Sink your teeth into this

Last Updated 22 January 2010, 10:51 IST

A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks,” said Charles Gordy. That was once upon a time. Today, however, coupled with the fact that you can cosmetically change your smile, the cost factor may or may not blow a hole in your savings!

People are increasingly opting for smile correction via orthodontic treatments and, in some cases, even surgery. The popularity of this trend is mainly due to increased awareness due to media exposure in the form of beauty pageants and television shows. Awareness of both the availability of such treatment and the effect of its results attract large crowds to cosmetic dentistry.  

What is smile correction?

Dr Beena Roopak of Braces & Faces says, “A smile involves the relationship between three primary components — the teeth, the lip framework and the gingival scaffold (gums). Any disharmony among these components can be detrimental to one’s smile. Any correction done to enhance one’s smile constitutes cosmetic dental surgery or smile correction.”

So, what does smile correction entail? “In layman’s terms it involves dental treatment and lip correction. The process involves lip reduction or lip augmentation with skin grafts and fillers and fat injections to increase the size,” says Dr Anup Dhir, Secretary of the Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Delhi.

“A beautiful smile can boost an individual’s self-confidence, self-esteem and personal relationships. In the era of advanced dentistry one can now get the smile that they have always dreamt of having,” says a  spokesperson from Narayana Hrudayalaya Dental Operations, Bangalore.

Cosmetic dental surgery is a very individual and need-based procedure.  It is definitely a very meticulous, skilled and planned procedure. The standard recommended cosmetic dental procedures are tooth coloured composite fillings, veneers, crowns, teeth alignment (orthodontics), teeth whitening, dental implants, gums depigmentation and non-surgical face lift.

“Orthognathic surgeries are usually done to change bone structuring while the orthomorphic surgeries work on changing soft tissues so that your face gets more balance,” explains Dr Nishanth Kuttappa, Director, Smile Care Center Dental Clinic.
Usually procedures done would be ceramic and/or composite veneers, crowns and bridges, and simple orthodontics among other procedures. Veneers are specifically designed to improve the appearance of teeth individually and also improve the overall smile. At times surgical correction of gums is also needed, especially in gummy smiles, where there is excess display of gingiva or gums. The gingival level is brought back to optimum. Many times the procedure could be as simple as bleaching of teeth to improve the appearance. The common procedure known as composite veneer has a thin layer of composite bonded on to the tooth to modify the shape/ size of the tooth.

“The procedure involves cutting a thin top layer of the tooth, applying a bonding agent, and then applying dental composite materials in thin layers to recreate an aesthetic smile. Once the composite is built up, it is polished to achieve a fine finish and natural tooth-like appearance. With advancements in nano-technology composite materials are now very strong, aesthetic and highly polishable. Due to the filler being very small the composite polish is retained for a long time,” explains Dr S Madhava Murthy, Regional Professional Service Manager, Asia Region, 3M ESPE.
 Dr Prafulla Thumati, dental surgeon, adds: “Earlier, ceramics used to be metal fused. They were opaque (dark) but now we have procera, which are metal-free ceramics  that are scientifically more superior to other options. Procera crowns or laminates give the best aesthetic results that are long lasting.”

Safety before beauty

Generally, cosmetic dental procedures are minimally invasive and, as a result, are considered safe. Jaw surgeries are done under general anaesthesia and require admission in hospital for 3-4 days.

“The only risk that I can cite is the selection of a right cosmetic dental surgeon as this is not only a science but also an art. One must look into the operating dentist’s qualifications. Individuals needing marginal correction must be very careful in making decisions for treatment and while choosing a dental surgeon,” says the spokesperson from Narayana Hrudayalaya Dental Operations, Bangalore. 

Direct composite veneers are safe and kind to the teeth. As there is only minimal tooth preparation involved, there is minimal risk of damage to the teeth.  Potential risks, which are  rare, could be that the tooth becomes extra sensitive to hot or cold foods.

Bleaching is a non-invasive procedure, but occasional sensitivity to cold is experienced. This is easily treated and the sensitivity disappears soon.
Dr C V Mohan of Dental Care and Research Center says, “Teeth are tough to correct as they resemble diamonds in many aspects. The correction must be precise. Most correction techniques call for  years of solid experience by the practitioner.” He also cautions that for complex treatments the recovery time for the patient could range anywhere from 3 to 6 months.

Wallet factor

The cost for such procedures largely depends on the level of correction desired and the existing deformity.  While simple procedures start upwards of Rs 3,000, some extensive cases like jaw alignment may go upto Rs 1 lakh.

The actual cost depends on factors like the severity of the clinical situation, the length of treatment, quality of materials used and the standard of the supporting dental laboratory. However, a smile is something that everyone is blessed with, so go ahead and smile.

(Published 22 January 2010, 10:40 IST)

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