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In pursuit of perfect pearly whites? Cosmetic dentist reveals habits that can wreak havoc on teeth, including stains caused by too much coffee and decay sparked by constant grazing

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  • Studies show that by smiling you appear more confident and attractive
  • On average more than 30 per cent of us smile more than 20 times a day
  • Issues such as cracked or crooked teeth can indicate more about your health

New research continues to bolster the direct link between an attractive smile and physical and mental health.

Studies show that by smiling you appear more confident and attractive, in addition to the physical act of smiling, which triggers the part of your brain that regulates your emotions.

It is believed that on average more than 30 per cent of us smile more than 20 times a day and according to Forbes people with straight teeth are perceived as more trustworthy, confident and approachable.

So it’s perhaps unsurprising that after the stress of the last few years many people are noticing an impact on their smiles.

But if you’ve noticed stained, discoloured, cracked or crooked teeth, it may be useful to know what is causing it and how you can treat it.

‘People often assume that our smile is purely aesthetic,’ commented cosmetic dentist, Dr Sam Jethwa.

He said that his years of experience ‘a person’s smile plays a huge part in their self-image, confidence and indeed physical and mental health.’

Here FEMAIL reveals the different problems that can affect smiles and what we can do to treat them:

CHIPPED AND CRACKED TEETH

Chipped and cracked teeth are extremely common and something that becomes even more prevalent with age as the odds of tooth decay increase.

In fact, research suggests that the prevalence of cracked teeth is around 80 per cent in people over 40 years old.

‘I see a huge amount of patients who are wishing to address teeth that have been chipped and cracked,’ explains Dr Sam Jethwa.

‘Sometimes people don’t even realise their tooth is cracked but are experiencing sensitivity in that area especially when exposed to hot or cold temperatures.

‘Cracks are usually down to bite issues. Most of these go unnoticed because dentists aren’t trained to spot them, until post graduate education which is not part of regular training.’

In fact, it’s such a severe problem in the UK that Dr Jethwa has an academy that trains dentists.

‘Age does play a significant role here. As we get older our teeth do become weaker due to their constant wear and tea.

‘For those who grind their teeth (bruxism), they can find that the pressure exerted can cause cracking – as can biting or chewing hard food such as sweets or nuts.’

HOW TO TREAT IT

If a cracked tooth is causing pain, you can treat it initially using an ice pack on your cheek to reduce pain and inflammation.

Over the counter pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help too.

However, according to Dr Sam, the treatment lies in correcting the bite which can include invisalign but what braces of any kind will not do is make the teeth fit together like a jigsaw.

‘That’s down to tooth shape. That’s where ultra thin veneers or onlays come in to reorganise and give a comfortable bite.

‘Dental veneers are used to change the way your teeth look and feel and are an ideal way to address cracked or broken teeth.’

STAINED AND DISCOLOURED TEETH

There’s a common misconception that stained teeth are caused exclusively by poor oral hygiene, however this is not always the case.

‘Whilst poor oral health may be a factor in teeth staining and discolouration, even teeth that are impeccably well looked after can become discoloured.

‘Usually substances like coffee, tea, red wine, and even some antibiotics can cause teeth to stain.’

He adds: ‘Also, a lot of people don’t realise that health issues like diabetes, oral cancer, anaemia and some eating disorders can also damage tooth enamel which can result in yellowing of the teeth.’

HOW TO TREAT IT

There are a huge number of teeth whitening treatments available at present, both kits you can do at home and those offered by dentists.

But, according to Dr Sam Jethwa, some of these products can do more harm than good.

‘Teeth whitening can be an extremely effective way to address staining and discolouration,’ explains Dr Jethwa.

‘I would urge anyone wishing to have teeth whitening to have it carried out professionally by a dentist.

‘Unfortunately, the ingredients within some kits purchased online can pose a significant risk to our health and sometimes, irreversible damage. ’

Teeth whitening works by applying a whitening agent to the teeth which penetrates the enamel and reaches the discolored molecules inside the tooth.

