how to enhance your smile and improve your confidence
Having a smile that you feel is imperfect whether it be stained, crooked teeth or a missing tooth can severely affect a person’s self-confidence. Feeling embarrassed about oral imperfections can make some people feel shy and anxious, stopping them from smiling freely, feeling the need to hide these imperfections when smiling, laughing or talking.
Mintel reported that 65% of Brits say that their dental problems have had an impact on their overall health.
Whether we like it or not our appearance says a lot about who we are, and your mouth / smile is one of the first things people notice when they first meet you, first impressions count and having bad teeth can lead to being misjudged and in the age of social media the pressure to have an insta-fabulous smile is tenfold.
It is this pressure for a perfect smile that is partly fuelling the growth of the cosmetic Dentistry market. According to the current analysis the global Cosmetic Dentistry Market is currently valued at USD 18.79 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach USD 32.73 billion by year 2026.
We are far more clued up and involved in how we take care of our appearance and bodies, from our obsession with the latest superfood to eating for our gut health to our fitness and sleep apps, so it’s no surprise that our teeth are the latest parts of our body that has been added to the long list of things we want to perfect.
Feeling good about your smile can have a hugely positive impact on your self-confidence and emotional well-being, so making your smile work for you is an important investment.
In recent years, I have seen a sudden rise in adult patients requesting orthodontic (brace) treatment as well as other types of cosmetic treatments such as composite bonding. I feel that this is very much related to increased integration of social media into our daily lives as well as widespread interest in reality TV shows such as Love Island, The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea. The majority of reality TV stars have the ‘perfect smile’ and often adult patients come in requesting a certain celebrity’s smile.
I feel that with the rise in use of social media platforms such as Instagram, a large proportion of our day is spent browsing through photos of people with the ‘perfect’ body image and teeth which often is a warped perception of reality, as many are unaware of the hours and multiple takes spent behind the scenes to capture the ‘perfect selfie’. Celebrity and influencer endorsements of braces such as Invisalign has also popularised this type of brace treatment amongst millennials who follow high profile Instagram pages.
Have there been any key technological advancements or innovations within dentistry?
Over recent years, digital dentistry has become very popular, whereby the patient’s teeth can be digitally scanned and a 3D model of their teeth produced to plan their new smile. This can sometimes also be used to show the patient a simulation of the end result or tooth movements. I feel that digital dentistry is paving the way for the future.
Orthodontic technology has also advanced with the introduction of more discreet options such as lingual braces or clear aligners, available for those that are concerned about their self-image and to suit all lifestyles.
What options are available to someone who wants a smile make over i.e. Invisalign veneers, composite bonding etc and what are the pros and cons of each?
The first and most important step with any smile makeover is to have a dental examination carried out by the dentist, in order to check that the mouth, teeth and gums are healthy before proceeding with any cosmetic treatment. Thereafter, treatment options can be given to the patient as every person is different and the risks and benefits of each option fully explained in order for an informed decision to be made.
In general, there are a number of cosmetic treatments available for a smile makeover, some more invasive than others. Below are a few ways to improve the smile:
For those looking for a subtle change, the simplest way of changing the smile is to lighten the colour of the teeth using teeth whitening prescribed by the dentist. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware that teeth whitening carried out by non-dental professionals is illegal and can cause damage when used in ‘the wrong hands’. Therefore, book an appointment with your dentist to discuss the options of home teeth whitening or in-clinic teeth whitening.
For those that want to achieve their ideal smile in a natural but more substantive way, orthodontic (brace) treatment is available to straighten and move the teeth. Patients often ask how long these have to be worn for, but this is completely individual to the patient. There are a number of different types of appliances available to move the teeth such as removable appliances or clear aligners (the most popular being Invisalign®), Lingual braces which are fixed braces fitted and hidden on the inner surface of the teeth, or more traditional braces fitted on the front of the teeth but again, these can be ceramic (clear) or metal (silver or gold coloured).
Once, the smile has been transformed, the results have to be maintained using retainers to prevent relapse (movement) of the teeth and age-related changes. Orthodontic treatment is best carried out by a specialist in this field, called an Orthodontist.
Another treatment that has recently risen to fame, is composite bonding. This involves minimal or no preparation of the teeth and placement of a composite resin filling material to change the shape and/or colour of the teeth. Although, composite bonding has been around for many years, the rise in popularity in recent years can be related to social media and high-profile influencers/celebrities sharing their experience.
Its popularity can be attributed to the procedure usually being minimally invasive, more affordable and usually carried out during the same day. However, what most patients aren’t aware of is that if the bite is incorrect or teeth significantly crooked, orthodontic treatment may be required first to align the teeth prior to any further treatment such as composite bonding, if at all required. As with any dentistry, this will not last forever, and requires regular maintenance, care and monitoring by the dentist. After a few years, they may pick up staining, become chipped or worn down and therefore require replacement.
Alternatively, for those not keen/suitable for orthodontic or composite bonding treatment, a more invasive option of porcelain veneers is available. This would normally require different degrees of tooth preparation, which in itself poses more risks to the health of the tooth. Similarly, porcelain veneers require regular checks, maintenance and care by the dentist, as again these will not last forever.
Each treatment has its own general risks and risks individual to that patient, but I always advise to go with the least invasive and less destructive option, as the health of the teeth should be priority.
