Health is more than lip service

With cosmetic dentistry an increasingly popular option for patients wanting to improve their appearance, Nicola Kramer looks behind the treatment methods and discovers that good oral health is always the first step to aesthetic success


Living in an age where beauty is so revered, many people are turning to cosmetic dentistry in search of the perfect smile. But there is more to a winning outcome than white, straight teeth.

The truth is that good oral health is the foundation of any successful dental treatment, and an effective home-care regime between regular appointments with the dentist and dental hygienist is essential to supporting cosmetic dentistry. However, the British are notoriously bad at cleaning our teeth and a recent survey of the nation’s brushing habits, by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), showed that nearly half the population admitted to neglecting recurrently their tooth brushing.

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser of the British Dental Association, says: “It is not just a case of going along and having the treatment; the package should be continuing care and continuing to look after yourself.”

There are two diseases that dentists and hygienists worry about on a day-to-day basis – tooth decay and gum disease.

Failing to take care of your mouth will not only cause oral health problems, it will affect your whole body

Tooth decay is caused by oral bacteria turning sugar into acid, which attacks the teeth. Gum disease is the result of dental plaque, a home for millions of bacteria, being left in the mouth. Patients with gum disease often have no symptoms. However, gums bleeding during cleaning or mobile teeth are signs that there may be a significant problem.

Dr Matthew Perkins, a specialist periodontist and implant dentist, says: “Periodontitis or gum disease is common and now being linked to a range of other illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Thorough home care will help to prevent gum problems, but it is important to see your dentist or hygienist regularly.”

Cosmetic dentistry can look fabulous and give patients a real boost, but it is important that the teeth and gums are looked after properly. Regular care will ensure that patients’ new smiles will stay looking beautiful for longer and decrease the chances of problems in the future.

Dental experts advise some very simple steps to maintain your oral health, including brushing for at least two minutes a day with an electric toothbrush, interdental cleaning (flossing), using a mouthwash, and avoiding acidic and sugary foods which damage the teeth.

And if you need even more convincing, studies have shown that looking after you oral health can improve your general health too. Dr Nigel Carter, BDHF chief executive, comments: “People need to be aware that failing to take care of their mouth will not only cause oral health problems, like decayed teeth, gum disease and bad breath, it will affect their whole body. Brushing twice-a-day with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on sugary foods and drinks, and visiting the dentist regularly will reduce your chances of developing general health conditions as well as improving your smile.” Advice we can ill afford to ignore.