We don’t associate loss of tooth structure with the aging we see in the mirror. We should.
Our thoughts on teeth and aging typically begin and end at colour. A white smile is youthful, so we bleach our teeth. But there’s a wide world of so-called anti-aging dental interventions out there. With orthodontics and restorations, dentists can often change the size, shape and arrangement of teeth to subtract years from a smile and face.
To understand how it works, imagine someone with no teeth. E.g. Your grandad without his dentures. Without the support of his teeth, his mouth collapses onto itself. The lower portion of his face shrinks. Now imagine grandpa sticks in his dentures. His face fills out. He doesn’t look young, but certainly less old.
Grandad is an extreme example, but this loss of support and subsequent facial “shrinkage” doesn’t occur only in the toothless, because teeth gradually change shape throughout adulthood.
Wait, what? My teeth are changing shape?
As we age, our faces lose volume in both the soft tissue (fat and skin) and bone — our eye sockets get larger, the bones of our forehead and jaw recede. Our teeth lose volume, too. The cheeks and lips are supported by the teeth and jaw, so their size and shape have an impact on the overall shape of the face.
Smiles lose volume following two main patterns. Teeth, especially those in the back, get flatter and shorter because of the regular wear of chewing, which is accelerated by grinding and clenching. Shorter teeth mean a shorter face. The bite is collapsed, the lower jaw is squished into the upper jaw. The result is an aging look.
Second, teeth get pushed inward over time by the jaw muscles. Clenching exacerbates the problem because clenched muscles exert even more inward force on the teeth.
As a result, the smile (or arch) becomes narrower, offering less support to the cheeks and skin. You’ll perceive this narrowing as facial hollowing around the cheeks and a flattening, or curling in, of the lips.
So how can dental work help?
Every set of teeth is unique, but generally Invisalign clear aligners are used to move teeth outward, broadening a smile that has narrowed. Think of the narrow arch being V-shaped, with the tip of the V being in the front, and the teeth then moving to an ideal U shape over time with aligners.
Tooth height is typically corrected by shape and height restorations. This can be done easily by the latest innovation in cosmetic dentistry- composite veneers. This is a no drill, no injection way of improving your smile within hours! To do this properly though, your dentist should be doing some advanced checks and scanning to plan and check your bite works with it.
No one ever comes in complaining about their face and thinking their teeth are responsible.
The big question is always “how much does it cost?”. Well actually maybe not as much as you thought. The total cost of restorations depends on the type of work done and the number of teeth but with interest free finance available, it is more accessible than you think. By finding a dentist who does this regularly, not only are you safe in the knowledge that they’re doing it right, but also their costs may be lower as they have certain systems in place. It is more expensive if a dentist is just doing it once every few months. Equally though cheap can be bad – this often means that corners are being cut and our lead dentist Chris sees many failures from people who have had this work done cheaply only to find multiple problems with chipping, decay or jaw issues.
And how do I know if dental work could help my face?
Dental work and dermatology complement each other. Dental work won’t do anything for the skin itself, elasticity or fine lines but it can help with the height and projection of the face, which preserves a youthful appearance.
In other words, dental intervention isn’t a face-lift – more like a baby lift. The results will be subtle, but a lot of times subtle is exactly what you want.
How do I find the right dentist?
The first thing is to make sure your dentist has additional cosmetic and bite training. The easiest way to do this is to search through well recognised organisations that focus on cosmetic dentistry, such as the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD). This will ensure the dentist is up to date with current concepts. The next thing is to make sure the dentist is checking not only your teeth but also your face, your bite and the way your jaw joint works. And finally have a budget in mind that is realistic for what you want. You should be expecting to pay from £3500 pounds to have this done sensibly and properly.