Put your money where your mouth is

As a smile trig­gers happy hor­mones, Han­nah Coates dis­cov­ers the new tooth treat­ments worth grin­ning about…

Grazia (UK) - - Contents -

A pearly white glint bounc­ing off teeth is for­ever an in­di­ca­tion of health and beauty – just look at Meghan Markle. But new stats show that we’re not as will­ing to flash our smiles as much as we should: an over­whelm­ing 70% of us are self-con­scious of our teeth*, with 40% blam­ing image-based so­cial me­dia sites. And it makes sense, con­sid­er­ing we’re no longer just faced with Ju­lia Roberts’ heart-melt­ing grin when we choose to put on Not­ting Hill, but also, thanks to In­sta­gram, we’re con­tin­u­ally ex­posed to perma-white smiles. So, what can we do to en­hance what we have and soften the things we don’t like quite so much?

‘Gone are the days where we were happy to have in­va­sive treat­ments to achieve the per­fect smile,’ says Dr Ra­man Au­lakh of Bow Lane Den­tal. ‘Now it’s not about cut­ting teeth down and ad­ding a load of ve­neers, but rather a softer and more holis­tic ap­proach to teeth.’ Dr Na­dine Skipp from Aura Den­tal agrees. ‘It’s about tooth con­ser­va­tion.’ Keep­ing our teeth and gums strong and healthy is high on our smile agenda, while any changes we do make veer to­wards a clas­sic, nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance. Im­por­tantly, this way of look­ing holis­ti­cally at our mouths (and faces) means that we avoid knock­ing out the idio­syn­cratic qual­i­ties that make our smiles quintessen­tially us. 


Be­cause the whites of the eyes and teeth are at op­pos­ing ends of the face, if one changes colour ( in teeth’s case, yel­lows), the bal­ance is up­set and you’ll re­ally no­tice it. That’s why we thank our lucky stars for whiten­ing, prob­a­bly the quick­est way to im­prove your smile. And no, we’re not talk­ing about Ross Geller glow-in-the-dark lev­els of bright white. ‘ Whiten­ing should be used to give a nat­u­ral light beauty, not an opaque glow,’ says Dr Skipp. ‘A lot of that Hol­ly­wood bril­liant white is ve­neers.’

The best op­tion is at-home whiten­ing, us­ing plas­tic trays made from im­pres­sions taken of your mouth. To lighten teeth, a bleach­ing agent (ei­ther fast-act­ing hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide or car­bamide per­ox­ide, which takes a bit longer) needs to be present, and this comes in a gel that is dot­ted – by you – into the tray. Many peo­ple choose to whiten overnight, which used to be the only op­tion, but it takes longer for the chem­i­cal pro­cesses to oc­cur. Now, higher con­cen­tra­tions of hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide (Dr Skipp uses 6% for day – the max al­lowed un­der EU reg­u­la­tions) mean you need less tray time. ‘ The day kit only takes an hour, while night is more like four hours,’ she says, ‘and you get less sen­si­tiv­ity be­cause there’s less con­tact with the teeth.’ Ei­ther way, ex­pect to whiten daily for an av­er­age of two weeks to achieve the best re­sults. One of the best home kits on the mar­ket is Philips Zoom! in Day­white and Nite­white, from £59.95.

The right shade of white de­pends on your colour­ing. ‘Pale skins, blondes and red­heads can deal with much whiter teeth than dark hair and skin tones,’ says Dr Uchenna Okoye of Lon­don Smil­ing Clinic, while cos­metic den­tist Dr Rhona Eskan­der points out that, for a sub­tle look, it tends to be around seven shades lighter than your ex­ist­ing colour. The bleach­ing process only works on nat­u­ral teeth, so if you al­ready have ve­neers, crowns or fill­ings, don’t ex­pect them to change colour. ‘ You’ll also no­tice in­creased tooth sen­si­tiv­ity dur­ing the treat­ment,’ says Dr Skipp.

The other op­tion for brighter teeth is an in-clinic laser, which com­bines hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide gel with a laser to catal­yse the process. The re­sult? You get two weeks’ worth of at-home re­sults in un­der an hour. ‘ This is com­ple­mented with a tai­lored home whiten­ing sys­tem,’ says Dr Eskan­der. The key dif­fer­ence be­tween the two treat­ments isn’t the ef­fect, but the time and money spent – ex­pect to pay in the re­gion of £400-£600 for in-clinic whiten­ing.

