I figured the reason I hadn’t ever heard of teeth contouring was due to me having pretty good teeth and never needing anything other than an annual checkup with my dentist and the occasional additional hygienist clean. However, when I met Dr Sahil Patel at the Marylebone Smile Clinic he confirmed that teeth contouring doesn’t have the exposure that it perhaps deserves considering how much more affordable and effective it is at transforming the shape and look of teeth compared to other options.
“Teeth contouring is one of the few procedures in dentistry that doesn’t require any maintenance. It’s permanent but it’s not as impactful, takes less time and reshapes the teeth without doing anything too comprehensive like composite bonding or veneers. Both of which are more widely known but are more expensive, more timely and come with a life span so involve more long-term maintenance,” he explains.
So, for someone who has good teeth, (I'm a bit obsessed about cleaning teeth correctly) I'm sure you may be asking what led me to be sitting in Dr Patel’s very calm and tranquil London clinic for teeth contouring. After the birth of my second child, I noticed two of my bottom teeth had moved towards each other. And then a few months ago I bit down on a fork rather aggressively and a minuscule bit of my tooth chipped off. I put both down to getting older, which (annoyingly) Dr Patel confirmed and that ‘drifting’, as it’s known in the dentistry world, is very common. As we get older, our jaws shift making our teeth change position and generally drift towards the centre of the mouth so that teeth that once were straight become crooked. Thankfully I was in the right place to get it sorted. And sorted it needed to be.
I’ve never been particularly self-conscious, but in the past year, these two crooked teeth have been all I see when looking in a mirror or at myself in photos. I had even adopted a new smile that didn’t involve me opening my mouth so they weren’t on show. I heard about teeth contouring through another beauty journalist a few months ago. She told me how teeth contouring was great at providing a modest level of transformation, was relatively affordable, especially compared to most other dental procedures, super speedy, only involved one appointment and zero aftercare. I booked my appointment immediately.
“Teeth contouring keeps the teeth in the same position but reshapes the edges and the outsides to make them look as good as they can - without doing anything too comprehensive,” explains Dr Patel. And it’s so-called because it uses the same concept as contouring in makeup (side note: if you want to know how to contour like a pro, we've got you covered). By changing the shape of the teeth, the light can bounce off them better and this can also help them appear a different shape. “Sometimes people’s teeth are too wide so by doing some teeth contouring we’ve adjusted the way the light bounces off to make it appear optically less wide,” says Dr Patel. In my case, Dr Patel felt that my six front and bottom teeth could do with some smoothing out so that they looked more level and that he could reshape the sides of my crooked teeth to make them appear straighter.
Teeth contouring is done using a medical-grade file designed for teeth. Dr Patel shows me the small, circular pads that are attached to a handle and it’s these little pads that do the hard work (along with Dr Patel’s expertise). The tool is flexible so it can be used to contour all sides and angles and the pads come in three different grains to file more or less away and they burn out quickly, which is important. “Because the pads burn out quite quickly it makes teeth contouring very safe because it limits how much you can do but teeth contouring is only ever going to be as good as the person doing it so it’s important that people find reputable dentists who have lots of experience in this procedure.”
The teeth have to be completely dry when they are filed so you can see how the light truly bounces off them. So as well as the filing tool, Dr Patel’s dental assistant was using ‘the sucker’ to remove any saliva from my mouth.
Dr Patel teams teeth contouring with stain blasting, a high-pressure clean that removes discolouration. It is done before the teeth contouring and takes about 10 minutes. There is also a 14-day at-home teeth whitening system with bespoke gum shields that he moulds to fit at the beginning of the appointment and magically are ready once we’re done. This is all part of his own treatment package called the ‘Mini Smile Makeover’, designed because he found that it was the combination of these three dental treatments that gave a lot of his patients the results they wanted in a lot less time, lower cost and zero trauma.
“The best candidates for teeth contouring are people that have had very little done to their teeth. I see a lot of young people whose teeth are a bit crowded or stained, teeth contouring can help make them look straighter. I also see lots of people who over the years have experienced chips on their teeth but have never had anything done about it and contouring is perfect for that,” Dr Patel explains. If you have already had a lot of dental work done, like veneers or bonding, then teeth contouring is a hard no, mainly because it’s really not going to have any impact.
The short answer is, no. The filing itself feels like very minor vibrations - I actually think my electric toothbrush is more aggressive. I was worried that the sound of it (I had heavy drilling in my mind beforehand) might be off-putting, but there was just a bit of whirring. The only thing I didn’t expect was a very faint smell that’s a bit reminiscent of burnt hair and is due to the file vibrating so quickly. But as the teeth contouring part of the treatment is done in less than 10 minutes it didn’t bother me at all. There is zero pain relief required and for three days after my teeth were a little bit more sensitive than usual but that went away.
As you can see from my before and after pictures Dr Patel smoothed out my top and bottom teeth. My teeth also look straighter even though they haven’t changed position, thanks to him contouring down the sides of them and I think it’s this that shows the power of what teeth contouring can do. I also can’t stress enough how little time this took. The time of the stain-blasting and contouring took about 20 minutes. In all my years of trying out treatments for my job, I have never experienced such an amazing result in such little time. I also have to talk about how I felt inside. I almost didn’t realise how much my two crooked teeth had bothered me until they didn’t look crooked anymore. I felt like skipping down the road afterwards and my standard smile has been reinstated.
How much does teeth contouring cost?
Dr Patel’s Mini Smile Makeover costs £695. You can also have teeth contouring on its own for £495. I did a quick survey amongst friends who have had Invisalign and teeth whitening combined for comparison and the average cost was around £3500 taking at least 9 months.