New Dental Options Bring Bigger Smiles


Dental visits — they’re not just cleanings and cavity fillings anymore. The latest advances in dental technology have opened the door for patients to choose from a broader list of services. The most recent innovations bring exciting changes to cosmetic dentistry, including improvements to veneers, whitening, bonding, orthodontics and lip shaping. 


Between childhood traumas, tight budgets and time constraints, many people have valid reasons for avoiding the dentist. But fortunately, the changes that have happened over the years make dental procedures easier, more attractive and more attainable. Dr. Montgomery Heathman, owner of Heathman Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Little Rock, understands the hesitation. 


“Another reason some people don’t want to go to the dentist is because they saw their parents or grandparents lose all their teeth and end up in dentures, and they don’t want that,” he says. “But people are keeping their teeth longer and longer.”


The following services are some of the newer advancements in dentistry that will have you booking an appointment ASAP. 




Bonding is not new, but it’s an option many people may not be familiar with. A white putty-like resin material is applied to the tooth which is then molded and smoothed to the desired shape. Dental bonding can repair chipped, cracked and broken teeth. It can also fill gaps between teeth and lengthen a tooth that is shorter than the rest. Bonding can be done in a single visit, involves minimal drilling on the surface of the tooth and requires no anesthesia. Among cosmetic procedures, it is one of the easiest and least expensive options.







Veneers are custom, tooth-colored shells that fit over the front of the teeth. Heathman compares them to press on nails. 


“Veneers have been out for a long time, but the materials we’re using now allow us to be less invasive and more conservative in our approach,” he explains. Different types of veneers include porcelain, composite, Lumineers or temporary veneers. Compared to crowns, this is a restorative option that preserves more of the natural tooth structure. “It’s a nice way to whiten teeth, close gaps and change positions of teeth; it’s a lot cheaper than orthodontics.” 


Veneers are often referred to as a “smile makeover” or “smile design.” 


Trial Veneers 


Some practices — including Smile Arkansas in Little Rock — create custom trial veneers also referred to as “trial smile.” Dr. Alyssa Lambert, a clinician at Smile Arkansas, explains this option “provides patients the ability to visualize how they will look with their new smile and make any adjustments necessary before the veneer designs are finalized.” She notes that this way patients are able to provide their own input and be a part of the design process.


All-Ceramic Crowns 

These are usually made entirely from porcelain or another type of ceramic. The most advanced ceramic materials produce crowns that look completely natural as opposed to having a grey line at the gum line, which comes from having metal underneath. Crowns can also be used to lengthen a tooth that has been worn down or to change a gummy smile.


Other Non-metal Crowns 


Technical advances have made it possible for costly metals used in traditional dental crowns to be replaced by more affordable zirconium oxide, polyether ether ketone, lithium disilicate and other materials. These materials are quite durable, and their opalescent and translucent characteristics make it difficult to distinguish from a regular tooth. Heathman says he often uses zirconium because it’s a good option for people who are allergic to metals. 


“It’s a high-end, hard substance that’s almost impossible to break and looks very natural,” he notes. 


Invisible Orthodontics 


For people who want to correct the alignment of their teeth but don’t like the look of traditional braces, there are a couple of orthodontic alternatives. The most common one — Invisalign — has become much more popular in recent years. The clear aligners made from BPA-free plastic are removable and are considered far more comfortable than traditional metal braces. Lingual braces are another option. These are fixed to the back of the teeth. Lingual braces are overall more efficient in moving roots compared to Invisalign, but very few orthodontists offer this treatment. 


Gum Lift 


Also known as gingivectomy, a gum lift can reduce the effects of chronic gum disease and can cosmetically alter the look of a “gummy smile.” During this process, the dentist quickly and painlessly shapes or removes excess gum tissue with a soft tissue laser or scalpel. It requires only one appointment. It can be done in one visit, while the patient is awake with local anesthesia to numb the area. Generally, gum contouring takes about one to two hours.




The latest in-office professional whitening services include KöR, Zoom and Opalescence as the fastest and most noticeable results. These options, however, are also the most expensive.


Heathman suggests over-the-counter options such as Crest whitening strips, which he says are “just as efficacious and about 25 percent of the cost.” Other at-home products include whitening kits, whitening pens, whitening toothpastes and customized whitening trays.


BOTOX Lip Flip 

Dental work can encompass every aspect of the mouth in relation to the gums, lips and shape of the smile in order to achieve the aesthetic results desired. With a BOTOX lip flip, a small amount of BOTOX is injected into the upper lip near the Cupid’s bow. This relaxes the muscle causing the lip to slightly flip upwards, look fuller and reveal a larger smile. 


“It’s a more subtle look than fillers,” Lambert explains. “We also use BOTOX to ease muscle joint pain in areas of the mouth.” 




This state-of-the-art laser cavity detection system is a pen-like, handheld tool that is used to scan the tops of teeth. It is able to find cavities that are easily missed on x-rays and are not visible during a visual dental inspection. The advanced technology allows the dentist to diagnose tooth decay in the earliest stages of development, often before it causes damage to teeth. 


Fluoride for Adults 


Kids have been getting fluoride treatments at the dentist for years, but for the last few years, Heathman has been advising his adult patients to get it, too. It lowers the development of gumline decay by 75 to 80 percent, and only costs $20 to $30. 


“What we’re trying to do now in dentistry is be proactive as opposed to reactive,” he notes. 


The great news is that the newest options in dentistry are available in a wide range of costs and complexity. These advancements are relatively noninvasive and allow people to feel more comfortable and confident about their smiles. 


“People are very surprised to realize that having a smile they’re proud of changes their life,” Lambert says. “It changes their self-esteem, or the way they feel people look at them or how they see themselves.”  



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