There has been a rise in direct to consumer straightening and whitening kits what are your thoughts on these?
This is a very important topic right now and unfortunately there is a lack of knowledge amongst the general population regarding these topics.
Teeth whitening by a beautician or any other non-dental professional, is in fact illegal in the UK as it is a practice of dentistry and there have been a number of prosecutions to date.
On 31 October 2012, the EU Council Directive 2011/84/EU came into force in the UK. It sets out who can use what strength of product when carrying out tooth whitening. In the UK, the changes were brought into force by the European Communities (Cosmetic Products) Regulations 2004 to 2013. The Regulations say that products containing or releasing up to 6% hydrogen peroxide can be used, as long as:
• Products of this strength are provided only by dental practitioners.
• A dentist has first examined the patient to make sure there are no risks or any other concern about their oral condition.
• The patient is over 18 years old.
• For each cycle of use, first use is by a dental practitioner or under their direct supervision by a dental hygienist or dental therapist.
Tooth-whitening products and kits bought over the counter on the internet can legally only contain up to 0.1 % hydrogen peroxide. This concentration is too low to have any
noticeable effect on the colour of the teeth. Any products that contain over 0.1 % hydrogen peroxide can legally only be prescribed by a dentist.
I feel that direct consumer teeth straightening is equally very dangerous and I wouldn’t be surprised if this soon follows the fate of illegal teeth whitening as concerns have been sent to the General Dental Council.
This is because the patient’s mouth and teeth are not examined or X-rayed to check for health and suitability for teeth straightening by the provider, which can cause very serious damage to the health of the gums and teeth and in some cases end up with the loss of teeth. Unfortunately, I see this time and time again and soon I feel the laws will have to change around this and the companies selling these non-ethical treatments can no longer hide behind their disclaimers and loop holes.
I would caution those considering direct consumer dental treatments to think twice, as risking damage to your teeth or even loss of teeth, is not worth it as you will have to pay more to rectify the damage.
Have there been any advancement in oral hygiene treatments?
There are always new advancements in oral hygiene treatments and it can be very confusing as a consumer and people can fall into the trap of marketing. As long as you use a good electric or manual toothbrush with the correct technique and fluoride toothpaste, clean in-between the teeth using interdental brushes or floss, and rinse with fluoride mouthwash at a different time to brushing, then there is no need for additional gimmicks. Furthermore, I would recommend regular visits to your hygienist or dentist to keep on top of your teeth and gum health.
What are your views on natural/ organic toothpaste and mouthwashes etc?
The current Department of Health Guidelines state that, Fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwashes is recommended to prevent cavities of the teeth. Therefore, I would advise that Fluoride toothpaste is used, and again the doses will vary depending on age and risk factor for cavities. I would therefore advise speaking to your dentist about the toothpaste most suitable for you.
What are the latest toothbrush and cleaning products that you would recommend and why?
I would recommend an oscillating rotating electric toothbrush such as Oral B Professional Range as this has been proven to provide more effective cleaning. However, if the brushing technique is good then a manual toothbrush such as Colgate ZigZag can also provide good cleaning.
With regards to toothpaste, any brand that contains Fluoride of 1450 ppm (for adults) will be suitable, and for those at higher risk of cavities, the dentist may prescribe higher strength Fluoride toothpaste.
Can you give us some tips on how to care for your teeth in between visits to the dentist?
The most important factors to maintain a healthy mouth are:
Reduce the number of times you snack and if you are feeling ‘peckish’ for something sweet, consume it with or directly after your meal. Each time we eat or drink anything other than water, the environment in your mouth changes to one that favours cavity formation. Therefore, if you reduce the number of times you eat to perhaps three meals a day, then you minimise the risk of damage to the teeth. Again, the same applies to drinks, if you want to consume anything other than plain water, then this should ideally be consumed at mealtimes to minimise the damage to your teeth. I would suggest consuming healthier foods and drinks instead of those containing high sugars, and stick to drinking plain water throughout the day, especially in-between meals. The other tip is to be careful of ‘hidden sugars’ in foods such as baked beans and ketchup, so my advice would be to always check the back of the pack of the foods you buy.
Ensure that you are cleaning your teeth with either an electric or manual toothbrush, with fluoride toothpaste twice per day, last thing before going to bed and in the morning. I would also recommend using an alcohol-free Fluoride mouthwash at a separate time to brushing for maximum cavity protection. However, if you have consumed acidic drinks or foods such as citrus foods, I would recommend waiting 30 minutes before brushing because the acid from the foods can weaken the enamel (outer surface of the tooth). Flossing between the teeth or using interdental brushes can also help clean in-between the teeth and is especially important in those teeth with fillings in them.
When looking for a cosmetic dentist or an orthodontist what key things or questions should people be looking out for or asking?
Firstly, ensure that your dentist or orthodontist is registered with the General Dental Council.
Secondly, check that they are suitably qualified for the procedure that you are considering and most definitely look at google reviews as these provide a good testimonial of their work.
For patients considering orthodontics I would strongly advice looking into the accreditations and qualifications of the clinician providing the treatment. Ideally this should be with a Specialist Orthodontist or a dentist with special interest in Orthodontics.
Furthermore, always ask to see some before and after cases, so that you are able to check the quality and range of treatments they offer.