Oxygen molecules from the whitening agent react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, breaking the bonds that hold them together. As the oxygen molecules spread the teeth whitens.

CROOKED TEETH

Crooked teeth is a big concern for many people – statistics show a rise in adults seeking tooth-straightening treatment in recent years.

‘There are a number of reasons for crooked teeth,’ explains Dr Jethwa.

‘They can be genetic, or caused by overcrowding in the mouth, jaw shape or having too many teeth (hyperdontia).

‘My personal experience is very much representative of the increase in adults seeking tooth-straightening treatments in recent years, and I think that this is down to a combination of reasons – including increased awareness of the treatments available for it.’

HOW TO TREAT IT

Adult orthodontics and Invisalign has advanced dramatically in recent years.

Dr Sam Jethwa explains: ‘When performed by a qualified and experienced dentist they can be extremely effective ways of addressing crooked teeth and creating a tailor-made straight smile.

‘And the great thing about it is that now thanks to solutions such as Invisalign it doesn’t impact your appearance whilst you’re receiving the treatment.

‘So people who may have once avoided seeking teeth-straightening solutions for fear or having to wear a conspicuous metal brace are now more receptive to the virtually invisible options available.’

TOOTH DECAY

Tooth decay, or cavities, are believed to be one of the world’s most common health problems.

According to stats published by the Oral Health Foundation it’s believed that around one in three adults have tooth decay, and around three in four adults have had a tooth extracted.

These two issues are very closely linked and a lot to do with lifestyle factors.

‘Tooth decay, or cavities, is the name given to permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into holes.

‘They’re caused by a combination of factors which include; bacteria, snacking, sugary drinks and poor oral hygiene.’

If tooth decay isn’t treated then it can spread and affect the teeth at a deeper level, leading to toothaches, infection and in severe cases tooth loss.

HOW TO TREAT IT

‘The key to tackling tooth decay is to make lifestyle changes in order to prevent it happening,’ explains Dr Sam Jethwa.

Reducing sugar intake is key, as is reducing snacking. Snacking, even on healthy things like fruit, is a huge cause of tooth decay.

Dr Jethwa explains: ‘This is because when you snack acid stays on the enamel for about 20 minutes after you’ve finished eating and drinking and this acid wears away the tooth enamel allowing cavities to form.’

So by not giving your teeth a break between eating, the teeth are more susceptible to erosion and decay.

Another important factor in tackling tooth decay is by ensuring you maintain good oral health routines, such as brushing twice a day, flossing, and having regular visits to the dentist.

Dr Jethwa was surprised to read that one in three adults have never flossed.

He said: ‘By incorporating flossing into your daily routine you will reduce the build up of plaque on your teeth which leads to decay.’

GUM DISEASE

Research from the University of Birmingham found that a shocking 90 per cent of adults in the UK have some gum disease.

‘Gum disease is an extremely common condition affecting the gums,’ explains Dr Sam Jethwa.

‘There are three main types of gum disease; gingivitis which is an inflammation of tissue around your teeth.

‘If that isn’t treated it can lead to another type of gum disease called periodontitis which affects the bones and ligaments around the teeth.

‘The third type of gum disease is called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis and this is a serious type which develops more suddenly.’

The most common causes of gum disease is plaque building up around the teeth, which then causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed.

Aside from poor oral hygiene, other factors that can increase your chances of getting gum disease are smoking, pregnancy, and some medications and health conditions which cause the mouth to be dry.

HOW TO TREAT IT

Mild gum disease can be treated with improved oral health habits – for example brushing and flossing.

More advanced stages of the disease may require antibiotics or even surgery.

This is why it’s essential to maintain regular dental check-ups so that if you are starting to show signs of gum disease they can be identified and addressed early, says Dr Jethwa.

Source: Mail on Sunday

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