THE DEMAND FOR COSMETIC DENTISTRY HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER. HILARY BODDIE TAKES AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT THE RISE IN TEETH TWEAKMENTS AND HOW THE NEW AGE OF HIGH-TECH DENTISTRY CAN HELP IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE AND EVEN BECOME YOUR NEWEST YOUTHFUL SECRET

Side by Side before and after dental veneers

These days, having some work done to help roll back the years is more about improving the look of your teeth and your smile than going under the knife. According to recent research, the demand for cosmetic dentistry, especially amongst those in their 50s, is on the rise. Last year, despite spending several months in lockdown, demand rose by 20%.

Staring at ourselves on screen for long periods of time has helped focus our attention on our appearance and, in particular, our teeth and smile. As a result of this ‘Zoom boom’, cosmetic dentists have never been busier. “Video calling or the ‘Zoom effect’ where we see ourselves talking and smiling on camera more than we did before, has had a huge impact,” says Dr Sam Jethwa from the British Academy of Cosmetic Surgeons (BACD). “We are definitely seeing more patients in their 50s and beyond who feel that there is no better time than now to achieve that smile they have always wanted. Having a confident smile can be life-changing.

”With the advancement in techniques and treatments available, it is now possible to straighten, lighten, reshape and repair teeth, completely rework your smile and even change the whole shape of your face.”

HOLDING BACK THE YEARS

Improving the look of your teeth can knock years off your age. “To provide a more youthful smile, we are aiming towards a brighter, more evenly shaped, less worn down and more vibrant smile,” says Dr Jethwa. Gone are the days of the brilliant whiter-than white smile, adopted by the Tom Cruises and Simon Cowells of the world.

These days, the trend is for a more natural ‘imperfectly perfect’ look. “Increasingly, people are seeking a natural result that doesn’t look obviously ‘done’,” says leading cosmetic dentist, Jacqueline Fergus from award winning dental practice Fergus & Glover, who have clinics in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

“They want people to notice that something is different, but don’t want it to be immediately obvious what has been done. “We are treating more adults with less invasive treatment options such as orthodontics and creating crowns and veneers that are custom designed with no metal cores, to create a more natural result.” So what’s available? Whether you’re looking to straighten crooked teeth, make them look whiter or unify their appearance, there’s a treatment out there for you. They include:

ORTHODONTICS

Orthodontic treatment helps straighten teeth or move them into a better position to improve their appearance and their effectiveness. It can also help look after the long-term health of your teeth, gums and jaw joints by spreading the biting pressure over all your teeth. If you don’t have room for all your teeth, you may need to have some taken out to make space.

Orthodontics involves the use of a brace, which move the teeth using gentle pressure over time. These braces can be removable or fixed. And they’ve come a long way since our schooldays!

INVISIBLE BRACES

A growing trend is for invisible braces — ‘aligners’ made out of tough, clear plastic that are used to straighten teeth.

You receive several sets of specially moulded, slightly different aligners, worn for two weeks before being replaced with the next one. They should be kept in for 22-23 hours a day for best results.

BITE CORRECTION

An incorrect bite occurs when the teeth do not meet together properly or are not in balance with the rest of the face, or if the teeth are lost and not replaced. If untreated, the face can ‘collapse’, causing the face to sag and the smile to droop.

An incorrect bite can also cause headaches and neck pain. Depending on the severity of the problem, treatment can be to have veneers, crowns or braces fitted.

DENTAL IMPLANTS

A dental implant is fast becoming a popular form of tooth replacement. It is inserted into the jawbone, replacing the missing tooth root, where it fuses with the bone until the implant is held firmly in place.

A crown or denture is then fitted to the top of the implant. Dental implants are very low maintenance and last for a long time. However, they involve a complicated procedure, take longer to complete and therefore can be very costly. They require healthy, strong bones that can support the implants, too. Your dentist will make a thorough assessment before recommending an implant.

VENEERS

According to The Dental Guide, few other procedures have the potential to completely transform the look of a person’s smile like porcelain veneers.

These are thin slices of custom-made porcelain that fit over the surface of your front teeth. They are a good way of treating teeth that are discoloured, to close gaps between front teeth or repairing chips and cracks. Porcelain veneers are highly stain resistant and if cared for properly can last for 20 years.

