What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror? A Cosmetic Dentistry Story.
I love practicing dentistry and I love helping people get the smiles that they have always wanted through means of using new techniques in cosmetic dentistry and implant dentistry, but one of the things that I do find ironic is how often people look in the mirror and never actually see their teeth!
Women: How many minutes do you spend looking in the mirror in the morning applying makeup and skin care products?
Men: What about you? Do you spend time in the morning making sure that you are properly groomed, shaved, trimming errant facial hairs?
But do you look at your teeth?
A smile is one of the most important features that we present to the world.
What do you think people, whom you meet, notice most about you? The color of your shoes? An errant facial hair, or your smile?
Just this past week I had a patient who is only 25 years old. Her make-up was flawless and her hair beautiful. She came into the office for repair of a front chipped tooth. She was complaining because it had chipped before and she wasn’t happy that it needed repair again. Sounds like a reasonable complaint right?
Well, first let’s look at the history. This woman had been a patient of mine almost since she was born, as both her parents were also patients. When she was 13 years old, I had advised her parents that she needed braces, as I had concerns about her bite. She had a deep overbite (When the upper front teeth cover a large portion of the lower front teeth when the patient is biting), and I knew that this type of bite can result in wearing of the front teeth. Well, for various reasons, this patient never received orthodontic treatment, but we did get photos of her teeth in preparation for orthodontics.
So at her appointment this week, we decided to go back and look up her photos from 12 years ago and compare them to her teeth today. Well, a picture tells a thousand words. The changes were very significant, and she is only 25!
When I showed her the difference in her teeth and how her from teeth were getting shorter and worn down because of her bite, she was amazed. I explained that no matter how many times I repaired the small chips on her front teeth, her teeth would continue to wear and chip until the bite was corrected.
Photo taken 2005
Photo taken 2015
Close up of teeth 2015: Note wearing and chipping on teeth
She then asked me how it would look in the future if she did not get orthodontic treatment. Even though I am definitely not a fortune teller, this question I was able to answer with confidence. Knowing both her parents for more than 30 years, and that she inherited her “bite” from her father, I was able to tell her to look at her father’s teeth, and advise her that this is how her teeth would look in a couple more decades. Well that really alarmed her.
But what alarmed me, is that she never bothered to look at her teeth and notice that they were significantly shorter than just 12 years ago. Now, to undo the damage that has been done, she would likely need bonding or porcelain veneers on her teeth but first would need orthodontic treatment to correct the bite and prevent damage to any new restorations that would be placed.
So, the lessons to be learned here are:
- Take the time to look, really look at your teeth in the mirror. Are they getting shorter, yellowing, spaces developing that were never there before? What about crowding? Are they more crowded than in the past? Are they chipping, shifting positions? All these things can be addressed by a well-trained dentist.
- Even though your teeth or your child’s teeth may appear straight to your untrained eye. A dentist well-educated in orthodontics and malocclusion (how the teeth bite together and function together), may see things that you don’t. And conditions such as a deep overbite (which can be picked up by your dentist in a child as early as 2-3 years of age), can lead to long term destruction of the adult teeth.
So tomorrow morning, look at your teeth in the mirror and check them out carefully. If you notice things are different than they were in your adolescent years, speak to your dentist about it.
It is never too late to be the best version of yourself!