OF THE MANY beauty and grooming treatments one can do, few have more lasting impact than cosmetic dentistry. It’s something that, oddly enough, is spoken of even less than more traditionally “taboo” procedures such as botox and fillers. A Hollywood smile is synonymous with straight, even teeth, perfectly filed at the tips and beaming white. It’s something lusted after by most; even those without too much care for their appearance.
In recent years, the quick fix option for this look has been to book a trip to Turkey for so-called “veneers”, referred to rather unfavourably by many dentists as fridge doors. Concerningly, most of the patients travelling to Turkey for this procedure are in their early twenties. With little thought of the ramifications of what they’re undergoing, they return home with irreparably damaged teeth and a massive commitment to regular (and costly) upkeep of their new smile; more on that later.
But first, a bit about my teeth. I’ve never been massively worried about them. Other than a sweet tooth and a pretty serious addiction to Diet Coke, I’ve had very few problems with my smile. In my teens I had traditional train-track braces, but the results were all but undone by my own lack of discipline when it came to wearing my nighttime retainer. Oops. Eight years later and I decided to invest in invisible aligners, the kind dentists hate which you order online and mould yourself. Despite the warnings, they actually turned out great – not quite perfect, but straight and even enough for me to be satisfied with the whole experience.
But, ever the perfectionist that I am, I knew there was still more I could do to improve my smile. Despite years of testing various whitening toothpastes, my teeth remained annoyingly yellow in tone, and the edges were rough and jagged in places.
Enter, The Marylebone Smile Clinic. When I was presented with the option of trying their signature Mini Smile Makeover, I was immediately intrigued. I knew I had neither the funds nor the inclination to go down the road of veneers, so this seemed right up my alley. The Marylebone Smile Clinic, located on London’s world-famous Harley Street, is a high-ceilinged dental surgery with comfortable yet luxe bean-bag chairs in the waiting area and a spacious, pristine examination room. The receptionist was charming and helpful, no doubt a reflection of the clinic founder himself. Dr Sahil Patel, a handsome man with a calming presence and a gentle smile, greeted me in his examination room to talk me through the process of what we would be doing with the Mini Smile Makeover.
Marylebone Smile Clinic
But first I wanted to know why something like this is better than simply going to Turkey and getting a brand new set of chompers fitted, an option that many are now choosing. “The problem with these procedures is that they are falsely advertised” he explains in a serious tone. “They call them veneers in the adverts, but what they really are is crowns. This involves filing every tooth, including perfectly healthy ones, down to little stubs. Then, crowns are fitted over these stubs”. We’ve likely all seen the photos of people baring these filed down nashers for the camera right before having their so-called “veneers” fitted; it’s a downright horrifying picture.
“It’s done because it’s a much cheaper procedure for the dentist to perform, as veneers are far more skilful and expensive to produce and fit. But not only is this irreversible, it’s actually going to create a litany of problems for people down the road”, Dr Patel continues. “If taken care of, crowns have a lifespan of a decade on average. People think this is a one and done procedure, but it’s actually signing up for a lifetime of dental work.” Not only that, there are only so many times a patient can have crowns re-fitted or replaced. “At some stage, sooner than people think, it’s going to come down to the patient needing an entire mouthful of implants fitted.” A sobering thought, not to mention an eye-wateringly expensive one.
Mind firmly put at ease that, yes, a minimally invasive procedure like this IS the correct choice, we get onto examining my gum health. Rated on a scale of one to four, everyone would ideally be at a zero (perfect with no need for improvement) but the closest anyone ever gets is a one. Whilst the scale is short, each number goes down dramatically. Someone with a gum health of one or two is good, whilst three is cause for concern and four indicates serious changes need to be made to your oral hygiene. I come out as a two, which I’m happy with.