One of the biggest downsides to porcelain veneers is the hefty price tag. Alongside dental implants, they are one of the most expensive cosmetic dental procedures available.

More affordable alternatives include composite resin veneers and instant veneers — which are not custom-made but come in multiple shapes and shades

Close up of Invisalign - Bespoke Smile

CROWNS 

When a tooth is badly broken, badly decayed or heavily filled, it can be fitted with a crown to improve its appearance. A dental crown can also be used to protect a tooth after root canal treatment (where bacteria is removed from the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth).

To make a crown, the tooth is shaped under local anaesthetic and then an impression is taken using a rubber-like material. The impression is then sent away to a laboratory where the crown is made. The tooth is protected with a temporary crown until the real crown is ready to be fitted. Dental crowns usually last for at least five to 15 years, but tend to be more expensive than other direct tooth restorations. 

COSMETIC BONDING 

This is where tooth-coloured filling material is applied to teeth to change the colour, shape, alignment and general appearance. It can help make your teeth appear straighter, close gaps and correct imperfections in your smile and can provide a simple, quick, low-cost alternative to other more extensive treatments. Downsides include bonding can stain over time and they are not usually as durable or long-lasting as other options. 

GUM CONTOURING 

Gum contouring can help people who have a ‘gummy smile’ where too much of the gum shows or forms a crooked line across the mouth. A laser is used to trim away the excess gum and reshape it. As the laser seals up the gum at the same time as it strips it away, it doesn’t require stitches or long healing times. 

“Facial aesthetics is a rapidly growing sector.”

If you have made the commitment to get veneers, it is understandable you will want to keep them in the best possible.

TOOTH WHITENING

Tooth whitening can be a highly effective way of lightening the colour of your teeth and removing stains. Professional bleaching is the most common form of teeth whitening.

Your dentist will apply the product to your teeth using a specially made tray, which fits like a mouthguard. The active ingredient is usually hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide which, as it is broken down, allows oxygen to get into the enamel and the tooth colour is made lighter. Other whitening treatments include laser whitening or power whitening.

A lower cost alternative is to do the tooth whitening at home using the specifically made trays and gels provided by the dentist.

WHITE FILLINGS

Traditional fillings are made of silver amalgam but these days it is possible to have more natural looking fillings, which are closer to the colour of your natural teeth.

These types of fillings are made of a resin composite and do not contain the mercury used in amalgam fillings. White fillings may not handle the pressure of biting and chewing as well as silver fillings and their life expectancy can depend greatly on where they are in your mouth.

BOTOX AND BEYOND

Facial aesthetics — where dentists incorporate the use of Botox and dermal fillers to enhance the appearance of your smile — is a rapidly growing sector.

They can be used to add volume and definition to the lips; improve the signs of an ageing mouth area (including drooping, loss of volume, and lip lines extending above and below the lip border) and help improve face symmetry.

Dermal injectables can also be used to help correct gummy smiles by increasing volume in the lips. And although many wouldn’t consider their dentist as the first stop for aesthetics, this service is best carried out by a qualified and highly experienced cosmetic dentist.

Dentists are experts at dealing with injections to the facial area due to their extensive training in oral and maxillofacial muscles.

BOOST YOUR ORAL HEALTH

Having cosmetic treatment can do more than just improve the appearance of your teeth, it can benefit your oral health too.

“Orthodontic treatments can help the way teeth bite together and correct crooked and crowded teeth, making them easier to clean”, says Dr Nigel Carter, OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation (dentalhealth.org). “This actually makes it easier to avoid issues such as gum disease and tooth decay.”

AGE CONCERN

“As we age our teeth naturally become darker, so tooth whitening can be a good option,” says Jacqueline Fergus. “Also older people tend to show more lower teeth due to tooth wear.

Correcting this wear to change the balance of teeth on show can also help improve the appearance. Treatments such as orthodontics, smile makeovers, tooth whitening and dental implants can be especially beneficial as we grow older.”

HOW TO FIND A COSMETIC DENTIST

Choosing a dentist is a lot to do with trust but to help you with your decision you can: Make sure your dentist is registered with the General Dental Council (GDC).

For more specialist treatment you may require treatment from dental professionals with further specialist qualifications in restorative dentistry. Visit the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, bacd.com, to find your nearest registered cosmetic dentist. Ask around for recommendations and read reviews from real patients.