Smile for the camera please

January 8, 2022| Past Issues, Editorial

Over Christmas and New Year we’ve all probably had to pose for a few photographs, especially now that almost everyone has a smart phone with a camera in their back pocket.

Images portrayed in the movies or on social media put unreasonable pressure on us to continually look our best for the camera.

Along with the impact of the indulgences over the festive period, likely to be consisting of some of the foods and drinks that can discolour teeth, some of us may well be less willing to smile for the camera.

But what can we do, or rather what should we do to keep our smiles as healthy as possible?

We spoke to dentist Mitul Patel, Clinical Director & Principal Dental Surgeon at Waterden Dental Practice in Guildford to see what advice he could give us.

Back in National Smile Month (May-June) the organisers carried out a nationwide poll that found most of us regularly feel self-conscious about the appearance of our teeth.

More than half of British adults (51%) say they are often made to feel anxious about how their smile looks and less than a third (29%) are likely to pose for a photograph with an open-mouth smile. Discoloured teeth are the biggest reason we are not smiling for the camera (33%).

This got us thinking…

What makes a beautiful smile? Is it a Hollywood smile of straight, white, perfectly uniform teeth? Or is it a healthy smile with all its quirks and imperfections? Or maybe one that’s full of gaps?

The answer, of course, is whatever you feel comfortable with and one that you are proud to show off.

Dentists all agree that a healthy mouth is what’s essential, not for aesthetic reasons but for health.

Healthy mouths reflect a healthy body – they have pink gums and are pain-free. Red gums or gums that bleed when you brush your teeth indicate that something is not right and the main culprit is gum disease.

The 3 key messages being promoted during National Smile Month were:

  • Brush last thing at night and at least one other time with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Cut down on how much and how often you have sugary food and drink.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

Ultimately, the aim is to help us achieve good physical and mental wellbeing by improving our oral health.

Smile niggles

However, if you don’t feel happy to show off your smile, then ask your dentist for advice. There are lots of ways they can help.

Dentists all agree that a healthy mouth is what’s essential, not for aesthetic reasons but for health.

If discoloured teeth are causing you concern, the first and best place to start is with a hygiene visit – not only will your teeth look better, they will be healthier too.

Be selfish with your toothbrush!

Despite it being bad news for our health, one in four of us are happy to share our toothbrush with others.

A new study has found that more than a quarter of the UK population admit they would share their toothbrush with family, friends, a partner, neighbour or celebrity.

Men are significantly more likely, at 32%, than women (20%). Younger adults are nearly twice as willing at 55%, compared to their parents (30%), and around four times more open to do so than their grandparents (13%).

Dr Ben Atkins, dentist and trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, says: “Although it may seem like a kind gesture to share your toothbrush, it really is not a very good idea. Sharing a toothbrush leaves you susceptible to all sorts of oral and general health problems.

“This is because brushing sometimes causes the gums to bleed, which exposes everyone you share your toothbrush with to bloodstream diseases. This means that by sharing a toothbrush, you could also be sharing blood, which is a lot riskier than just swapping saliva.”

There are many hundreds of different bacteria and viruses in our mouths and people sharing a toothbrush could be passing these on to others. This could include common colds, cold sores or even Hepatitis B.

Keeping your teeth clean & healthy

Airflow is an advanced and predictable
hygiene procedure for effectively removing stains and plaque from your teeth, implants or restorations. It uses a mixture of air, water and a very fine powder to thoroughly polish and clean your teeth.


Opening bottles, nail biting & tag tearing

Do you use your teeth to open bottles, tear clothing tags or bite your nails?
If so, you are not alone but the advice from dentists is to stop!

Most of us are putting our oral health at risk by using our teeth as tools for jobs they weren’t intended for.

Joint research by the Oral Health Foundation and Philips has found that 65% of us frequently use our teeth for tasks other than eating and drinking.

The most common misuse for our teeth is tearing sticky tape with 41% of us admitting to doing this regularly. More than a quarter of us bite our nails while over a fifth use our teeth to carry things when our hands are full.

Other popular uses include taking tags out of clothing (20%), chewing pens and pencils (16%), opening bottles (9%) and doing up zips (4%).

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation. says that while it may seem trivial, using our teeth as tools poses a considerable risk to our oral health: “Anything from opening bottles to chewing foreign objects can damage existing dental work or cause our teeth to crack.”

The most common misuse for our teeth is tearing sticky tape with 41% of us admitting to doing this regularly.

“There are also examples of teeth shifting out of place, chipping, and in some cases breaking, due to the pressure and strain. Accidents are also more likely to happen which could result in invasive and expensive emergency dental work.”

Young adults are the biggest culprits when it comes to using teeth in improper ways with 85% of 18-35-year-olds admitting to abusing their teeth by performing unusual tasks with them. This is significantly higher than 35-54-year-olds (70%) and the over-55s (54%).

Restoring teeth

However, if you have cracked or chipped a tooth, don’t worry help and advice is available and there are a raft of solutions at dentists’ fingertips, from dental veneers or crowns, to composite bonding.

Composite bonding can transform the appearance of one or more teeth in a single visit. Tooth-coloured composite resin (like a white filling) straightens uneven or chipped edges, or closes gaps between our teeth. This fast, affordable and impressive treatment requires minimal tooth preparation and is completed in less than one hour per tooth often without the need for any anaesthetic.