All I Want For Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth

If Presented With Cosmetic Dentistry Vouchers This Season It May Be Better To Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

23.12.2010

People up and down the country have been dusting down their party clothes ready to celebrate the festive season.  Many will have opted for a makeover, possibly a new hairstyle or a new wardrobe. One trend this year also sees well-meaning friends and families buying vouchers for cosmetic dentistry as gifts for those who want a smile makeover.

However, Jennifer Emerson, a solicitor specialising in dental negligence at the Midlands’ offices of law firm Irwin Mitchell, warns that, in such instances, it may be better to look a gift horse in the mouth rather than buy and/or cash in the vouchers as pursuit of the perfect smile can be a risky resolution.

Jennifer says: “Popular lifestyle TV programmes sometimes present major dental work as hassle free. In reality, however, cosmetic dentistry is not that simple and, when it goes wrong, there can be major consequences. I regularly act for clients with long term problems arising out of cosmetic dentistry including difficulties with eating, gum problems and an altered alignment of their teeth. There can also be a real impact on people’s self confidence, making them extremely uncomfortable in social situations.

“The recompense we help these clients receive is not only for their pain and suffering but also for the dental work needed to reconstruct the teeth which, in some cases, can cost thousands of pounds to repair the damage.”

The main cosmetic dentistry cases Jennifer sees involve dental veneers - thin shells of tooth coloured material which are cemented to the front side of the teeth in order to improve their appearance.

Before undergoing such cosmetic work, it is vital that the patient fully understands the risks of the procedure and the treatment options.  How many patients appreciate that the impact of the preparation stage may mean that, while the dentist may remove the veneers if patients don’t like them, the teeth may have been permanently altered by the process which calls for etching away the tooth surface?

“A good dentist should have a comprehensive and clear consenting procedure,” continues Jennifer. “He or she should apply the risks to the patient. There should be an assessment as to whether the patient is a suitable candidate for the procedure. The fact that the cosmetic affect may not be permanent should be explained. Any future cosmetic work that will be required to maintain the result should be discussed. In addition, the patient should not assume that they can return to their previous dental state after the procedure, as their teeth may have been permanently altered.”

“In other cosmetic procedures, such as breast surgery, doctors often involve nurses in the consenting stage - in addition to themselves - and show photos of poor outcomes to make patients aware of risks. I have rarely heard of this happening in dentistry, yet it would be a useful model to follow.”

“I would recommend those considering smile makeovers to research their proposed dentist. They should seek advice from their usual dentist and get a second opinion before agreeing to the procedure. They should be able to ask the dentist about their qualifications and experience in the field too.

“Appropriately performed by a qualified practitioner, the procedure can lead to happy patients, incorrectly done, however, the patient may find it hard to raise a smile.”