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Smile Makeovers


What is a smile makeover?

When you meet people for the first time, a smile helps to break the ice and make people warm to you; however most of us don’t have a perfect smile and there are sometimes things we would like to change.  A smile makeover involves one or more cosmetic dental procedures to improve the aesthetics of your smile. Which procedures are involved, and the level of perfection of desired result, is a very individual choice. 


What problems can be addressed in a smile makeover?

There are four key areas where your dentist can make improvements to your smile:

  • If you have stained or discoloured teeth, or are not happy with the colour of your teeth, they can be whitened or covered with dental veneers
  • If you have gaps between your teeth, minor crookedness or unevenness then dental veneers can be used to give your smile a more even look, or “invisible” braces used to correct the alignment of those teeth visible when you smile
  • If you have minor chips, abrasions, unevenly shaped or broken teeth then these can be corrected using cosmetic dental bonding materials or tooth re-contouring
  • If you have a gummy smile, this can be corrected by surgical or laser gum re-contouring


For more information see The Good Dentist Guides to Tooth Whitening, Dental Veneers and Orthodontics.


Your dentist may also be able to replace unsightly amalgam fillings with white fillings, and may offer facial rejuvenation procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers. CEREC is a particularly effective system to replace amalgam fillings quickly and efficiently (see The Good Dentist Guide to CEREC).


What procedures may be involved in a smile makeover?

Tooth whitening

Tooth whitening is an effective way of removing stains and discolouration from teeth, and lightening the natural colour of the teeth, through a bleaching process. The degree of whiteness achieved will vary from patient to patient and with the type of bleaching process chosen. 


Tooth whitening uses a peroxide-based bleaching gel of varying strength. The higher the concentration of peroxide in the gel, the more powerful it is and therefore the more effective at whitening the teeth; however the higher concentration also has greater potential to cause side effects such as tooth sensitivity and damage to the surrounding gum tissue and lips. Because of this, tooth whitening should always be carried out under the supervision of a dentist.


Nowadays most dental practices offer two types of whitening: 

  • In-surgery Laser Teeth Whitening for immediate results in less than one hour
  • Professional home whitening kits for more permanent results achieved gradually over 2-4 weeks


A combination of both offers the perfect solution to both immediate and long-term whitening needs.

There is more information in The Good Dentist Guide to Tooth Whitening.


Dental veneers

A dental veneer is a thin layer of tooth-coloured material, custom-made to fit over the front surface of a tooth for purely cosmetic reasons, to improve the appearance of the tooth. One or more veneers may be used in exactly the same way that one or more false fingernails may be used to improve the appearance of your hands.


Veneers may be made of porcelain, ceramic or composite materials which can be exactly colour-matched to your teeth. They are usually made by a dental laboratory based upon impressions and measurements taken by your dentist at your first visit; a second visit is then required to fit the veneers.  Alternatively they can be designed, made and fitted at your dental surgery during a single visit, using the computer-assisted CEREC system.


There is more information in The Good Dentist Guides to Dental Veneers and  CEREC.


Invisible braces

A number of systems of braces have been designed to correct relatively minor misalignments of the upper and lower front teeth, as quickly as possible, and to be as discreet as possible when worn. These include:


Invisalign: your dentist takes impressions of your teeth which are used as the basis for a computer-generated 3-D model. The computer then simulates the tooth movements required to move from this model to the desired end result and controls the fabrication of a series of clear transparent plastic aligners which fit closely over your teeth and cause these movements to occur little by little.  


The aligners are worn for at least 20 hours per day; after two weeks wearing the first aligner, teeth will move to the correct positions for you to switch to the second aligner, and so on through the sequence. 


The aligners are practically invisible and have the advantage that they can be removed to eat and clean your teeth.


Inman aligner: less discreet than the Invisalign aligners, the Inman aligner uses a coiled spring that sits behind the front teeth and provides a “pushing” force; and a metal bar across the front of your front teeth which provides a “pulling” force.  The two are fixed to a transparent plastic casing which fits over your teeth, and the metal components between them squeeze the teeth into the correct positions.


The aligner is worn for 16-20 hours per day and treatment times can be as short as several weeks.  It is removable for eating and teeth cleaning.


Six-Month Smiles: this system of braces is designed to straighten only those teeth which show when you smile, and uses clear brackets and tooth-coloured wires which are very much less noticeable than conventional braces.


‘Social Six’ Lingual braces: unlike conventional braces where the brackets and wires are fixed to the visible front surface of your teeth, lingual braces put all the metalwork on the inner surface of your teeth. As the wires are on the back of your teeth they can’t be seen. The brackets and wires are specially designed to be light, small and comfortable and not interfere with your speech. 


In all of these cases some form of retainer may be required to stop your teeth gradually moving away from their ideal, post-treatment positions. These retainers can be fixed in or removable.  If teeth are more seriously misaligned, these techniques may not be appropriate and your dentist will advise other types of braces or orthodontic treatment. For more information see The Good Dentist Guide to Orthodontics.


Cosmetic dental bonding

Dental bonding is the skilful and artistic use of the correct amount and colour of a mouldable composite material made from resin and a variety of fillers, to repair chipped and broken teeth, close gaps between teeth or reshape teeth. It is purely a cosmetic procedure suitable for small additions to your teeth as the material is not strong enough to cover large areas.


The tooth is thoroughly cleaned to remove any debris or tartar accumulation, then shaped or roughened by your dentist using a special tool. The surface of the tooth is then etched with a special phosphoric-acid-based gel, which provides a better surface for the composite to adhere to. Composite of a colour matching your natural teeth is then applied to the etched tooth surface and exposed to a special light source which causes the composite to harden and set. The composite is often applied to the tooth in several thin layers until the desired shape, translucency and texture is achieved. The final step involves polishing and buffing the composite to give the desired shape and smooth finish. 


Tooth re-contouring

If you are unhappy with the length or shape of your teeth, your dentist can remove very small amounts of tooth enamel and change the length or shape of the offending tooth and therefore improve the overall look and balance of your smile. 


Using sanding techniques or a diamond burr, your dentist will gently smooth out the imperfections, create neater, more aesthetic shapes, and improve your smile line; the treatment is painless and no anaesthetic is required as your dentist does not touch the sensitive parts of the teeth.


Because tooth re-contouring can be used to smooth out bumps, trim teeth that overlap and alter irregular shaped teeth, it means that it also removes many of the areas where food and plaque build up. Once these areas are gone, your teeth become much easier to keep clean.


Gum re-contouring

In some people the gums cover too much of the teeth (usually the front teeth) and this can leave the teeth looking too short; this can have a very negative effect on the self-confidence of people with such a “gummy smile” who may be reluctant to smile at all.


Gum contouring was originally done with a scalpel, however nowadays lasers are more often used to trim away the excessive gum overlying the teeth. This is done under local anaesthetic and is a quick and painless treatment. As well as cutting away at the gum, your dentist or gum specialist will also work to reshape the gum that is to remain in place. The healing process is relatively quick, but will be made faster if the laser device is used, as it seals the blood vessels during the procedure. Many cosmetic dentists have a soft tissue laser for this and other procedures.


Gum re-contouring is a permanent procedure as the gums do not normally grow back.


How much will my smile makeover cost?

This will depend on the level of perfection you wish to achieve and the number of procedures and teeth involved; your dentist will be able to advise on likely cost. It is advisable to get a written estimate and treatment plan before beginning any dental treatment.


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