The truth behind the celebrity smile

When considering cosmetic dentistry, it pays to be prepared

As recently as a decade ago, cosmetic dentistry, like other elective cosmetic procedures, was the preserve of the wealthy. Today, such practices are presented almost as a basic human right rather than a lifestyle choice, with businesses promising miraculous results filling almost every Sunday supplement, tempting everyday folk with money to spare to ‘upgrade’ their look.

However, like any elective procedure, cosmetic dentistry should be approached with care and consideration, particularly as the desired results may require invasive, destructive or irreversible procedures.

It is not uncommon for the poorly informed patient, grasping a handful of pictures from glossy magazines, to create a ‘perfect vision’ of what may be achievable, without fully understanding the limitations and implications of cosmetic dentistry Once a patient chooses to go through with a cosmetic procedure, their expectations are understandably high and tolerance for failure considerably diminished if desires are not met.

Everybody’s an expert

In addition to the convincing photos and advertising copy, cosmetic dental practitioners themselves are largely to blame for creating such artificially high patient expectations.

In truth, cosmetic dental practice is part of every restorative dentist’s portfolio, with its roots in the traditional disease management role of dentistry, and there are many practitioners who avoid hype in favour of a culture of honesty, transparency and trust and creating a practical environment in which to carry out procedures.

All that glitters…

We’ve seen a trend in recent years for dental surgeries to look more like trendy bars or offices than places of medical practice.

While bright primary colours or soft lighting in a surgery may look appealing, cosmetic procedures that require accurate tooth colour-matching will be rendered impossible and a dentist’s ability to deliver accurate, high-quality results unnecessarily impeded.

Before you undergo any cosmetic dentistry procedure, such as tooth whitening, veneer or crown-fitting, ask to see the surgery where it will be performed. Unless there is daylight-equivalent lighting in association with neutral grey colours on the walls, floors, ceiling and cabinets, I would advise you to re-consider.

There are now more than 100 different tooth whitening agents on the market, each making spurious marketing claims about their efficacy. Independent research shows that, if used correctly, the results are largely on a par due to the high levels of peroxide in these dental surgery-only products.

Be prepared

  • Ask your dentist about any product or material they recommend – if it’s new, you may be the subject of an unauthorised clinical trial.
  • Is the surgery equipped with daylight equivalent lighting and are there primary colours that may influence shade or colour-matching?
  • If you’re having a crown or veneer fitted, have you been introduced to a dental ceramicist? If so, is their laboratory properly lit and coloured for accurate colour matching?
  • Does the dentist have appropriate postgraduate training in restorative dentistry in the specific field of cosmetic dentistry or are they a self promoting ‘cosmetic dentist’, ‘smile consultant’ or ‘facial rejuvenation’ expert? Associate membership of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry is simply a matter of paying an annual fee and not dependent upon any additional training but may represent purely an interest in the subject.
  • Have you been warned of all the risks of cosmetic treatment as well as the benefits, nothing lasts forever and no one volunteers to talk about their failures.
  • How long will the treatment last for and when will it need to be repeated?