Dear Dr Hall,
I was not happy with the color of the crown attached to my implant, so I returned to my dentist who said he thought it was fine and sent me away to “think about it.” I returned and he very reluctantly agreed to re-do the color. I recently had the revised crown attached again, but the color is worse – it is now quite noticeably darker. Both times I visited the lab for color assessment. And both times the dentist did not bother to check the color before attaching the crown. I am very disappointed, but do not want to return to this dentist as he obviously is not able to improve. He also had considerable difficulty with attaching the crown which resulted in considerable discomfort and left me wondering whether the attachment to the implant has been damaged. Post-procedure, I cannot eat on that side of the mouth at all. This implant has cost me a considerable sum. I would like to know what my options would be for correcting the color of this crown, and if the attachment has been damaged, would I need to get a whole new crown and implant, and who should pay for this? Is it possible to place a veneer over the crown? Thank you for your help.
– Mary from Australia
Your case is a great illustration of the great difference between dentists when it comes to aesthetics. Only about 2% of dentists, from my experience, are very good at aesthetic dentistry, and I have people all of the time having a hard time believing that and wanting to know why. (And that 2% is in the US – probably less in Australia). But dentists become dentists because they like to fix things – they’re just not into works of beauty.
Your dentist clearly has a low degree of interest in the aesthetics of his work, and that is the reason this isn’t working. And you have given clear indication here in your e-mail of his indifference. Any dentist who is seriously trying to do beautiful cosmetic dentistry will be very attentive to your opinion and if you thought the color didn’t match well would not try to tell you that it was fine. Such a dentist would actually make sure the color was right in your eyes before cementing the porcelain crown and would not hesitate to send it back to the lab. But your dentist did not have enough confidence in his own color-matching skills to match the color himself but instead sent you to the laboratory. And then, after being burned once and having to re-do the crown, rather than trying it on and making sure you liked the color this time before permanently cementing it, he just puts it on.
You have figured out that you cannot rely on this dentist to get this right. If you want this done right, you have to find a dentist who actually wants to be good at aesthetic dentistry. I wish you had told me where in Australia you are and I could give you some guidance on that, because good cosmetic dentists are few and far between in Australia.
When a dentist sends you to the laboratory technician for the “color check”, that is a pretty good sign that the dentist knows he or she isn’t very good at tooth color, and those cases often end up looking very poor. All the technician can do is look at the tooth that needs to be matched and take notes about the color. Then he or she dismisses you, goes into the laboratory, and tries to follow the notes that were made. The dentist is supposed to have a higher level of skill than the technician, and should know how to make those notes and instruct the technician. And nowadays, with digital photography, it is very easy for a dentist to hold up a shade guide tooth to your tooth and snap a color-correct photograph and e-mail it to the technician, with notes. The technician can then use that photograph and the notes during the fabrication of your crown, and this is often the best way to get an accurate match.
Do not – absolutely do not try to get a veneer placed over the crown. The crown is difficult enough by itself. Get the crown re-done. If that is done correctly, it will not damage the implant at all. Trying to do a veneer over it and get the color right makes it all the more complicated. Besides which very few dentists know how to properly bond a veneer onto a porcelain crown. That could turn this from a simple bad dream into a true nightmare.
If you need any more help with this, please write back.
– Dr. Hall
P.S. – I see you found our website by searching on “dental catastrophe.” I had not thought of that search term before, but it is appropriate!
Click here to read my blog posting about how to ask for a refund from your dentist.
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.