After the demise of the Industrial Age, we currently live in an ‘Information Age’ fuelled mainly by the Internet, with an ever-increasing medically and dentally literate population. The media has played its role by reporting scientific advances, as well as securitising medical and dental practices. Reality television such as ‘Extreme makeovers’ has also raised public awareness of body enhancements, with a greater number of people seeking such procedures. To satiate this growing demand, the dental industry has flourished by introducing novel cosmetic products such as bleaching kits, tooth coloured filling materials and a variety of dental ceramics. In addition, one only has to browse through a dental journal to notice innumerable courses and lectures on techniques for providing cosmetic dentistry. The incessant public interest, combined with unrelenting marketing by companies is gradually shifting the balance of dental care from a healing to an enhancement profession. The purpose of this article is to endeavour to answer questions such as, What is aesthetic or cosmetic dentistry? Why do patients seek cosmetic dentistry? Are enhancement procedures a part of dental practice? What, if any, ethical guidelines and constraints apply to elective enhancement procedures? What is the role of the dentist in providing or encouraging this type of ‘therapy’? What treatment modalities are available for aesthetic dental treatment?
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