Why cosmetic dentistry is not always healthy
A little bit of cosmetic dentistry is nothing new among the showbiz stars.The pearlescent, day-glo delights of the average Hollywood smile have been with us for a while.
Yet when did it become de rigueur, even covetable, for celebrity teeth to become so downright huge? So white? Not to mention so uniform and unnatural-looking? We are now in the age of the molar ice cap, where great curves of snow-white plastic teeth are the order of the day.
This year, teeth have become over-bleached, over-laminated, oversized and have taken root over here.
The slavish pursuit of a kind of highly unnatural dental flawlessness is what everyone — from reality wannabe to WAG to movie star — seems to want. That might be a worthwhile dental aim — if the end results weren’t quite so extreme and freakish.
Any charming or natural little dental imperfections are bulldozed out, replaced by a barrage of crowns, caps, veneers — where they are literally laminated with porcelain or plastic covers — bleaches and holy molar bling.
“I’ll tell you what has happened. They asked for a Hollywood smile — but they got a Goodwood smile instead,” says dentist Harry Shiers, suggesting most of this crowd end up looking more like winners in the 3.15 handicap than elegant stars. And he should know.
Harry Shiers has run an eponymous Central London dental clinic for 15 years, where he specializes in aesthetic implant and reconstructive dentistry. Over time, his work has involved reconstructive dental surgery for those suffering from mouth cancer or who have, for example, been in car accidents. With his more day-to-day patients he performs the kind of cosmetic procedures that have indeed become popular with celebrities — but with one big difference.
“Of course, it is good to improve teeth and make them look better — but in a natural, not an unnatural way,” says Harry Shiers.
“My thing is to try to do cosmetic work that does not jump out at you.”
Many experts like him despair of a new generation of opportunistic dentists who set up flashy websites promising white-out Hollywood smiles to clients — even if the laminating procedure that produces them might not be advisable.
Yet so many people get swallowed up in celebrity culture — whether they are celebrities or not — and convince themselves that they need a particular look, that anyone with the most basic dental training can now find clients willing to pay for a royal flush of veneers.
The problem, some experts believe, is that as cosmetic dentistry becomes more extreme and more people want it done, it will lead to dental problems in the future.
For teeth are not designed for dentistry, intensive or otherwise. They are designed so that we can eat. Sometimes, with disease, dentists can do clever things. And sometimes dentists can do things minimally that are quite clever.
However, trying to impose a totally new appearance to teeth without harming them in some way is impossible. If you want to make them bigger or whiter or brighter you have to file some of the tooth away in order to accommodate the veneer you are sticking on.
As Harry Shiers says: “Underneath the hard stuff is living tissue. You can only drill a tooth so many times before you compromise its vitality. Eventually, they start breaking or cracking. You are asking them to do something they are not meant to do. And if you are being invasive, there might well be a price to pay later.”
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