The healthy way to fix your smile
However good the effect, veneers are not naturalDr Peter Ilori
Dental veneers might offer a quick-fix Hollywood smile but braces are the safest and most technologically advanced way of improving your teeth without altering their healthiness.
You might be conscious of stained, chipped, crooked and worn teeth or you might have been unfortunate enough to have accumulated a mouth full of old unsightly fillings – no matter which boat you are in your ultimate quest would be to achieve a brilliant set of white straight teeth.
Oral health is defined by the World Health Organisation as “a standard of health of the oral and related tissues which enables an individual to eat, speak and socialise without active disease, discomfort or embarrassment and which contributes to general well-being”. It is important not to damage your teeth in the quest for straight and white.
Orthodontics is the speciality of dentistry which is concerned with the management of irregularities and abnormalities of the teeth, jaws and face. A specialist orthodontist is a qualified dentist who has had the requisite extensive additional training, therefore possesses the expertise to provide the most effective, efficient and safest way to give you your dream smile. In the UK many adults were denied opportunities to have their teeth straightened simply because of a lack of availability of orthodontics when they were children. Over the past few years orthodontic specialists have set up five star facilities in certain parts of the UK, improving the availability of their services to a wide range of the population – both children and adults.
Some dentists have promoted the placement of artificial materials over the surface of the teeth as an ‘instant solution’ for crooked teeth but there are drawbacks to this approach. In certain cases, if your teeth point inwards, a thicker veneer might have to be fitted to make them appear straight which might result in a less natural appearance.
In many cases veneers require the use of a dental drill to remove the surface of the teeth for a proper fit. Where the crowding of your teeth exceeds a few millimetres, excessive amounts of enamel might need to be removed – this is considered inappropriate by most conservative dentists. Orthodontics or braces, on the other hand, work by applying continuous forces to the teeth to change their position incrementally.
There is another good reason why many of us are now favouring orthodontics over veneers. “However good the effect, veneers are not natural,” says Dr Peter Ilori, of Octagon Orthodontics in High Wycombe. “British people don’t want a synthetic smile. With orthodontics, you get straight teeth that are aesthetically pleasing but they look natural and are 100% your own.” This quest for a natural look partly explains why more than 75% of orthodontists have reported an increase in adult patients over the past few years.
So what is responsible for this increase? Certainly, pictures of good-looking celebrities wearing braces have helped remove the stigma attached to orthodontics, but technological advances have boosted the figures, too. “Braces are more comfortable to wear, more discreet and more effective than ever. With time, we can straighten any teeth,” says Dr Ilori. “Orthodontics applies a three-dimensional force, so we can push teeth forwards and backwards, but we can also push them up and down. If there is general overcrowding and crooked teeth some teeth will be pushed back, some re-angled, and some pushed forwards or up and down until they are straight”, adds Dr Ilori. By pushing teeth back into the bone, orthodontics can reduce the effect of receding gums, too. Putting a downward force on short upper teeth can make them look longer by pulling them out of the bone.
‘Tombstone’ teeth which are large and protruding, can be pushed back and reduced in size by ‘interdental stripping’ – removing about 0.15mm of the enamel. A ‘narrow’ smile – one that shows gaps in the side of the mouth when you grin – can be widened by increasing the size of the roof of the mouth (the arch) by applying the force to push teeth outwards. Commonly known as smile widening.
In more severe cases, orthodontics can be combined with surgery to realign a protruding upper or lower jaw or correct ‘gummy smiles’. Often, however, problems can be treated with clear plastic removable braces called Invisalign, a thin mould that sits over the teeth like a mouth guard. It is aesthetically more pleasing and it can also be removed when the wearer wants to eat or clean their teeth.
Many Invisalign wearers are actors, TV presenters and models, who do not want anybody to know that they are having orthodontic work. Mild to moderate cases of misalignment can usually be fixed in 6 to 12 months, but more severe cases can require up to two years of treatment, with regular check-ups on a four to six week basis.
An unexpected side effect for many patients undergoing orthodontic treatment is weight loss! Many people lose weight because braces force you to eat more slowly. We wouldn’t want you to have braces for this reason alone!
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