Do you know your prosthodontist from your orthodontist? Cosmetic dentistry is a minefield of confusing terminology, best defined as the practice of aesthetic dental improvement and wholly unique to general or personal dentistry. In other words, making your teeth look great!
In an age where image precedes everything from your CV to your marriage status, cosmetic dentistry is a necessity that no self-respecting business professional can afford to ignore. Cosmetic dentistry refers to the collective practices of prosthodontics, orthodontics and dento-facial orthopedics – all studies relevant to the outward appearance (or oral aesthetic) as opposed to endodontics and periodontics which are geared to the prevention and treatment of oral decay and disease, as well as improving the functionality of the teeth.
Cosmetic dental enhancement is fast overtaking breast augmentation and lipoplasty (liposuction) as the most popular cosmetic treatment in the UK and the USA. However, it is still considered to be a “new” treatment. In the US, cosmetic dentistry is still not officially recognised as a speciality by the ADA (American Dental Association), while in the UK, the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry has only recently been launched to establish benchmarks of excellence for practicing specialists. In Europe, the European Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) stipulates the products and chemicals deemed safe for use in cosmetic practice and gives peace of mind for the many thousands contemplating a cosmetic dental enhancement or solution.
Cosmetic dentistry isn’t for everyone; in fact, should you happen upon a specialist who deems you an ideal candidate for veneers or crowns without a series of basic tests, it’s high chance the practitioner is only ‘in it for the money’. Despite ongoing efforts to regulate the cosmetic dentistry industry, a slew of mediocre and amateur practitioners still exist – albeit the majority within Central and Eastern Europe. Aesthetic dentistry is a specialist practice, usually offered by dentistry professionals expanding their horizons, rather than starting from scratch. Cosmetic enhancements, such as veneers, are largely unsuitable for candidates with teeth-grinding habits; a prominent overbite or a misaligned jaw, while crowns cannot be fitted if your teeth are extensively damaged, or if you’ve recently undergone a root canal.
Are you a registered NHS patient? One confounding rumour with very little sway suggests that NHS or State dentists are disinclined to continue the treatment of any patient whom seeks cosmetic dental surgery. Quite where this originated has been the subject of speculation, however it could have something to do with the rising number of former cosmetic dentistry patients seeking fixes for private surgery gone wrong. A significant majority of these candidates are individuals who travelled abroad for cheaper cosmetic treatment, thus subjecting themselves to considerably lower standards of practice and care. NHS and State dentists are relied upon to fix these (often hazardous) dental anomalies – services funded by the taxpayer. Its inevitable press interest should accompany this growing trend of botched cosmetic dentistry cases, leading to general speculation regarding the expertise of our home-grown cosmetic dentistry experts.
To counteract speculation, it is perhaps best to compare our cosmetic dentistry industry with that of augmentation and enhancement. An element of risk is attached to any cosmetic surgical procedure and more so if you entrust yourself to anyone purporting to be a ‘specialist’. Fortunately, few practitioners in the UK fall into the category of questionable expertise, however it’s largely down to you to whittle the good from the bad. Look for feedback, referrals and start-to-finish portfolios, in addition to examples of recognised certification, such as the BACD or AACD. That old adage “you get what you pay for” certainly rings true for any cosmetic enhancement – going cheap really isn’t worth the risk!