Thursday, 07 June 2012

How to get an A-List smile

Invisible braces, bleaching, implants, veneers… it may not be cheap, but cosmetic dentistry is a transforming process, says Angela Epstein

Written by Angela Epstein
It's the must-have accessory of any self-respecting A-lister. But the dazzle of a Hollywood smile is usually less about inner happiness and more about the deft handiwork of a cosmetic dentist. And it's not just the stars who want this gleam. Having sparkling, toothpaste-white teeth can take years off your face and give a much-needed shot of self-esteem.

Indeed, a recent survey from the British Orthodontic Society found that 45 per cent of grown-ups are unhappy with their teeth, and one in five would consider having some sort of cosmetic treatment to fix their pearly whites.

But how should you go about it? Giving your mouth an overhaul can be a costly and uncomfortable business. And with so many treatments on offer, how can you know what's best for you?

The easiest way to revamp your smile is to have your teeth whitened. Professional bleaching is carried out in two ways: the first involves applying a whitening product to your teeth, with a specially made tray that fits into the mouth like a gumshield. This should remove stains and take teeth up to three shades lighter. However, buying your own kit should be avoided.

Over-the-counter kits contain only a small concentration of hydrogen peroxide, say the British Dental Health Foundation, which reduces the effectiveness of the product. 'Some also contain mild acids, while others are abrasive. Although these products are cheap, whitening is a complicated procedure and should only be carried out by a dentist after a thorough examination and assessment of your teeth,' says a spokesman.

If you want to go up to 10 shades lighter, then laser lightening is the way forward: a 30 per cent peroxide solution is applied to the teeth, after which a laser is shone on them to activate the chemical. 'Around five per cent of people complain of sensitivity with teeth whitening. And you also have to be meticulous about aftercare,' says Harley Street cosmetic dentist, Dr Simon Darfoor. 'For the first 24 hours you have to eat bland food, as teeth are porous, so anything like wine or coffee will stain.' The cost is around £450 for the laser treatment, and £250 for the tray treatment.

An alternative to bleaching is an Airflow surface polish, designed to blast away plaque and tooth-surface stains by shooting streams of sodium bicarbonate on to the surface of the tooth to remove plaque, which costs £85. Air abrasion, using aluminium oxide particles, can remove surface staining and costs from £175 per tooth, but Dr Darfoor limits surface stain removal to Airflow.

If teeth are crowded or misaligned, then one quick fix route to the perfect Hollywood smile is having veneers. These effectively fit over the teeth like false fingernails, hiding all manner of imperfections and giving your mouth the equivalent of a facelift. Veneers are made from porcelain or a composite, which is fast becoming a popular alternative to porcelain, and can usually be fitted in a single visit.

According to Dr Genevieve Keane of the Start Smiling Dental Practice, dentists would normally do a maximum of 10 of the top teeth and four of the bottom teeth. 'A decent veneer should cost between £800 or £1,000 per tooth,' she says. 'This includes lab costs. Any less and I'd suspect the dentist was cutting corners.' Veneers should last at least six years and possibly up to 10 years.

A new veneer product on the market is Zeneer, which contains zirconia, the material used to create fake diamonds. Invented in New York by Adrian Jurim – the man behind A-list smiles of stars such as Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta Jones (overleaf), it's described as 'groundbreaking' by Dr Mervyn Druian, co-founder of London Cosmetic Dentistry; he was the first dentist in the UK to introduce veneers (in the 1980s). 'I have not seen any veneer like this that matches its strength and durability, with its lifelike "finesse and delicacy",' he says.

So what if you have nice, pearly white gnashers but they lie in your mouth in a crooked heap? The answer may lie in braces. Forget childhood memories of unsightly train tracks strapped to your teeth. These days it's possible to get invisible braces.

Designed by computer, the patient is given a series of braces to wear that are changed every two weeks as the teeth gradually move. 'Patient compliance is important as they have to be worn 23 hours a day, and sometimes they can be uncomfortable,' explains cosmetic dentist Dr William Carter of Queensway Dental Practice in Darlington. 'And you have to wear a retainer at night after finishing treatment because the teeth can still move.'

Invisible braces will set you back around £2,000 or more. But if you can't be bothered with the fuss, there are lingual braces, which are fixed on the inside of the teeth, making them virtually invisible. They take between six months to two years to be effective, at a cost of around £5,000.

Our adult teeth, of course, are supposed to last us years, but what if you lose a tooth? Forget dentures in a glass, it's now possible to replace missing teeth using cosmetic dental implants. This involves placing a titanium rod into the jaw, which will then hold a replacement tooth or a bridge, says Dr Ashok Sethi, an oral surgeon and prosthodontist.

The procedure takes place under local anaesthetic or sedation, and involves four or five appointments. spanning months. Other companies that perform this service are For the first few months the implant lies under the gum and heals in a closed environment, after which the bridge or tooth is placed over it. It costs around £2,000 per tooth. Upkeep is very important as bacteria can cause bone loss, so regular hygienist appointments are also essential.

Whichever way you look at it, having any form of cosmetic dentistry will not be cheap. And there's no doubting that this field of medicine can offer some stunning transformations.

But do get the right advice from professionals and choose carefully. It pays to take your time before you put your money where your mouth is.



The smile council 020-7636 5676  020-7935 0080 0845-063 1188 020-7580 2294  02078370773 020-7722 1235  01642-554667 0800-012 2086 01277-353456




Top tips

  • Do your research: check the dentist is accredited with BACD (British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry) qualifications.
  • Ask to see the cosmetic dentist's 'before' and 'after' photographs of work carried out on other clients.
  • Manage your expectations – find out what you should expect from the treatment, and ask about potential side effects.
  • Don't be bullied into choosing your treatment. If a dentist seems over-enthusiastic, get a second opinion.
  • Have teeth whitening done by your dentist, rather than using an over-the-counter product, which could be less effective and may even damage your teeth.
  • If you are opting for veneers, make sure you visit a specialist. The dentist needs to be reasonably artistic as composite veneers are directly fitted on to the teeth by a bonding or sculpting method. They need to match the adjacent teeth, be symmetrical, and suit your face.
  • Find out what provisions the practice offers in case of emergency, and whether this would be handled over the phone or in person.

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