Dental School to Open First Comprehensive Education Center For Esthetic Dentistry

By Lois Baker

Release Date: July 21, 1998

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The first facility devoted to training dentists in the high-demand field of esthetic dentistry from the first year of dental school through post-graduate training and beyond will begin operation at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine this fall.

The grand opening of the 17-chair Esthetic Dentistry Education Center is scheduled for 4-6 p.m. Aug. 19 in Squire Hall on UB's South (Main Street) Campus.

"This is the first such program in the world," said Frederick W. McIntyre, D.D.S., a UB restorative dentistry specialist who has been teaching and practicing in the field since 1987. "There currently are no programs teaching esthetic dentistry at all levels of dental education."

Esthetic, or cosmetic, dentistry is the fastest-growing area within dental medicine. The percentage of U.S. dentists performing some form of esthetic dentistry has increased from 40 percent to 90 percent during the past five years, according to estimates.

Practitioners currently receive training through a few university-based, continuing-education programs, or through seminars sponsored by manufacturers of dental materials, said McIntyre, who will direct the UB center. George Freedman, D.D.S., who has established continuing-education programs in esthetic dentistry at several universities, will be associate director.

McIntyre said esthetic dentistry is primarily elective, but should not be considered frivolous. "It may be important to an individual to get a job, to increase one's self esteem, or to improve quality of life. When we take an initial photograph, the patient often won't look at the camera, won't smile. After the procedure, they're beaming and looking straight into the camera. Some patients have been afraid to smile their entire lives."

Esthetic dentistry was a 1970s outgrowth of restorative dentistry, which historically was concerned with the function and biologic compatibility of the teeth.

"Initially, it was only cosmetic: Dentists were doing it purely for the smile," McIntyre said. "Out of that grew today's esthetic dentistry, which merges traditional dentistry with the new materials and techniques developed because of the demands for teeth that function well and look pleasing.

"We can now change the shape, color or texture of teeth," McIntyre said. "We can do this with minimal cutting of tissue or tooth surfaces. New materials allow us to strengthen teeth and restore teeth more conservatively."

New materials include porcelains for thinner veneers, composites strong enough to resist wear even on molars, and fiber-reinforced composites to make tooth-colored back bridges. New techniques include esthetic tooth contouring, tooth-colored front and back restorations, microabrasion to prepare tooth surfaces and laser bleaching.

"We are using these new materials and techniques to bring dentistry to a higher level," McIntyre said.

He noted that the 4,000-member American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry has formed an ad-hoc committee to press for the inclusion of esthetic dentistry in a dental school's curriculum as a requirement for accreditation by the American Dental Association.