I've never liked my smile. I can sort of deal with it in real life, when I'm moving. I've seen my self smile on video and it's fine. But in pictures I resemble Chandler Bing in Friends, you know where he was posing for engagement pictures. I sort of figured I was stuck with a smile I didn't love until a few years back a friend of mine, who was having Invisalign, dropped the bombshell that it is possible to widen your smile (known in the business as arch expansion) for a more Julia Roberts-esque grin. Part of the issue I have is that my teeth don't seem to fill my smile, where teeth should reside I have two dark corridors either side. It's an odd thing to be hung up on, granted, but turns out it's a thing and I'm not alone. What's more is that if you're not happy about your smile and feel self conscious it can really affect your confidence, I know it has affected mine in the past. For any fans of the comedian James Acaster, he has a funny sketch in one of his stand up shows about that question you often see on forms you fill out in dentist offices, "on a scale of 1-10, how happy are you with your smile?" When you think about it, that's a strange question but if you're not happy with yours it is one that really resonates.
Now, when it comes to good teeth we all know about whitening and braces, but what else is involved when it comes to getting the perfect smile? If I didn't know about arch expansion, what else is out there that we non-dentist folk don't know about? I spoke to cosmetic dentist Dr Rhona Eskander (drrhonaeskander.com) and, as it turns out, there is quite a lot that dentists can do these days to transform your smile (and even your face). Below Dr. Eskander talks veneers and why these days they don't deserve the bad rap they've got, how laser can cure a gummy smile and the anti-ageing benefits of widening your teeth.
"The main bulk of my work is Invisalign," Dr. Eskander tells me. "It’s been around for ages but basically it’s the only clear aligner that I’ll trust. It’s a series of plastic trays, you can wear them on and off for 22 hours a day. But straightening your teeth is only one part of the puzzle," she adds.
Of course, each case is different and what works for one person won't work for another which is why having a consultation with a cosmetic dentist like Dr. Eskander to chat through the options is always best. However the information below will hopefully open your eyes to teeth tweakments - beyond just straightening and whitening - that you many not have known were ever possible...
Cosmetic Bonding for Straighter, Neater Teeth
"Cosmetic Bonding is where white filler is added to the [bottom] edges of the teeth. It doesn't involve any drilling and it makes the edges look straighter. Bonding has become really popular, a lot of bloggers and celebrities are getting it done because people have moved away from that fake Hollywood smile. They want it to look natural. But what people need to understand is that veneers aren’t bad either if they’re done in the right circumstances.
"Bonding is prone to chipping and staining, it involves constant maintenance. It’s like getting your highlights done or your Shellac done, it has to become part of your beauty maintenance regime. And the maintenance of bonding depends on your habits – if you drink coffee, tea, red wine, crusty bread then you may need maintenance more regularly," says Dr. Eskander.
Veneers for a Whiter, Straighter Smile
"Porcelain veneers are more durable [than Cosmetic Bonding] and are more expensive. It also requires more destruction of the teeth’s surface. If your teeth are fairly straight to begin with the destruction to the teeth surface isn’t that much. What I find is that people have come in for bonding and then upgrade to porcelain veneers which only need to be replaced every 5-10 years. If you have already rubbed off the enamel [due to overzealous brushing and at-home whitening], veneers are a good choice.
"There is a stigma against veneers. With veneers you don’t necessarily need to have your teeth chiselled down into stumps. It's worth knowing that if your teeth are massively crooked, you might not want to get porcelain veneers. If a tooth is crooked and you are sticking something on top of it, you’re only accentuating the crookedness, that’s when you have to cut [the teeth down], because you have to get it down to a size where, when you stick something on it, it looks straight," explains Dr Eskander.
Botox and Laser for a Gummy Smile
There are a couple of ways to treat a gummy smile. "Botox injected either side of the nose inactivates the muscles, so when you smile your pull isn’t as high and so you don't reveal as much of the gum. This is only temporary and will need to be done every 3-6 months.
"A longer-term option is a cosmetic gum lift, Depending on the distance between the gum and the bone you can cut off a little bit of the gum with a laser. It quarterises as soon as it’s done so there is no bleeding, which patients love as they don’t have all that trauma. With this procedure, you need to go to someone skilled. We check the gum and the bone and what is known as the biological width, which is the distance that’s safe to cut. Go beyond that and that’s when you can cause trauma and damage. The gum may rebound a little bit, so you may need to get it done again but it's definitely a longer-term option compared with Botox," says Dr. Eskander.
Invisalign for Anti-Ageing (yes, really)
"People are noticing the anti-ageing effects of teeth, especially as knock-on effect of expanding your smile with arch expansion. If when you smile you notice two black corridors either side of your teeth, by widening your teeth you can soften the appearance of the nasolabial folds known as smile lines," says Dr. Eskander.