Smile for a younger you

Posted on February 19, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature woman with brilliant smile

Like many British people of a certain age I have been somewhat challenged by my teeth throughout my life. As a nation we are infamous in some quarters (the USA) for our misshapen and less than Hollywood-white teeth. I have avoid giving the camera a toothy smile, rather I opt for the ‘lips closed’ grin that hopefully hides a multitude of sins. However, I know I am by no means the worst off in the smile department.

British dentistry and Martin Amis

It is interesting that British dentistry seems to have no regard for class – aristocratic gnashers are no better looking for the most part than any others, and some members of the upper middle class, with parents who could actually afford intricate and lengthy dentistry, notoriously have had to wait until adulthood to have them fixed: novelist Martin Amis has quite famously written about his terrible teeth and the £20,000 he spent on fixing them. To pay for this total dental reconstruction he demanded a $1 million advance for his novel “The Information“.  An option not readily available to everyone.

Now, we have been presented with an even greater incentive to follow in Martin’s footsteps, although not necessarily to the extent of remortgaging. It seems that orthodontic dentistry can reduce signs of ageing just as effectively as cosmetic surgery or Botox injections.

Braces are the new Botox!

Braces are the new Botox! Yes, you read that correctly. No longer are these contraptions confined to early adolescence. They have made the leap to middle age usage, because straightening your teeth can apparently shed years from your appearance. My generation rarely had braces fitted; now they are routine. I have taught classes in which every mouth was filled with braces of different colours. It’s a slightly gruesome sight, and rows of teenage mouths resembling the Bond villain “Jaws” hasn’t left me with a lasting desire to join them. Plus, there were always complaints about discomfort when the braces were first fitted as well.

Orthodontics cost less than cosmetic surgery

However, I shouldn’t be so hasty to condemn the idea of braces just yet. According to London dental practice Elleven, orthodontic treatments can have the same effect as cosmetic surgery, cost less and are also less invasive. Dr Sameer Patel, who specialises in specialist orthodontics, claims that having a brace “lifts the mouth upwards, making the face look younger and firmer.” He also says that this ‘lift effect’ widens the eyes and tightens the skin around the mouth. His own teeth are a good advert for his trade; strong, even and white, there are no gaps or other diversions from the flawless.

Interestingly, during a visit to a dentist in Mumbai some years ago, I heard something similar. The excellent dentist there told me that gaps and the like make the face sag. Your bone structure and the facial tissues determine your face shape, but your teeth play a role as well. As we age and the tissues lose elasticity, our teeth slide in towards the tongue. This means that we lose support for the cheeks and lips.  The London Lingual Orthodontic Clinic, which specialises in a type of invisible brace that fits inside the teeth, backs this up and points out that orthodontic work really can have a dramatic impact on those ageing lines around the nose and mouth.

Dentist examines man's teeth

The new generation of braces

Thankfully, the advances in modern braces means that if you do decide to have one fitted, you can opt for one that won’t leave you with a mouth full of metal. In addition, new treatments techniques mean that you may only have to wear a brace for a year, whereas in the past it was two. When you’re 50+ the thought of two years in braces isn’t overly appealing, but 12 months might be manageable.

You also won’t need to go for wire-tightening sessions. The new breed of braces are constructed from impressions taken by a 3D scanner the size of a toothbrush that will show the dentist how your teeth are going to move with absolute precision. Then robots make the brace – it’s all very sci-fi.

How much will it cost? Anywhere from £4,000 to £7,000 and upwards, depending on the work you have done, but when you consider the costs of various cosmetic surgery procedures, then maybe it’s not so bad. And, it will give you a great smile, something the surgeons can’t manage.

Of the many quotes about smiling, one of my favourites is, “Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile,” – but if you want your smile to also make you look younger, well, now you know how!

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.