Be­fore ei­ther, good tooth and gum health is essen­tial and most den­tists in­sist on a hy­gien­ist ap­point­ment pre-whiten­ing. ‘ While you’re whiten­ing and as much as pos­si­ble there­after, avoid tooth-stain­ing dark foods and drinks like curry, cof­fee, cola and red wine,’ says Dr Skipp. If you suf­fer the shakes with­out your cof­fee fix, try a glass straw, like Raw Straw’s green ones, £10 for four, which means the cof­fee doesn’t have to touch your teeth as you drink. And will whiten­ing tooth­pastes ac­tu­ally help? They can help shift sur­face stains but over-the-counter prod­ucts can only legally con­tain up to 0.1% hy­dro­gen per­ox­ide, so they won’t fun­da­men­tally change the colour of teeth.


How your mouth holds it­self mat­ters more than you might think. ‘ The per­fect smile is where you can see teeth equally from one side to the other, with just a hint of gum,’ says Dr Okoye. The shape, which re­lies heav­ily on the po­si­tion­ing of your teeth, also serves as a scaf­fold for the rest of the face. Un­for­tu­nately, the col­la­gen in gums de­grades as we age and teeth be­gin to tum­ble in­wards. Add gum dis­ease to the mix, which also ac­cel­er­ates col­la­gen degra­da­tion and loss of teeth, and you’ve got cheek­bones that don’t want to stay lifted. ‘ We can ad­dress this by us­ing braces to ex­pand the smile again,’ says Dr Okoye, who also uses im­plants to main­tain or re­in­force the arch of the smile where needed. In­visalign, a 

avoid tooth­stain­ing dark foods and drinks

plas­tic ‘tray’ sys­tem that grad­u­ally moves teeth ev­ery two weeks (at which point you re­ceive a new, dif­fer­ently-shaped tray) is one of the eas­i­est ways to do it, and no­tably is wire-free. ‘It al­lows you to take your brace on and off,’ says Dr Au­lakh, as well as be­ing vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble and as com­fort­able to wear as braces can be. ‘ You do have to wear it for 22 hours a day though.’ As with all braces, it doesn’t come cheap – you’re look­ing at £3,000-£5,000 de­pend­ing on the sever­ity of your prob­lem, who treats you and where in the coun­try you are.

Other op­tions in­clude lin­gual braces, which are also in­vis­i­ble but sit fixed on the back of teeth, ce­ramic braces that are clear ver­sions of the clas­sic train track, and then full-blown train tracks, which cost be­tween £2,000-£2,500.


Of course, your smile is far more than just teeth. ‘It’s as much about the amount of gum on show and how your lips an­i­mate around your teeth, as it is good teeth,’ says Dr Au­lakh. Over­brush­ing, gum dis­ease, stress and hor­monal is­sues all con­trib­ute to re­cessed gums and, as Dr Okoye points out, ‘ The less gum you have, the older you will look.’ When gums have re­cessed quite far as a re­sult of gum dis­ease or over­brush­ing, the re­sult is a black tri­an­gle near the base of the tooth that feels sen­si­tive, too. Fear not, for the ‘gum graft’ can cure all, and it isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. ‘It’s where you take tis­sue from an­other part of the mouth, like be­hind the mo­lar teeth, and trans­plant it to the re­cessed gum,’ says Dr Okoye. ‘It sounds grue­some but only takes one to two hours.’ On the pain barom­e­ter, it will feel sore (a bit like an ul­cer) for about 48 hours af­ter­wards.


Chips, ir­reg­u­lar­ity and gaps can make or break a smile. ‘Of­ten, af­ter teeth have been straight­ened, we hone in on lit­tle things we might not have no­ticed in the past,’ says Dr Au­lakh. Bond­ing in­volves stick­ing a putty-like ma­te­rial on to teeth to subtly re­store or mould their shape.


Ve­neers are be­hind most A-list smiles. They are porce­lain or resin caps that sit over teeth and make them look, well, per­fect. ‘ You have to cut a lot of the ex­ist­ing tooth to make them fit so they can be de­struc­tive to your nat­u­ral teeth,’ warns Dr Au­lakh.


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