A million-dollar smile, literally
These days, young people seeking the proverbial winning smile before they start college and a new career comprise 50% of people visiting dentists.
Dental corrections, cavities and dentures, which provided dentists their bread and butter till some years ago, have been replaced by young people not shy of experimenting with various cosmetic procedures available to enhance their smile.
Whitening, reshaping, restoring and replacing teeth, which come under the label of prostheodontics and can actually burn a hole in one’s pocket as the cost runs up to several lakhs of rupees, are now more common than ever among students and young professionals, who are willing to splurge.
The moment children enter their teens these days, they become conscious of their appearance. “Nearly 50% of my outpatient department (OPD) patients enquiring about cosmetic dental procedures comprise students, who are just over 15 years of age. And they force their parents to pay. The earlier generation wasn’t this conscious, but the current one is very conscious
and aware,” said Dr Ajay Sharma, senior consultant, department of dentistry, Max Healthcare.
On an average, Sharma gets about 15 youngsters in a single OPD wanting to change the way their teeth look.
Last year, when jewellery designer Rajshree Solanki’s 17-year-old son started college, she was poorer by almost a lakh of rupees, of which R40,000 her son spent only on fixing his teeth.
Teeth whitening, dental crowning and dental fillings are the most commonly done cosmetic procedures in India.
“We eat more sticky food these days and less fibrous items. This causes permanent damage to the teeth. Add smoking, excessive tea or coffee consumption to it and you get stubborn stains on teeth that are hard to remove at home,” said Dr Mahesh Verma, principal of the Delhi government-run Maulana Azad Institute of Dental Sciences.
Teeth whitening, performed to reduce discolouration and staining till a few years ago, is now opted for to get whiter and brighter teeth. Whitening is done by bleaching the tooth, using chemicals, mild acids and even lasers.
The new-age dental crowns are metal-free ceramic crowns that can be matched exactly with the original colour of your teeth; even the dental fillings are ceramic in nature as mercury is no longer used because of environmental safety.
“The implants, caps and fillings we use are so sophisticated these days that one can hardly figure out that the teeth aren’t original,” said Verma.
Smile-designing, as the procedures are collectively called, is very popular during the marriage season, when dentists are approached by both brides and the grooms.
“November and December is usually the peak time when couples come to us for cosmetic procedures; many have even suggested that we create a comprehensive pre-bridal cosmetic dentistry package. We evaluate their dental structure and as per the requirement perform procedures such as bridging gaps between teeth, crowning and reconstructing jaw line,” said Dr Sharma.
Most of the cosmetic procedures are day-care procedures done under local anesthesia, where the person is discharged the same day. “A few surgeries like jaw reconstruction or gummy smile correction that require partly gum removal, require hospitalisation. However, all procedures are absolutely safe,” added Sharma.
How often should I see the dentist?
Most children and adults should see their dentist for a regular cleaning and check-up every six months.
People at a greater risk for oral diseases should have dental check-ups more than twice a year. This includes people who smoke or drink, are diabetics or pregnant, have poor oral hygiene or certain medical conditions.
How do I maintain good oral health?
Brush your teeth well for two-three minutes at least twice a day to properly remove plaque. Floss daily. Rinse your mouth twice a day with an antimicrobial mouth wash. Brush your tongue regularly to remove bacteria.
How can sensitive teeth be managed?
Pain from sensitive teeth often comes and goes, but if you experience constant pain, you may need intervention. There are many effective treatments for sensitive teeth that include using soft-bristle toothbrushes to prevent gum irritation, specific toothpaste that insulates the nerve that registers pain and fluoride mouth wash.
Is teeth whitening harmful?
No. Studies have shown that with normal or recommended use of whitening products, it is more or less safe.