they work with. Even if you never meet their ceramist, your smile will ultimately be the work of their hands. It's nice to know you're in good hands.