We are spending more money than ever before on achieving that perfect smile.
According to Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme, You and Yours, our desire for smile makeovers is being driven by the media and an urge to replicate the straight, white smiles of our celebrity heroes.
With an older generation keeping teeth longer and with money in their pockets to burn, the baby boomers are also joining social media-savvy generations X and Y in their search for photo-ready smiles.
Eddie Crouch is a dentist at Sherwood Dental Practice in Birmingham and Radio 4 heard from patient, Josephine Farrell, about her wish for straighter teeth.
And, although the orthodontic treatment was needed for medical reasons, she was also motivated by the need to improve her smile and boost her confidence having suffered huge embarrassment, thanks to her crooked and ‘sticking out’ teeth.
She says: ‘It affected my confidence greatly. There were family gatherings but I didn’t want to be part of that. I didn’t want to get caught in photographs.’
Avoiding family events and refusing to smile in photographs is a common problem for those of us with less-than-perfect teeth.
As Josephine explains: Your mouth is your focal point. People have to look at your mouth when they are talking to you and my teeth were sticking out and they were crooked – and I wasn’t confident enough.’
Many dental practices now offer invisible braces. With computer imagery to show you how your smile will improve, many of us know how we will look before we even begin treatments.
Invisible braces should set you back around £3K and dentist Eddie Crouch says it’s proving very popular, with his practice treating 150-200 patients a year.
He explains: ‘This type of cosmetic appliance is incredibly popular and a lot of people feel it is great value.’
And statistics suggest we are increasingly looking for new ways to improve our smile.
Since 2008, the number of electric toothbrushes sold has risen by three million and sales of teeth-whitening products have increased by 10% over the last four years, adding around £8 million to the market as we indulge our obsession with the perfect smile.
But the need to take care of our dental health is paramount if we want to keep our new, improved smile for a lifetime.
Dentist Aman Jheinga carries out a lot of cosmetic work and smile makeovers and, by doing so, improves his patients’ confidence in their smile.
However, he says: ‘I won’t take on any cosmetic dental work until I know the patient is motivated in looking after their oral health. They’ve got to realise that they have got to brush twice a day for two minutes and use floss.
‘I won’t do the work for them because it won’t last. As with any dentistry, it is about upkeep and maintenance and you’ve always got to maintain things and do your bit at home.’
The increase in demand may be fuelled in part by the celebrity-obsessed selfie generation but older patients are also asking for similar treatments.
He says: ‘I have some patients who are in their 50s and 60s. When they were growing up, the availability of orthodontic treatment wasn’t there and the types of appliances were not available. These people have always wanted straight teeth but have never had the opportunity and now later in life – especially if some people have got a little bit of disposable income – if they’ve always wanted treatment, they’re now having it.
Dentist Jamie Newlands is with the Berkeley clinic in Glasgow. He says they’ve seen double-digit growth in the demand for cosmetic work over the last few years.
‘For me, I think it has been driven by the media and online projection of images. The outcome patients expect has gone up.’
So, he is finding that people with a ‘not quite perfect’ smile but an aesthetically pleasing one are seeking cosmetic dental treatments to perfect it.
Quality of life
Damian Walmsley is Professor of Dentistry at the University of Birmingham and scientific adviser to the British Dental Association.
He says cosmetic dentistry is a worldwide growth area because people are keeping their teeth longer therefore, as they get older, they may get more disposable income, and wish to ensure not only their teeth, but also their whole health and wellbeing is good.
He comments: ‘Your quality of life is better. If you’ve got a nice smile, it’s important.
‘We’ve got better and better with our technology – we now know we can implant teeth, we’ve got better materials that really do match the colours of the teeth and they are improving all the time. But research is driving change even further. ‘
Although demand for expensive cosmetic work will only increase, there’s still much work to be done in basic dental care for a large slice of the population.
He concludes: ‘Don’t forget, we also have a really good NHS system that helps do the basics as well. We know that only 50% of the population go to see the dentist on a regular basis so there is still a lot of people we need to reach to do some good, overall dentistry with them as well as the high end cosmetics.’