After that the teeth are examined, during which he finds the beginning signs of decay in one tooth. I ask if that means he cannot continue the procedure, and he shakes his head. “I very rarely say no to a patient for this procedure” he explains, “as it is purely cosmetic and minimally invasive”. So then, who would be unsuitable for treatment? “Anyone with severely damaged teeth or serious gum health issues wouldn’t be suitable at first.” After those problems were addressed, the patient would be re-examined and most likely pass as eligible for the makeover.
In fact, the in-office part of the procedure itself is a relative breeze – my teeth are given the most thorough cleaning of my life, after which we discuss how to file the edges of the teeth for a more uniform look.
Dr Sahil Patel
“Teeth edges being rough is anatomical. With minimal filing we can create a smoother, cleaner looking smile with no pain or damage to the teeth”. No pain or damage? Sign me up. Dr Patel points out which teeth need filing, and we agree on a plan of action. Whilst not entirely pleasant, the filing truly is as pain-free as he said it would be. Job partially done, we check to see if more should be done – it should. Take two. A few minutes later and the filing is complete.
When he hands me the mirror, I’m surprised by just how much of a difference something so subtle can make. Whereas before my bottom teeth were uneven and raggedy, they now sit nicely in a neat little row. My two front teeth sit more snuggly with their neighbours, and my canines are just that little bit less pointy. Subtle, but impactful.
The last part of the treatment is a lot more self-involved, also requiring commitment from the patient. I’m initially surprised that the teeth whitening part of the makeover isn’t done in-office, but Dr Patel explains; “in-office teeth-whitening is more expensive, less effective and less long-lasting than gradual teeth whitening at home.” Having taken a mould of my teeth after cleaning them, Dr Patel presents me with two soft plastic trays with a Dopp bag of plastic syringes containing the magic ingredient – 16% carbamide peroxide. “16% is the strongest and most effective that we do in the UK” he says, “and thanks to the carbamide it also releases the peroxide slowly to minimise sensitivity and work gradually throughout the night”.
Dr Patel hands me enough peroxide to last the initial two weeks, as well as enough for approximately three months worth of top-ups. Once the fortnight of whitening has been completed, one night or so every three months helps to maintain results, he explains. I have a practise dispensing the correct amount of gel into the trays, and after some sage final words, I take my new kit of whitening treasures and head home for a fortnight of experimentation.
Alongside the syringes, Dr Patel provided me with mini tubes of a specific Sensodyne toothpaste that would best counteract the sensitivity caused by the whitening, something I’d later come to be very grateful for indeed. For the first week, I dutifully brush my teeth with care and attention to detail, drying them with a tissue before inserting the peroxide-filled trays and heading to sleep. When I see my colleagues again a week later, only halfway through the process, two remark unprompted that my teeth look amazing. Even better, neither of them knew I’d been undergoing the makeover.
However, it wasn’t totally plain sailing. Even the effects of the special toothpaste couldn’t totally counteract the sensitivity caused by the peroxide. Whilst never painful, the sensation of air alone hitting my teeth became sharp enough in itself that I decided to take a break from nightly whitening and use the peroxide every other day, or every other two days: Fast forward to my check-up, and Dr Patel explains this wasn’t necessarily the right choice.
“Consistency is key with whitening. Whilst you will have avoided some sensitivity by spacing out whitenings, you won’t have achieved the best result possible unless you use the peroxide consecutively for the whole treatment.” Oops. Oh well – we’re both still pleased with the results. Whiter, brighter and smoother with an overall more polished appearance, I’m thrilled with the outcome. Most importantly, the results are still natural and make sense for my mouth – no generic, horsey-looking veneers were harmed in the making of this smile. My smile is me, just refined.
The writer’s before and after
Alongside regular dentist check-ups, quarterly top-ups and consistent at-home oral hygiene practise, the results should last for years to come. If you’re considering the procedure, I’d advise you to go for it. No matter what state your smile is currently in, Dr Patel has the expertise and the lightness of touch to best guide you on your journey to a smile you’ll love.
by Thomas Marrington
Marylebone Smile Clinic is located at 66 Harley St, London W1G 7HD
To book, call 02071268526