From teeth whitening to receding gums, veneers to bad breath, we find out the definitive dental dos and don’ts from a tooth tech expert
What if we told you there was a way to turn back the clock without an anti-ageing cream or plastic surgeon’s scalpel in sight? Good skin starts with the right foundations and your teeth hold the key to giving your face the structure, tone and definition it needs to keep cosmetic procedures at bay for a little while longer.
“The shape of your face is determined by facial tissues and bone structure - which includes your teeth. As you age, the tissue in your face loses its elasticity and your teeth tend to move inwards which results in the top of your mouth starting to drop and your jaw appearing smaller,” comments Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at E11even Dental .
So what can we do now that will keep our smiles looking their best for longer? We asked Dr Patel for his advice and top tips to answer our queries about how to whiten our teeth, treat receding gums and achieve perfect teeth that still look like our own. It’s certainly given us something to smile about.
At-home vs in-clinic treatments
We’re still on the hunt for an at-home whitening toothpaste that really delivers, however they do provide a valuable first step. “A whitening toothpaste can provide a minimum amount of reversal to staining. However, the optimum treatments would be to try a pro tooth whitening programme with a dentist either in-house or at home,” recommends Dr Patel. “Always go to recognised professionals though and don’t get it done through hairdressers as their products are not vetted and could contain acids.”
Now more commonly and accurately referred to as ‘in-house whitening’ or ‘power-whitening,’ this can provide a more intensive correcting treatment for restoring your teeth back to their brightest. “It’s great for those who do not have time for at-home whitening,” says Dr Patel. “It’s more time-consuming when you're in the chair, but the results are better for those who are more time short. One product I would recommend is a German product called PrevDent. It has almost zero sensitivity and re-mineralises the teeth and whitens them in a double whammy. It’s very safe and they have a great focus on customer care. We’re one of the only clinics to offer it and everyone who gets it done is always blown away by the results.”
We all know that prevention is better than cure, so what can we do to keep our teeth as white as possible without the need for external intervention? “If you have tea, red wine or coffee, drink or rinse your mouth out with water afterwards. After drinking wine, this will help dilute the alcohol and reduce the tannin amounts within the mouth that can lead to staining,” advises Dr Patel. “Dark coloured foods are notorious for causing discolouration in the naturally white teeth enamel, ultimately making you look older,” he adds.
“Smoking is one of the biggest causes of teeth decay and discolouration. The nicotine and tar in the cigarette result in teeth darkening, losing their natural white,” warns Dr Patel. “Smoking can cause teeth to turn yellow over a very short period of time and years of smoking can even turn teeth brown. To stop this from happening, the answer is simple - stop smoking.”
Orthodontics should be your first port of call should you be looking for a straighter smile however, there are further options available if your teeth require further attention afterwards. “You can straighten your teeth in two main ways,” explains Dr Patel.
1. Using own teeth and putting them in the right place organically with orthodontics, provided your teeth are of good quality and not chipped, worn or discoloured.
“We’ll recommend that most patients who come to see us see an orthodontist first so that their teeth have the right structure, (much like a good building) and for the veneers to then be put on top. The end result lasts longer and it’s a lot more conservative to the tooth as well and is therefore of an increased health benefit.”
Step 1: Orthodontics
“More adults than ever before are having orthodontic treatments and they are a pain-free way to transform your entire face, not just your teeth,” comments Dr Patel. “When you have a brace, your teeth move to form a new shape. A brace lifts the mouth upwards, making the face look younger and firmer. This change in your face structure makes your eyes instantly open wider and the skin around your mouth looks tauter, making it a much cheaper alternative to a facelift! You will also notice that your cheekbones are much more prominent, your smile is wider and you have better facial symmetry, all making your face look more youthful.”
He adds, “With orthodontics, tooth restoration for proper positioning, width, and height can better support your facial structures and create a more youthful appearance. Orthodontic treatments can also elongate the face, creating the look of a stronger chin, which will reduce any signs of having a double chin; something of which is associated with ageing. Through orthodontics your chin may be reshaped to make it appear bigger (if receding) or smaller (if protruding) for a more balanced youthful appearance.”
The better of the two options should you be hoping to achieve a more organically straighter smile, what should you look for when it comes to finding a specialist? “I’d recommend that people ensure that they see an orthodontist, not someone who takes a special interest in orthodontics and doesn’t have the minimum three years’ postgraduate qualification to perform brace treatment.”
Step 2: Veneers
Should orthodontics alone not produce the results you require, veneers provide a more intensive add-on treatment and involves a thin layer of porcelain being fitted over the front surface of each tooth to create a more uniform finish. “If you need veneers, your orthodontist can recommend you either to someone they work with or to someone else for the final finish to make sure everything looks and feels right, working to make sure that the teeth flow.” Look to book in with an experienced aesthetic dentist to undertake this level of work.
Re-evaluate your dental regime
Just like never going to bed without taking your makeup off, forgetting to brush your teeth is one pre-morning and pre-bedtime ritual that we can’t afford to skip. We all know the basics (brush, floss and mouthwash), but what extra tips should we take on board to ensure that we get the most out of our toothbrush? “I would recommend brushing before breakfast to remove all bacteria before any acid activity starts and then last thing before bed at night,” advises Dr Patel.
“My top tip would be to always floss before you brush your teeth to loosen debris and to act as almost a pre-brush. I’d also really recommend a tongue scraper as 80% of the bacteria in our mouths can be found on the tongue which is largely responsible for causing bad breath. Use it twice a day after brushing for the optimum in a cleaning regime.”
Tools of the trade
Regarding the best products for keeping teeth looking and feeling their best at the beginning, middle and end of your day, the right toothpaste and mouthwash is key. “If you have a high tooth decay susceptibly, use a fluoride mouthwash after lunch for 30 seconds for an extra hit,” recommends Dr Patel. His top picks? Colgate Rinse Fluoriguard , £4.49 and any toothpaste that contains 1450ppm of fluoride in it.
Keep your individual character
Hollywood would have us believe that teeth should be akin to something like the keys of a piano. However, there’s something to said for maintaining the individual character of your pearly whites so that they look distinctly your own. “I would recommend seeing an experienced dentist who has sound experience in diagnosing the correct way to deal with your smile and specialises in everything - not just veneers or orthodontics. This will help you decide the best way to improve your smile,” advises Dr Patel.
Look at before and after pictures, do your homework and seek recommendations from those who’ve had dental work done before. “Everybody who comes in to see us won’t need an orthodontist or veneers, you need to have a fair and honest relationship with each other. Look for referrals of someone who has great teeth, recommended practitioners or a clinic that’s won lots of awards. The British Academy Of Cosmetic Dentistry is a good place to start.”