It was only 50 years ago that dentists simply cleaned and maintained the teeth, but thanks to advances made by Irwin Smigel, cosmetic dentistry is now a cornerstone of the dental industry. Smigel, 92, passed away in October from complications of pneumonia, and now the country is remembering the pioneer that made cosmetic dentistry procedures available to the masses.
A Bit About Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry is defined as dental work that improves the appearance of a person’s teeth and gums. The aesthetics of color, position, shape, size, and alignment are improved and enhanced to craft an attractive smile. Today, whitening, reshaping, bonding, veneers, implants, and bridges are common and popular cosmetic procedures that help patients achieve a smile they can flaunt with pride and confidence.
Smigel began making process in the realm of cosmetic dentistry back in the 1970s when he advanced two key techniques. The first was laser whitening, in which a chemical bleaching agent is applied to the teeth and activated with a laser beam. His developments made laser whitening a treatment that is now available to anyone. Systems like Advanced Zoom! Can now treat stained and discolored teeth with just one quick in-office appointment.
Smigel also helped to develop a bonding technique that layers laminates and veneers to fix dental imperfections. His new method came to replace the gold and porcelain caps that were applied to damaged teeth. Instead, Smigel and his colleagues started etching teeth with a buffered acid solution, painting on a liquid acrylic, and shaping and hardening a composite resin with a beam of ultraviolet light. As he explained to New York Magazine in 1981, “The eyes may be the soul of the face, but the mouth is the first thing people look at. Now bonding has given us the possibility of instant transformation, since it can be done in a matter of hours, not days and years.”
His passion for dentistry never faded, and Smigel continued to practice until the age of 90. It is largely thanks to his vision that Americans enjoy the cosmetic dentistry options that they do today.