In this modern world of the ‘hollywood smile’ people are addicted to manicuring their teeth almost as often as their nails and only the whitest, straightest, most perfectly shaped ones will do. However, unlike nails, teeth sadly do not regrow and, once shaped, there is no going back.
The concept of tooth preservation offers a little clue as to why some of the most highly respected and eminent dentists in the field would rather have glaring gold crowns than tooth-coloured ones. Even more surprisingly, they would run a mile at the thought of veneers to give them the ‘perfect’ smile.
This does not mean that cosmetic dentistry should be associated with negative connotations. We are lucky to benefit from fantastic advances in dental materials, which now allow the modern dentist to transform into an artist as well as a healthcare provider. However, it is also important for patients to understand the sacrifices that are sometimes required to achieve perfection and the possible consequences associated with cosmetic dental procedures.
The 4 main ways to improve the visual appearance of teeth without actually moving them are crowns (caps), veneers, white filling materials and teeth whitening. In this article, I would like to take you on a whistle stop tour through these treatment options and give you some tips about how to decide which one is right for you.
Crowns – The most destructive of all my options are crowns (caps) which require the tooth to be shaped into an upside down plant pot so that they can fit onto the tooth. This means significant healthy tooth tissue has to be removed so the specific shape can be achieved. Crowns have an important role in preventing teeth from breaking, particularly when they have been weakened by decay or a root canal treatment. In these cases, the negative effects of loosing more tooth from the shaping process are often outweighed by the advantage of making the tooth stronger against biting forces. However, when crowns are done purely for aesthetic purposes that balance is shifted and begs the question whether the sacrifice of loosing more of your tooth is worth it when other less destructive options are available to improve their appearance. Going back to my initial statement that dentists may have a gold crown instead of a pretty white one links back to this idea of preserving healthy tooth. Dentists love every single tiny micro millimetre of enamel and want to keep it at all costs because it helps teeth survive long term. A lot less tooth has to be removed to shape the tooth for a gold crown than a white one. Again, it does not mean that all white caps are bad for the long term health of teeth, it is just something that needs to be considered when choosing which crown to have.
Veneers – Veneers are like false nails which are placed on the top of the teeth to slightly re-shape them and improve the colour. These require only a small amount of healthy tooth to be removed compared to a crown but still the top surface of the tooth needs to be shaved off otherwise the veneers will look bulky and unnatural. Veneers can look fantastic and are often a great way to improve your smile but they should only be done in a clean, healthy mouth with no decay or gum disease and by someone who is experienced in aesthetic treatment. It can also be a very pricey option but often it is is best to spend a little more and get a well qualified, experienced practitioner who can treat you carefully and ethically and will do the treatment as part of a well thought through treatment plan.
Composite – White filling material is called composite and it can often be added to the front teeth to reshape them and improve the smile. Some dentists are truly gifted at working with this material and create wonderful results by removing almost none of your natural tooth. The only disadvantage is that often it will not last as long as veneers and so will need to be replaced, causing additional hassle and expense.
Teeth Whitening – The final option that I want to discuss is teeth whitening which always makes a dramatic improvement to appearance of the smile and the best part is that the teeth are not damaged in any way whatsoever. It has its limitations because it will not change the shape or position of the teeth but by improving the colour, the smile immediately looks fresher and more aesthetically appealing. Teeth will always look natural with bleaching and will never look ‘simon Cowell’ white because his teeth are veneers made in such a white shade that they look false. In recent years, the only way to successfully whiten your teeth is for your dentist to make personalised whitening moulds which are filled with bleach and worn overnight. The best whitening system on the market at the moment is Enlighten which is the only system in the world to guarantee shade B1, the whitest natural shade. With this system you do two weeks of home whitening with very good quality bleach and then have an hour long ‘power boost’ with the dentist at the end with strong accelerator bleach. It is lovely to watch the teeth transform day by day and be reassured that the teeth are staying healthy and strong in the process.
Overall I hope that this article has given you a little insight into the wonderful and complex world of cosmetic dentistry and helped you appreciate both the amazing possibilities it has to offer as well as its downfalls. Ultimately, a beautiful smile should be aesthetic and confidence-building but above all be healthy and there to stay.
Dr Imogen is a fully practicing dentist at the prestigious Guys and St Thomas hospital and also runs a successful facial aesthetics company, White Swan Aesthetics. White Swan Aesthetics offers non-surgical procedures including Botox, dermal fillers and teeth whitening by doctors and dentists in beauty clinics across London and the Home Counties.
Imogen and the Lifestyle Library both believe in empowering people to make informed and safe choices about cosmetic enhancements. Clients deserve to feel safe in the knowledge that they are getting the best products on the market by highly skilled and caring practitioners.
Please feel free to contact Dr Imogen with any questions or to book in to see her for a free consultation.