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I always considered my favourite, and best, patient was a lady with full dentures who returned to me every year for a new set. The fit was brilliant, the occlusion was balanced and functionally they were all better than most. The reason she kept asking for remakes was because we were gradually improving the appearance – and not for the better!
Mrs X was determined that her teeth would age with her and not stand out as straight white teeth as she aged around them. So each year we made them slightly greyer, slightly less straight and even added fake fillings. This pleased her and I also found it strangely satisfying. However, it was bucking the trend.
These days, more and more dental time is spent helping patients get whiter, straighter teeth. The BDA reckons that the current £5bn UK dental market will grow to £15bn within 10 years and I`m sure a lot of this growth will be attributable to cosmetic demand. The obvious comparison is that of the American market where everyone seems to aspire to that pearly-white, ruler-straight, smile. Why are American teeth so different? Well, the presence of Hollywood probably has something to do with it. The film stars are gods and goddesses. Everybody wants to be a film star. British teeth just don`t have the same ambitions.
Ricky Gervais says he was interviewed in the US by a journalist who thought he wore false teeth for his role as an English dentist in the movie Ghost Town. “He was horrified that I could have such horrible real teeth. It's like the biggest difference between the Brits and the Americans, they are obsessed with perfect teeth. Americans have the idea uniformity is equivalent to looking good. The British character is more free-spirited, more radical.”
One aspect, though, is shared both sides of the Atlantic. People would rather have the `quick fix` answer to aesthetic issues. If there is a choice between eighteen months of orthodontic treatment followed by several weeks of whitening or two visits for crowns and veneers, the quick treatments win more often. This is despite the potential for destruction and future problems. So, it`s the old question of `Do we give people what they need, or what they want?`.
However, as the UK market begins to catch up with the good `ol USA, there should be plenty to smile about.
Dr John Shapter – QCS Expert Dental Contributor