By Charmaine Yabsley
Additional reporting by Michelle Bateman
Go on, tell us the tooth. Sorry, truth. How do you rate your smile on a scale of one to 10 (with 10 meaning you radiate confidence every time you crack a big beamer)? Not so good? It’s time to take a serious look. The state of your teeth doesn’t just affect your mental and physical health, it can even influence your career and relationships.
A whopping 99 per cent of people will notice a person’s teeth on the first meeting, a recent survey conducted by Galaxy Research on behalf of Invisalign Australia discovered. And a study by Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands found your smile has a notable impact on how others perceive you. The Dutch boffins found that if your teeth are straight and bright, you’re considered to be more attractive, intelligent, happy and successful. Excessive gums? People could think that you’re neurotic and have a low opinion of yourself. Grey, yellow or crooked teeth? Your chances of success – in the boardroom and bedroom – are, well, limited.
As we get older, our teeth will naturally become slightly crooked, more discoloured and stained. A recent study by the University of Illinois in the US found (to the horror of all orthodontically tortured teenagers) that braces don’t offer the lifetime guarantee of perfect whites that you may have been sold back in the day, with many adults discovering their teeth slowly shifting back to their original positions. Bummer.
“When teeth are orthodontically repositioned, they often do have a tendency to want to move back,” explains Dr Peter Alldritt, the chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee. “There is a memory in the jaw bone, which encourages the teeth to return to their original position, even after corrective braces.” Sadly, “If you had braces as a teenager and your teeth have shifted, then you’ll need to begin the whole procedure again,” Dr Alldritt adds. “Luckily, the [second] treatment time is much shorter, as your teeth will be unlikely to have dramatically moved.”
If this dental double whammy sounds like a lot, think of it as an anti-ageing strategy.
“White, straight teeth are associated with youth,” says Dr Fadi Yassmin, dental surgeon at Sydney’s Broadway Dental, NSW. “Many patients who have cosmetic treatment look as though they’ve had a facelift. And once you’re happy with your teeth, your facial muscles are relaxed.” You’re also more likely to bust out a big smile. WH stress less expert Dr Suzy Green agrees: “A grumpy face tends to repel people. And we’re more likely to smile if we have teeth we’re proud to show off. Research has shown that people who smile are more likely to receive smiles in return and are found to be more approachable.”
Read on for some simple fixes to common dental problems...
Why it happens You can thank your parents’ genes.
What can be done Invisalign are clear, virtually invisible aligners, similar to a mouth guard. “The aligners are redone every two weeks as your teeth slowly shift into position,” says Mark van Weelde, CEO of Invisalign.
“Treatment is, on average, around 12 to 14 months, compared to around 24 months for the old-fashioned braces.” After treatment, you’ll need to wear a retainer at night to ensure your teeth don’t return to a crooked state.
Braces are still a valid option – and they don’t necessarily result in a mouth full of silver-coloured metal. “Ceramic brackets and white nickel titanium wires are now the norm, even for fixed braces,” says Sydney dentist Dr Tijana Fisher. “These are just as subtle and ideal for correcting crooked or gappy teeth.”
Professor Laurence Walsh, the head of the School of Dentistry at the University of Queensland says, as an adult, it’s OK to try these gadgets. “As long as your teeth and gums are healthy and there’s no problem with the structure of the jaw, such as an overbite, then you can move these teeth around.”
How much will it cost? Orthodontic process using a plate costs from $4000 up to $8500.
Rebate? Some private health insurance will cover you, but sadly, Medicare won’t.
Why it happens You may have suffered a knock to your tooth as a child, experienced a tooth infection or be living a dissolute life of coffee, wine and (hopefully not) cigarettes. “anything that has lots of tannins, when left untreated, can stain the enamel of your tooth,” says Dr Alldritt.
What can be done “Firstly we do a professional clean to polish off the stains and examine the underlying colour of the tooth,” says dr fisher. Think of it like washing a stain out of your favourite white top: you add some whitening powder (aka a hydrogen peroxide gel) to pull out the stain. Afterwards, you’ll probably be advised to use an at-home whitening kit, made up of a silicone tray that has been custom-made for your mouth, and a special solution to help keep your teeth whiter than nicole kidman’s bum for up to two years. “if the tooth is still discoloured, we may apply a thin layer of resin or porcelain to the tooth to match it to the rest of the teeth,” Dr Fisher says.
Feeling sensitive? The ineo whitening system – available in Australia from January next year – might be a good option. It uses mild electrical charges, rather than the traditional UV light, to activate the peroxide gel. “I’ve already tested it on some sensitive patients and it’s a lot more gentle,” notes Dr Yassmin. “It’s also a lot quicker – you can get it done within an hour, as opposed to two hours.”
How much will it cost? Prices vary a bit, but a professionally fitted home whitening kit starts from around $450.
Rebate? It depends on your private health cover as Medicare doesn’t cover dental cleaning.
Why it happens Once again, your parents’ genes are the likely culprit. Thanks, guys...
What can be done Veneers, crowns or porcelain facings are a very popular way to rebuild the shape or close up any gaps in the teeth. “As long as they’re structurally aligned, then this is a good way to overhaul your teeth,” says Dr Alldritt. “This procedure is irreversible, so do make sure you’ve talked it through thoroughly with your dentist.” Your tooth, or teeth, will be drilled down to a smaller “stump, which the veneer is then attached to,” explains Dr Alldritt. “Another option – resin bonding – is more likely to be used to reshape a tooth or to fix discolouration, and often doesn’t require drilling.”
And believe it or not, some wannabe models are actually having fake gaps inserted into their front teeth in an effort to emulate the Jess Hart look. Oh please...
How much will it cost? From $800 per tooth.
Rebate? Some personal health insurance will cover your costs.
Why it happens “Excessive gums may be because of a thin upper jaw; the skeletal structure of the jaw; a genetic condition where the gums overgrow; a side effect of medicines such as those for epilepsy and seizure disorders; or inflammatory conditions of the body,” explains Professor Walsh.
What can be done Professor Walsh says he uses lasers to remove excessive gum tissues.
“We call it a smile lift procedure,” he explains. “The laser tunnels through to the bone to lift up the level of the gum, giving it a more balanced appearance.” Your gums may require stitches and can feel a little sore afterwards. Healing will take about two weeks and results will be complete within three to six months.
How much will it cost? It canvary, but one tooth usually costs between $400 and $600 dollars.
Rebate? It depends on the extent of surgery and overall cost.