Emma Hill looks at the latest technologies, gadgets and smile enhancement techniques being pioneered in modern cosmetic dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry is more popular than ever and we are realising the value of investing in our smiles. A-listers like Kate Middleton and Emma Watson champion the natural look that consumers so desire, and the latest technological and treatment advances mean it is getting quicker and easier to achieve.
We have selected eight of the most cutting-edge dental advances for 2012
01 - The ultimate brace: SureSmile
The latest in smile makeover technology from the US, SureSmile uses three-dimensional imaging and robotic technology to help create a tailored invisible brace that moves teeth with digital precision, reducing treatment time and the number of appointments you will need. “Typical treatment time is 18 months to two years, this reduces time by 30 per cent or about six months”, says Anthony Lam, of Elleven Orthodontics.
An oral CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) scanner creates a 3D computer model of your teeth. The orthodontist can see how your teeth fit together from any angle and, using virtual simulation, can determine both the end result and the treatment plan. “The software works out the difference in co-ordinates between the crooked and the straight teeth, and feeds that to the robot,” says Dr Lam. The robots (based at SureSmile labs in Berlin and Dallas) then bend these wires to the dentist’s prescription. They are then slotted through your brace brackets, which can be positioned either behind (lingual braces) or in front of the teeth.
02 - The three-month smile programme: alignment, bleaching and bonding (ABB)
ABB is creating a buzz with both patients and experts for achieving a great smile fast. The combination of techniques is designed to improve the front section of your teeth over three to four months. It is a step on from using veneers or the original three-month “wonder brace”, to achieve a quick-fix smile. ABB is ideal for those who don’t want to commit to the 18-month, complete smile overhaul. “Not everyone needs it, a lot have crooked teeth at the front, so this is what suits them,” says Dr Zaki Kanaan, vice president of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) and an implantologist at The London Smile Clinic.
Either a fixed lingual brace or a removable Inman Aligner align the front six teeth (a procedure sometimes called Social 6) over two to three months. Next, teeth are bleached. And third, a silica resin composite is bonded along the tooth edge to improve its shape. Alternatively, a veneer may be used. By aligning teeth first, drilling to prepare for bonding or veneer is minimal, which is increasingly the trend among cosmetic dentists: the less invasive the better.
03 - The no-more-impressions scanner: iTero Scanner
The messy routine of taking an impression for Invisalign aligners and braces is uncomfortable for most. This state-of-the-art scanning system from the US takes away the need for this process. “The added advantage is that it can also be used to treat and plan crowns, veneers and implants,” says Dr Mark Hughes, of the Harley Street Dental Studio. “So if a patient has all these needs, you can use one imaging technology to plan all the work for a more integrated treatment.” This impression-taking technology is so new to the UK that it is only available at a small number of dental practices.
A hand-held scanning device is used to take photos of your teeth at all angles. These images are emailed to the technician, who will use the information, with instruction from your orthodontist, to make your Invisalign brace or crown.
04 - The super natural veneer: Emax
Traditionally, porcelain veneers were either strong but thick so looked opaque and unnatural or they were fine, so looked more natural but were weak so chipped easily. Emax is one of a new breed that bridges the gap. “Emax is a special, high-strength porcelain that also has excellent aesthetic properties,” says Dr Hughes. Because it’s durable, it can be made thinner, so the natural tooth requires less, if any, drilling or filing first.
Veneers cover the tooth surface and are generally applied to the front eight to improve colour and shape or straighten. Following your dentist’s prescription, a technician makes them and they are bonded onto your teeth in this case, with little or no drilling. However durable, it’s always worth discussing whether you need some tooth realignment first. “Veneers tend to last longer once the bite is looked after,” adds Dr Hughes. “For 50 per cent of those we do veneers for, we will do some orthodontic work first to increase longevity.”
05 - The innovative Japanese toothbrush technology: Soladey ionic toothbrush and Misoka toothbrush
These use ionic technology to clean teeth without the need for toothpaste. The latter uses nano-mineral coated bristles to keep teeth clean for 24 hours.
The Soladey toothbrush has a titanium rod along the neck of the brush, just below its bristles. When light shines on the rod negative ions are released, which react with the acid in your mouth to break down plaque. The brush is more expensive than traditional brushes, but its brush heads are replaceable. Bristles are tapered to help improve cleaning beneath the gum line. It has won recognition from the oral care industry, winning first price at the 2010 FDI World Dental Conference in Dubai. The newest version, not yet available in the UK, is the Soladey J3X and has an in-built solar panel for use where light levels are low. The Misoka toothbrush uses a nano-mineral coating, which not only cleans, but also leaves the teeth with a non-stick hydrophilic film.
06 - The hygienist’s flossing secret: Philips Sonicare AirFloss
Flossing sends most of us on a guilt trip – we know we should do it, but we just don’t get around to it. It’s fiddly and we forget. A new breed of hand-held gadgets, which are designed to blast air through gaps to force bacteria and plaque out, such as the Philips Sonicare AirFloss, are causing a stir.
With its breakthrough microburst technology, Sonicare AirFloss is designed to make flossing easier, while maximising plaque removal between teeth and ultimately improving gum health. It works by firing a microburst of air and water at 45 mph to remove plaque from between teeth and is proven to remove 99 per cent more plaque between teeth than brushing alone. AirFloss is easy to use and can clean between all teeth in just 60 seconds using only a teaspoon of water or mouthwash.
07 - The gadget that cuts brace-wearing time: Acceledent
This is a hand-held vibrating device said to cut the time you need to wear a brace by a third or by up to 50 per cent. The thinking stemmed from the premise that vibration improved bone density. Based on this, an orthodontist in Japan wondered whether the concept could be applied to tooth movement. Could micro-vibrations move teeth faster by stimulating surrounding bone tissue? The idea was confirmed and led to the development of Acceledent. A number of clinical trials back up its efficacy and reports from independent orthodontists are good.
It has a vibrating mouthpiece a bit like a retainer, which you slot between upper and lower teeth. It works for both aligners and braces, and needs to be used for 20 minutes a day. Its rechargeable dock has a timer, which records usage (so your dentist can check up on how diligent you’re being). It costs extra, but the argument is you are paying for a significant reduction in treatment time.
08 - The gadget that puts your own tooth back: K2ooth Re-Implanter
This new tool enables your dentist to put a knocked-out tooth back in position - on the spot. The idea is you leave the clinic with your own tooth intact, temporarily until your implant has healed ready for your replacement crown. The benefits are more than just cosmetic. “It also enables the implant to heal perfectly because you are using your original tooth, so the soft tissue around the tooth remains intact without any shrinkage,” says the BACD’s Dr Kanaan.
The implanting process is as normal – the tooth and root is removed from the gum and a titanium rod is implanted. The root is cut from your tooth, which is inserted into the device and carried back into its original position in the root socket, where it is glued onto the teeth on either side to hold it in place. You can then leave with your old tooth in place and no obvious false tooth until your return appointment.