Query: When a toothpaste ad appears on your TV screen, do you change the channel simply because you’re surfing? Or are you trying to avoid dealing with the fact that you haven’t been to a dentist for ages and your teeth are not exactly camera-friendly when someone yells, ‘Say cheese!’?
With respect, chances are it’s the latter. Because, like many people, you’re afraid of dentists. “Most patients come to us only in an emergency and don’t realise the importance of visiting a dentist at least once in six months,” says Dr S P Aggarwal, director, Green Park Dental Institute, Delhi.
But yellow or uneven teeth can make you too embarrassed to smile. And do you really want to have to hide your teeth all the time?Teeth can get discoloured for many reasons, including bad brushing habits, smoking and chewing tobacco. But a great smile also depends on the evenness of your teeth – a gap between your front teeth, or broken teeth can also affect the way you smile.
“Problems caused by tobacco can be tackled at home with tooth bleaching kits, and teeth whitening strips, but for other problems, it is best to go to a good dentist,” says Dr Aggarwal.
Beyond a point though, you can’t turn yellow or stained teeth into sparklers all by yourself, so it makes sense to go to a professional. And you could be surprised by the number of solutions that exist to take care of problems you thought were beyond resolution. Here’s a look at some.
Bleaching: The removal of stains caused by tobacco or tea is the first step to a beautiful smile. Bleaching is considered the best option. “These days, laser bleaching can make the teeth at least 6-8 shades lighter,” says Dr Smriti Bouri, head of the department of dentistry at Max Healthcare. “The teeth are exposed to an intense UV light at intervals of 15-20 minutes to remove stains from their enamel.”
Bonding: “Bonding applies tooth-coloured plastic to the outside of the tooth, making imperfections invisible,” says Dr Bouri. “It can also close gaps between teeth, make the teeth look longer, or change the shape and colour of the teeth.”
Porcelain veneers: The front of a tooth is covered with a thin porcelain shell that protects it from discolouration.
“Veneers are also good for people who have gaps between their teeth but don’t want braces,” says Dr Gurpreet Singh, dental consultant at B L Kapur Hospital, Delhi. The procedure is quick and painless but getting the veneer fitted requires a few sittings.
Dental implants: These are widely used to replace teeth that are missing or in bad condition. “In the jawbone, we introduce an implant that acts like a natural tooth root,” says Dr Bouri. “Then its head is covered with a specially-made ceramic tooth.”
Tooth jewel: You can attach a small crystal or diamond to a tooth. “This is a fashion accessory that adds a sparkle to your smile,” says Dr Singh. “It is attached through bonding that requires a small procedure. And it can also be removed.