By Megan Flemmit, photography by Freepik
You’re never fully dressed without a smile…
At least this is what Annie’s been telling us since the musical premiered on the West End in 1978. But for those with dental issues, a smile can sometimes come slower than your food at an overcrowded restaurant.
3M Oral Care Solutions Key Opinion Leader and vice-president of the South African Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry, Dr Jean van Lierop has seen patients lose their confidence over chipped, cracked and stained teeth. “They would smile with their hand in front of their mouths or have the proverbial ‘stiff upper lip’,” he says.
READ MORE: What Your Teeth Say About Your Health
Through aesthetic and cosmetic dental surgery, van Lierop improves the lives of patients by helping them smile with confidence. “We achieve this by not just doing quick fixes that fail after a few years, but making changes that’ll keep you smiling for years to come,” he explains.
Gina Beretta knows all too well how having dental issues can affect your confidence. She was born with hypodontia, a condition that causes congenitally missing teeth, in her case, her upper lateral incisors never developed. By the time Gina hit her pre-teens a large gap had formed between her two front teeth. Her parents took her to see an orthodontist, who took a panoramic x-ray of her jaw to see where all her teeth were positioned. It was here, where she learnt that her teeth were missing.
Being a kid with a gap in between her front teeth didn’t bother her at all. “People used to say it looked cute,” she says. After having braces to correct the positioning of her teeth, Gina struggled to annunciate certain words. “Eating [also] became a little awkward because I didn’t have a full set of teeth to bite with,” she admits. Thanks to the braces, she no longer had a gap between her front teeth. Unfortunately she now had gaps on either side of her front teeth. “The gaps were very noticeable,” she says. “People either used to stare at me, or ask me what happened to my teeth.” Going to high school made her even more self-aware. “School can be a social challenge and I started to feel really self-conscious.”
READ MORE: 5 Habits To Adopt For Healthier Teeth
At age 14, Gina’s braces were removed. After discussing her options with a dental specialist, it was decided that she should have a porcelain bridge inserted, to close the gaps in her mouth. A decision that she has never regretted. “It’s one of the best things my parents ever did for me. I think I would have really struggled with my appearance and self-confidence through high school and later on in life.”
While Gina was born with her condition, for many, the deterioration of our teeth is a result of our eating habits or bad oral hygiene. And just as Gina improved her smile, you can too. Van Lierop broke down three common procedures people often opt for:
This dental treatment can be used to restore teeth that are chipped, cracked, discoloured or badly aligned. The procedure involves applying multiple layers of a dental composite material that mimics the tooth’s structure onto the surface of the tooth. It is then sculpted into shape, contoured and polished until it is practically invisible. “Typically the material lasts for four to six years before it needs to be replaced.”
Cost: R1000 to R1700 per tooth worked on
Jean van Lierop says this is the easiest way to eliminate dental staining without causing damage to your teeth. “Patients can either opt to do this procedure at a dental practice or do it themselves at home. In-office whitening is probably much quicker and is very effective, but the home alternative is more attractive due to its lower cost.” Patients will experience gradual degree of deterioration through daily eating habits. Continuous use of whitening gels or whitening toothpaste will slow down the rate of deterioration.
Cost: Approximately R2500 to R4000 for home procedures, and approximately R 4000 to R 6000 for in the office.
Veneers are custom-designed shells of tooth-like ceramic material that bond directly to the front and top surfaces of your teeth. They can cover severe cases of worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment, gaps, chips and cracks. Veneers are thinner than full crowns and require little or no reshaping when bonded onto the tooth. They’re also virtually undetectable and take on the natural colour of the tooth. And the best part? Your daily coffee drinking and cigarette smoking habits won’t stain them. Veneers can last up to 15 years depending on how well you look after them.
Cost: Approximately R 8000 to 10 000 per tooth worked on
No matter what surgery you opt for, cosmetic dental surgery is a life changing exercise. “It is so fulfilling to see how a once shy person just bursts out of their shell after we have been able to give them their confidence back,” says van Lierop.
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