How much do you spend on looking good? According to one recent survey, British women are shelling out an average £168 a month atthe beauty counter. But if you’re really keen to turn back the clock, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And by that, I mean what’s inside your mouth.
“If you haven’t got good teeth you’re going to get a lot of wrinkles,” warns dentist Dr Jeremy Hill of the Ware Centre of Dental Excellence in Hertfordshire. His walls are adorned with photos of stars he has worked on, from teen idols One Direction to the alumni of The X Factor 2013 – he was the show’s official dentist – and he is rumoured to have worked with the Beckhams. But he is no fan of the dental quick fix. “Patients who come in with a problem back tooth often tell me to just take it out,” he says. “But you need to be careful. People don’t realise it’s more damaging aesthetically in the long term to lose a back tooth than a front one. As we age our teeth wear away, so cheeks look gaunt and your nose and chin start to move closer together, creating those ‘marionette lines’ from the corners of your nose to your mouth. If you change your bite by losing teeth this wear happens more quickly, resulting in a marked increase in wrinkles.”
As for the perfect pout, that also starts with your pearly-whites. “Good teeth help the plumpnessof your mouth,” explains Dr Hill. “But as you age that support starts to disappear and lips are left looking thinner. I regularly tell patients that they would be better putting tooth structure back in place, rather than trying collagen fillers.”
Like any good dentist, Dr Hill urges us to begin with good basic tooth care before considering any cosmetic intervention. “Gums recede with age if they’re not cared for, hence the expression ‘long in the tooth,’” he says. “You can look after your teeth and gums perfectly well with a manual toothbrush – it’s just easier and quicker with an electric one. It’s the same with toothpaste. The expensive whitening ones are great but you’d get the same result with 30 seconds more brushing so I always tell people to just go with whatever they like the taste of.”
A faultless dental routine can take you only so far, however. If time has taken its toll or mother nature has not been kind, then cosmetic dentistry has a part to play. Whether you opt for a quick session of whitening or invest in an expensive set of veneers, a good dentist can take a decade off your looks at a stroke.
But even then, Dr Hill advises caution. “I always tell my patients there’s nothing as good as natural, perfect teeth,” he says. “Don’t let yourself get talked into extensive work in your teens or twenties or even thirties. Unless something is majorly wrong, you justdon’t need it.”
Worse still, because veneers don’t last for life and need to be replaced, it can be highly damaging to begin the process too early.
“I regularly see people who have had veneers done in their twenties,” says Dr Hill. “You know that the chance of them lasting more than a decade is remote, that’s just the nature of them, but every time you renew them you take more natural tooth away, so three decades later there’s very little structure left to work with. I’m starting to see more people in their fifties coming to me for help because they’re losing teeth having started cosmetic dentistry treatments in their twenties.”
Additionally, the work itself can have repercussions. “Anything you do to a tooth carries a risk – even a small filling can lead to a tooth loss – so if a dentist isn’t telling you the downsides he’s not being honest. Most research shows that if you drill teeth enough to apply a veneer, 10 per cent of them will go on to need root canal because of the work done. If you have your whole mouth done – that’s 16 or 20 teeth – it’s likely at least one or two will go wrong. That’s why you need to be sure about what you want to achieve, and what the downsides might be, before you get to the point of no return.”
Having said that, a good set of veneers can look wonderful, as plenty of celebrity clients have discovered. So whose teeth would Dr Hill most like to get to work on? “I think I’ve done that but she never smiles,” he says mysteriously.