A pain-free, one-hour treatment for straighter, whiter, cleaner teeth. Mini Smile Makeovers are small groups of treatments that, when combined, create a big difference to a person’s smile. There are three parts to a mini smile makeover; teeth whitening, tooth reshaping, and teeth stain blasting. Stain blasting – as the name implies – is a high-pressure cleaning system to remove surface stains. It aims to remove surface stains only, as opposed to whitening, which removes internal stains. Coffee and smoking are the main culprits of surface stains. The sand particles abrade the stain, leaving the enamel ready for whitening. Teeth whitening is a hugely popular treatment. It is worth noting that it only works on your own natural teeth, not on any dental work that you may have.
Tooth reshaping – this has several names including teeth contouring or enamaloplasty. It refers to a reductive method of improving the appearance of teeth by contouring them. There is a risk of over-contouring, so it is important to see a dentist experienced with contouring. Unlike our hair, our teeth do not grow back if we go too far!
I met Dr Sahil in the light, airy surrounds of the Harley St, Marylebone Smile Clinic.
We briefly discussed his plans, then he got to work casting a mould to make a malleable, soft retainer to wear at night. I was instructed to deposit small amounts of peroxide at home, tooth by tooth, with a small syringe and a brief demonstration. This was to be worn consecutively for 14 nights, if possible, then intermittently for a few months after.
Quite liking my teeth as they were, I was slightly apprehensive about the filing/enameloplasty part of the plan, but Dr Sahil was adamant he wouldn’t do anything drastic. I get the feeling that this treatment is best suited to patients with a specific or prominent couple of teeth that particularly bother them. It’s explained as an economical alternative to composite bonding – if one’s in the market to alter their smile without orthodontics, this is the ideal fix for someone with e.g. prominent canines, or maybe one incisor longer than the other.
But, back to the process… An alginate substance was first pressed around both upper and lower teeth to make the whitening mould, then left for a minute or two to harden and set. This was slightly unnerving – panic set in when the goo trickled toward my throat – but mitigated somewhat by Ratatouille playing silently on a ceiling tv. I imagine the previous patient had been a child.
Next came the cleaning. Coined ‘stain blasting’, and using terms like ‘high-pressure’ I should probably have been better prepared! I’ve had many a routine hygienist clean, but this definitely felt deeper, which I imagine could only be a good thing.
Then came the enameloplasty, or motorised rasping, if you will. I have mixed feelings about this. With hindsight I don’t think I was the ideal patient. Having had a slightly overlapping incisor fixed with braces as a teen, fast forward a few (okay many) years of retainer neglect, my teeth had returned to their original position, but by and large, I liked them.
Looking at the before and afters of this procedure on The Marylebone Smile Clinic’s site, there are numerous examples where enameloplasty really does make a world of difference, improving someone’s smile and giving the illusion of far straighter teeth in less than a lunch hour.
I hadn’t really researched what I wanted, or how amending the shape of specific teeth may affect the rest of the face. But anyone who’s studied art, or aesthetics at all, will understand how the tiniest shift in an isolated angle here, or alteration of a proportion there, has ripple-down effects on how everything around it reads.
Dr Sahil didn’t go too mad with the enameloplasty, but my one criticism is that there was no proper discussion with a mirror or photos beforehand, and no collaborative approach to what he could or couldn’t do, with the visual pros and cons weighed up beforehand. This sort of shared communication/clarification of a mutually agreed end goal has now become the norm – expected with procedures far less consequential – everything from temporary injectables, to a manicure, to even trimming a millimetre off your hair.
Aesthetics are super-subjective, and the skills that make someone a safe pair of hands as a dentist/surgeon/aesthetic doctor don’t, de facto, make them an artist. And moreover, it doesn’t guarantee that their aesthetic judgement correlates with that of their patients.
Whilst Dr Sahil was reasonably conservative in the filing, and I’m genuinely on the fence about whether it was an improvement or not; I strongly feel it would have been better to show the patient their teeth in gradual stages, making it a collaborative process, and, critically, also, offer them access to a full-length, well-lit, wall-mounted mirror intermittently throughout.
Only offering the patient a hand mirror, whilst they lay horizontal with a large proportion of their face covered with black goggles just doesn’t work. Even when I insisted on sitting up to hold the mirror vertically (everyone knows faces hang differently upright), and removed said goggles to assess the changes so far, they’d left such a deep indent on my face it was almost impossible to make an informed judgement. And don’t get me started on the lighting.
Nothing visual can be read in isolation. Casually canvasing a few friends, I was regaled with horror stories of well-trusted eyebrow ladies suddenly changing a whole face for the worse when said face was (necessarily) masked-up during covid. Injectables administered ‘paint by numbers’ by new/casual practitioners scared to ‘go rogue’ has a similar bent, as do tilted mirrors in changing rooms, intentionally altering proportions to flatter.
Without considering the specific angles and nuances of the whole face, and, perhaps more pertinently, the specific idiosyncrasies of that face’s owner, I feel you’re sort of swimming upstream when it comes to aesthetics, and falling behind the tide.
Cleaning; intense, but effective.
Whitening; hurt more than anticipated, but this only kicked in after several days, by which point my teeth were discernibly whiter – despite falling far short of the fortnight I was instructed to see through. Top tip: take paracetamol and suck it up – just like your black coffee through a straw.
Enameloplasty; Don’t be gung ho if you already like your teeth. But, if there’s something specific that bothers you – that you think could be corrected by softening an angle here and there, and, most importantly, you’re confident you’re able to articulate clearly and without ambiguity – this absolutely could be a lunch hour miracle.
The Mini Smile Makeover starts from £695; Marylebone Smile Clinic; 66 Harley St, London W1G 7HD; 0204 571 9031