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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Imperfection: Teeth Veneer Placements

Over our lifetimes, we spend a fortune caring for our personal health. Nothing is more indicative of our devotion to an essential element of this care than our teeth. Without proper care, our teeth can develop plaque, cavities, and/or gum disease. So, it comes as no surprise that looking after our teeth is nothing new to the race. And, in many cases, we are doing a better job of protection. Just sixty years ago, lack of widespread dental care, poverty and a poor diet meant that many people expected to start losing their teeth their  in their twenties. But, today in places like the United Kingdom, the number of middle-aged people who need false teeth has dropped from 32 per cent to 6 per cent over the past 25 years. (Glen Mulock, "Teeth and Gum Care,", October 7 2010)

 As early as 3.500 BC, the Babylonians used frayed branches called "chew sticks" to scrape unwanted particles from their teeth. 

Toothbrushes came into existence at the beginning of the fourteenth century and were used to keep teeth clean and white, largely by the upper classes of Europe who wanted to look their best.

Intentional teeth whitening treatments didn't appear until the 18th century as local barbers began to conduct teeth whitening procedures on willing clientele.  The barber would file down the teeth of their patient and use nitric acid, a powerful corrosive, to whiten them. This entailed the destruction of tooth enamel, but to people who wanted shining white smiles the future prospect of losing all of their teeth was a small price to pay for physical glamour. ("The History of Teeth Whitening," www,, August 6 2009)
Then, in Italy at the beginning of the 19th century, fluoride was discovered to have a positive effect on the color of teeth. It was initially sweetened and made into lozenge form, but later scientists found too much fluoride had negative effects on teeth. 

In the early 80's, dentist named Charles Pincus pioneered the concept of gluing a thin, tooth-shaped piece of porcelain over the top of an actor’s natural (but imperfect) teeth. These were the first dental veneers, the prototype of the porcelain veneers used by cosmetic dentists today. Over time, dentists have experimented with different materials and reached the conclusion that cements are better bonding agents than the hydrofluoric acid. The veneers can last for as long as fifteen years if a patient properly cares for them.

 Anna Paquin
 Whitening and Veneers

Dentistry says the number of teeth whitening and bleaching procedures being done has increased more than 300% over the past 5 years. (Gareth Marples, "The History of  Teeth Whitening -- Smiles Through the Miles,"

Veneer placements are the third-most-performed cosmetic dental procedure in the nation, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, a nonprofit organization with 8,000 dental-industry members. Nearly 600,000 people had veneers in 2006, an increase of 15 percent over 2004, according to the latest statistics available from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Many of these, in their generic form, obviously looked fake. (Catherine Saint Louis, "When That Smile Is Too Perfect," The New York Times, October 19 2010)

“The trend towards those thick, perfect-looking teeth started out because celebrities were getting them because they look good on camera,” said Gretta Monahan, a host on the upcoming season of  Tom Gunn's Guide To Style. “Normal people then took pictures of those teeth to their dentists and saying, ‘I want that.’ For a long time if you had an overbite or a space, you wouldn’t want to duplicate that with veneers.” (Anna Jane Grossman, "Avoiding Dental Perfection With a Slight Twist," The New York Times, August 27 2008)

The only sought-after veneers — fingernail-thin cosmetic moldings that cover the fronts of teeth — used to be big, gleaming, flawlessly lined-up white squares. Nicknamed "Chiclets" for obvious reasons, they have become near-ubiquitous in Hollywood. But now, people are showing a growing demand for painstakingly customized, natural-looking veneers created by professional dental ceramists, offering a balance of lifelike translucency and opaque whiteness. (Gareth Marples, "The History of  Teeth Whitening -- Smiles Through the Miles,"

Pinhas Adar, an Atlanta ceramist, said that many people don’t realize that the brightness and whiteness of their idols’ teeth are enhanced by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi. “They think they want to look like that,” said Mr. Adar, who like Mr. Kim, is a disciple of Mr. Geller’s, “but once it’s in the mouth, it looks horrible, and they say, ‘Oh my God.’ ” (Catherine Saint Louis, "When That Smile Is Too Perfect," The New York Times, October 19 2010)

So now, patients are demanding lifelike “flaws” that include rotating the teeth next to the center pair so they overlap a little; subtly discoloring veneers toward the gumline so it looks between-cleaning realistic; and adding grooves so the porcelain isn’t oddly smooth. In irony, they want a forgery that looks just a little noticeably better than the real teeth. 

Let's see. We have Botox to unfurrow the brows and plump the lips, breast enhancement procedures to increase the bust line, liposuction to flatter the figure, a myriad of plastic surgery body modifications, and now veneers for perfectly imperfect teeth. Most men will be totally mystified by this dazzling array of weapons in a lady's beauty arsenal.

“It looks ridiculously unnatural up close, but Hollywood is the place where fakeness is celebrated,” said Tom O’Neil, senior editor at In Touch Weekly. “It’s another example of extreme mouth makeovers. … Now you have a completely fake smile: pillow lips, bleached teeth and veneers.” (Catherine Donaldson-Evans, "Teeth Go Beyond Pearly, Fox News, January 23 2006)

The discreet look is in. Dr. Thomas Connelly, an cosmetic dentist in Manhattan said, “They (people) just want to have a nice smile. They don’t want to be known for their smile.” Connelly said guys all say, "I have to look real, bud, or I’m not doing it."   .  

Vincent Devaud, a ceramist and guest instructor for the UCLA Center for Esthetic Dentistry, said, “I will not accept mediocrity in a patient’s mouth,” said he has many other celebrity clients, all of whom get a personalized look. “It’s not in my fiber to do a white and perfect-looking smile,” he said. He works with Dr. Connelly to "rough up “ the porcelain on certain veneers.

 Brigitte Bardot

A Caution or Two

"We are seeing a 20 per cent rise in dental negligence cases year on year," said Chris Dean, a trained dentist and partner in a law firm. "It reflects the mass uptake of cosmetic dentistry. In the past two years, the average person in the street has become more ready to undergo cosmetic dentistry and so we are seeing a significant rise in claims."

Dean continued, "With veneers, the sort of problems we are seeing are failures with the way they are bonded on [they fall off], gaps between the veneers and the underlying tooth [which can allow bacteria and decay to flourish], and overhanging veneers causing problems with the bite. And in the worse case scenario, if the dentist removes too much tooth surface, this can cause the nerve to become inflamed or infected, the tooth can die off and the client will need root canal treatment to keep it." (Helena Green, "Porcelain Veneers Could Ruin Your Teeth, Your Smile...and Your Life," Mail Online, August 26 2008)

And, the bottom line? The cost of porcelain veneers depends on the number of teeth being treated. Porcelain veneers generally cost from $700 to $2,000 per tooth. Porcelain veneers are alternatives to other treatments that cost less but must be repaired more often and lose their cosmetic appeal more quickly. (, 2010)

Nevertheless,  people with straight, white smiles appear more successful, more intelligent and happier in their careers than those with crooked, stained teeth, according to a study by Beall Research and Training in Chicago. And a smile can also function like a souped-up antiaging cream. In a Roper survey based on before and after photos, 41 percent of Americans said aligning a set of crooked teeth subtracted five years from a person's overall look.(Leah Wyar, "Better Teeth, Happier You," Self, 2010) Just be sure to kick the tires, open the trunk, and check under the hood before taking beauty at face value.

 Georgia May Jagger

"We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things; which is the mean of many extremes." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
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