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Forget designer handbags and fast cars, according to Malcolm Gladwell (author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”), the biggest indicator of social status is your smile. Whilst that might not come as a surprise for today’s “Millennials” it wasn’t actually that long ago that David Bowie and Martin Amis were publicly derided for becoming *too* obsessed with their teeth. A more recent development, however, has been the spread of cosmetic dentistry to Joe Public. More and more of us are investing in our teeth and rightly so, according to the New York based journalist. The writer behind ‘David and Goliath’ says teeth are becoming the new benchmark of inequality. In 2014 he told The Times, those with bad teeth are given a lower chance of success – because they are “denied” certain “entry-level” jobs.
Whether or not you find his views a positive indicator that we’re all taking more care of ourselves or a more depressing sign that the UK is set on copying it’s US cousins, the cost of such work is coming down. So to find out a little more we caught up with our friends at Glow Dental on Northcote Road: what’s available, how much it costs, the questions to ask and the results you can expect, we set all these questions to Dr Hooman Sanaty, Glow’s principal dentist.
Two options offer a simple, instant solution. For at-home whitening, there are moulded trays that you fill with gel which are worn for 30 minutes a day for couple of weeks to achieve the shade you want (from £275). For more sensitive teeth the Enlighten method, which also uses trays and gel (from £595), is recommended. Ultimately the results last the same and you can keep maintaining the shade as time goes on.
The most expensive method is laser tooth whitening, in which a hydrogen peroxide solution painted onto a patient’s teeth is subjected to a strong light that speeds up the lightening process. This procedure, taking between 15 minutes and one hour, claims to lighten teeth by up to 11 shades but can set you back more than £600. It can also be fairly painful for some people.
Very popular at the moment is Invisalign. You may think you don’t know anyone who has one, but that’s because they’re so subtle, I didn’t even know Hooman was wearing one until he told me halfway through our chat. Clear aligners gently move the teeth into the desired position. With new aligners every two weeks, this method promises minimal interference with speech and discomfort. It’s popular with all ages and can help with 80 per cent of cases, from realigning front teeth to changing bite to jaw discrepancies. There are different levels and treatment times but generally prices start from £2,000.
For orthodontics, you can choose from fixed (train tracks to you and me, from £3,600), lingual (on the inner surface, expect to pay £5,500) and removable plates (or retainers, from £1,200). Whilst us Brits tend to feel self-conscious about our braces, Hooman has just returned from a trip to Brazil where local people wear their braces with pride. “Fixed braces are common and wearers use coloured bands to draw attention to them. Their brace is like a status symbol – they can afford to get their teeth done and they’re proud of it. It would be great to see that happen here!”
Treating conditions such as an uneven smile, missing teeth, poor bite, gaps between the teeth, overcrowding, crooked and twisted teeth, poor jaw alignment and jaw disorders, fixed braces are suitable from when adult teeth have come through (but if you think there is a problem earlier, seek advice from your dentist).
A great long-term option that doesn’t compromise other teeth, dental implants are a fantastic, modern way to replace missing or damaged teeth. The procedure involves fixing a fine titanium screw into the jaw in the gap left by a missing tooth, and then attaching a new crown to it. The result is a perfectly natural looking tooth that will last much longer than a conventional dental bridge or dentures. These implants cause no damage to the adjacent teeth as is the case with a bridge, and no inflammation of the gums as may happen with a denture. A dental implant will also help retain bone in the jaw where the teeth have been lost. The placement of dental implants is usually carried out under local anaesthetic; however, if you feel particularly anxious dentists usually offer sedation. Be prepared to pay upwards of £2,500.
Due to the advances in materials and technique, composite bonding has become a popular way to achieve the perfect smile. As no cutting is involved it is painless, teeth are replicated well and layers are built up to ensure the new tooth looks the same shade and substance as the neighbouring ones. Available for all ages and anyone, this is a highly popular treatment, and affordable too – from £195 a tooth.
You only need to tune in to ‘The X Factor’ to see a perfect set of veneers, but as a treatment for the perfect smile, it is a quick fix. It involves shaving or cutting down a tooth and putting a porcelain or composite veneer on top to close up gaps, disguise crooked teeth, or give teeth a lighter appearance. Whilst there are cases when a veneer is the best option, many modern dentists promote a less-is-more approach, non-invasive approach and prefer methods that don’t involve damaging an otherwise healthy tooth. Expect to pay £750 or more per veneer.
Ultimately, to guard our teeth we need to consider the preventative measures we can take. Educating youngsters on the importance of dental care is crucial and it is never too young to start.
Finally, whichever dentist you visit, always come armed with questions. Here are some to get you started:
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