Say Cheese! How to Get the Hollywood Smile
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
Everyone wants to have the Hollywood smile: the blindingly white smile on the faces of gorgeous actors and actresses that dazzle audiences the world over.
Hollywood celebrities such as Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey and Hillary Duff are known for their charming smiles. These celebrities even topped a 2006 survey of best celebrity smiles conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, an international association of cosmetic dental professionals.
In fact, Roberts had the celebrity smile most often requested by patients, according to the survey. Sports stars such as Maria Sharapova and Tiger Woods were deemed as having the best smile among athletes.
For ordinary mortals, you may find it unfair that God gave these beautiful individuals naturally straight, white and perfect teeth.
But the truth is, many celebrities are not exactly born with perfect teeth. Even Tom Cruise had to wear ceramic braces a couple of years ago, to improve on his already charming smile.
Now any ordinary person can get a picture-perfect smile. Thanks to the latest technology and modern dental procedures, you can now get that Hollywood smile. But like all things good, it comes at a price.
Dentist Choo Sung-uk, who runs Choo Sung-uk Dental Clinic in Apgujeong-dong, said cosmetic dentistry is becoming popular in Korea these days. ``Some girls would come to my office with pictures of some celebrities, saying they want to have that kind of smile. In Korea, women want to have a Western-style smile," he told The Korea Times.
Getting Whiter Teeth
The first thing people see when you smile is your teeth. The teeth will definitely show if you've been indulging in too much coffee, tea, wine, and tobacco. Coffee, wine and tobacco are shown to have the severest staining effect on one's teeth.
This is why whitening toothpastes have grown in popularity in recent years. It is seen as the easiest and cheapest way to get whiter teeth.
However, dental experts say the effects of whitening toothpastes are limited and won't have a significant effect on changing the color of your teeth. It may remove mild yellowish stains, though.
Whitening strips are also popular because they allow people to whiten their teeth at their own pace. It is also believed to save people time, money and a trip to the dentist. Like toothpastes, these whitening strips also have a temporary effect on one's teeth.
If you really want to have a set of pearly whites that last, you have to make the trip to the dentist.
Modern cosmetic dentistry has evolved in a way to allow everyone to get perfect-looking teeth. Cosmetic dental procedures are increasingly becoming common, painless and quicker than ever.
And it's not just a matter of looking good and getting the picture-perfect smile. This also improves one's chewing ability and overall health, according to dental experts.
For those who have yellowish or stained teeth, you can get professional teeth whitening or bleaching.
While there are many home teeth bleaching kits available in the market, dental experts caution people from trying to bleach their teeth without proper supervision. Bleaching the teeth involves use of hydrogen peroxide, a compound that works as an agent that penetrates the teeth's enamel and lightens its color.
Home bleaching kits use hydrogen peroxide, which is a very strong and sometimes dangerous element that can cause damage to the gums. Other kits may not contain enough hydrogen peroxide and therefore, have no effect on the teeth at all.
Choo said most dentists recommend professional teeth bleaching treatments held in dental clinics, rather than do-it-yourself kits. It involves two 30-minute treatments at the dental clinic. This treatment can only lighten the natural color of one's teeth, but don't expect to have snowy white teeth after the treatment.
Some patients might experience hypersensitivity because the tooth is temporarily dehydrated during the treatment. However, this is only temporary. The patient is also given a mouth guard filled with fluoride to be worn for several hours a day, in order to decrease the side effects.
Choo said bleaching treatments are very popular these days. The treatment costs 600,000 won.
If one has genetically dark gums, there are also treatments to lighten the color. However, the effect may only last a few years since the original color of the gums will always come back.
While celebrities are admired for their brilliant smiles, more often that not, those smiles are a result of dental veneers.
Veneers or laminates are another popular way to improve the appearance of one's teeth. Very thin porcelain laminates, almost as thin as fingernails, are placed on the surface of a tooth. This allows the tooth to appear whiter than ever.
Choo said veneers are recommended when a patient has severe teeth discoloration, minor spacing between teeth, chipped teeth or deformed teeth. One laminate costs 600,000 won, but it would last at least 10 years.
Another procedure involves the use of tooth-colored resin materials, which is placed on an existing tooth. Choo said this procedure is done for those with minor spacing, fractures and minimal tooth decay. It is done on existing tooth, and is specifically made to match the color of the tooth. The advantage is this procedure is that it does not entail the removal of the tooth and is cheaper than veneers. It costs 150,000 per resin.
``There is a difference in quality. The difference between veneers and resin can be compared to the difference between the porcelain cup and a plastic cup. After a couple of years, the porcelain cup will still be white but the plastic cup will be discolored," he said.
However, if a tooth is already decayed and beyond recovery, there may be no choice but to have dental implants. Dental implants, or artificial tooth replacements, are a screw-type titanium alloy inserted in a patient's alveolar bone. The implants act as the natural tooth roots, and have replacement teeth
``It became a very popular way to restore a missing tooth. The best thing about dental implant is, it does not need to harm adjacent tooth as it was in the conventional crown and bridge system. The implant fixture itself can last for as long as 20 years," he said.
It is a two-stage surgery, first with the implant fixture screwed in the patient's alveolar bone.
After three to 6 months, another surgery is needed to reopen the gums and make the upper structure. The entire treatment lasts between 3 to 10 months.
``The dental implant is a very modern, high-tech choice of treatment. But it should be the last choice. The experts should very carefully examine every case. And there are many, many factors to be considered. My surgeons are very conservative on this matter," Choo said. The cost of single implant is around 3 million won in Korea.
Surgery is also needed to correct bimaxillary protrusion or having protruding front teeth, which is common among Asian. Protruding teeth make it difficult to close the mouth naturally.
``If it involves too much protrusion, it would entail surgery. We can design the patient's case, but the surgery would take place in the hospital. The patient would have to be placed under general anesthesia," Choo said. Surgery would entail the removal of some teeth to reduce the protrusion and help relax the lip muscles to form a more natural-looking smile.
A ``smile makeover" is now a buzzword in dental circles. According to a Consumer Guide to Dentistry, a smile makeover is the ``ultimate in cosmetic dentistry."
Just like any makeover, a smile makeover may involve a drastic change in one's appearance. This is a complete package involving teeth whitening, replacement of dental fillings, straightened teeth, full set of teeth, contoured teeth and even facial surgery.
While some people may still be scared of going to the dentist because of the pain, Choo said modern dentistry makes sure procedures are not as painful as in the past. ``There is some discomfort, but I wouldn't say it is painful. The materials and equipment used make sure there is not a lot of pain," he said.
Even if there is some discomfort, Choo believes improving the appearance of one's teeth and one's smile is worth it, especially since it can do wonders for one's self-confidence. ``A beautiful smile can make anyone more confident," he said.