Our smile is arguably the most powerful non-verbal form of expression we have – affecting both how others perceive us, as well as our self-confidence. Think about it. When we smile, our mood is instantly lifted, we make friends, our endorphins kick in, we signal friendliness and maybe even bond with a stranger in the street!
“Humans are both social and visual creatures, and body language makes up a large percentage of how we communicate with others,” explains psychologist Tahnee Schulz. “When we present ourselves with a confident smile, our eyes smile too and our whole persona changes. This persona helps us connect by communicating that we’re friendly, approachable and interested.”
Dr Theresia Sudjalim has transformed thousands of frowns into beaming smiles during her twelve plus years as an orthodontist, and she couldn’t agree more. “If you are confident and proud of your smile, that presence, positivity and friendliness enters the room almost before you do – it radiates out of you.”
Then there’s the flip side – people who are self-conscious about their smile, their teeth, their jaw line … They may feel less confident smiling. They may shy away from social situations, and, consequently, it may affect their physical and physiological behaviour.
“Being self-conscious about your smile can impact a person’s confidence and behaviour in many different ways,” Schulz explains. “They may avoid smiling, or eating in front of others. They may mumble instead of speaking clearly to avoid opening their mouth and showing their teeth. You may see the affects in a strained posture. An uneven jaw line can also affect a person’s ability to close their mouth properly and impact everyday activities like eating and sleeping.”
Dr Sudjalim adds that she has seen patients who don’t like their smile pull their chin inwards, cover their mouth when they speak and avoid eye contact when speaking with others. “I know the minute a patient walks in if they are lacking confidence because of their smile – it’s noticeable in the way they hold themselves, their posture, face and other behaviours.”
Psychologically, the repercussions of disliking your smile can be more damaging than having an impacted and decayed tooth, “making a person’s world feel small and isolated,” says Schulz.
Numbers to frown at
So just how common is a disliked smile? A recent survey commissioned by Orthodontics Australia reveals a whopping ‘62% of people would like to perfect or fix their teeth’ in some way. Dr Sudjalim is not at all surprised by the numbers.
“I’ve seen patients as young as six years old and as mature as 70 who are embarrassed about their front teeth,” she explains. The result of either orthodontic treatment alone or a combination of orthodontic or jaw treatment, which results in correction of both facial balance and correction of the bite, is often outstanding and can be life-changing.”
There’s a long list of toothy issues in between, too, but it isn’t all teeth shattering news. There’s many options available for people to achieve a perfect smile, from fast and affordable to complete smile makeovers.
Put a smile on your dial: The most common smile-transforming procedures
Yellow teeth: “The colour of your teeth can be improved by bleaching,” suggests Dr Sudjalim. “At-home bleaching systems are worn overnight for 7-10 days (bleach provided by your dentist or orthodontist is a higher quality to over-the counter bleaches). In-chair treatments are quick, but require at-home bleaching maintenance for longevity.”
Cost: Around $500-$600 for at-home bleaching. Around $1000 for in-chair treatments.
Crooked teeth: “Everyone loves a gorgeous smile with a row of perfectly straight teeth, so this is the most common reason patients obtain orthodontic treatment. Treatment varies according to the amount of correction required. It can be as simple as a fixed or removable plate, or full braces, clear alignment treatment, and/or jaw surgery.”
Cost: Braces start at around $7,500 and can go up to $14,000 for lingual braces.
Receding or protruding jawline: “An imbalance of the facial profile is often caused by small or large upper or lower jaws, in relation to each other. Small facial discrepancies can sometimes be camouflaged by appropriate orthodontic treatment which may or may not involve the removal of teeth in the appropriate jaw to compensate for its size. More significant jaw or facial imbalances may require a consultation with an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon regarding combined orthodontic and jaw surgery.
Cost: Varies depending on treatment. Orthodontic costs are similar to having braces alone, around $7,500 – 10,000, but total costs depend if you have jaw surgery via the private hospital system and if you have the appropriate level of private health insurance or if you undergo treatment via the public hospital system. Jaw surgery prices depend on your level of cover, which state you are in and what your surgeon charges. Some patients pay for private orthodontic treatment and then have public jaw surgery via the public hospital system – so there is no out of pocket expenses for the surgical component of the treatment.
Overcrowded, impacted and non-erupted teeth: “The failure of eruption of teeth, impacted teeth or overcrowding are common problems that can be rectified by orthodontic treatment. These may involve combined management with your general dentist, a paediatric dentist, gum specialist and Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon.
Costs: Varies according to treatment plan.
Receding gums: “Gums may recede as a result of a myriad of causes. Should gum recession occur due to the prominent location of the tooth and associated tooth root within the bone, then if possible, the tooth may be relocated to a more ideal location with orthodontic treatment, or it may be more appropriate to remove the offending tooth and to close the space if the misalignment is due to overcrowding.”
Costs: Varies depending on the extent and type of correction
Psychologist Tahnee Schulz says these procedures can be life changing for some people. “Not only for their self-confidence or social interactions but also their health.”
Dr Sudjalim agrees, saying “it’s truly amazing to see your patients’ personalities bloom after treatment.”
All orthodontists were once dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists. It takes more than a weekend course to become an orthodontist. In fact, it requires an additional three years’ study and 5,000 hours of practical training –over and above their dental degree –to become a specialist orthodontist.
Three years is a big deal. And Orthodontics Australia believes you should have total confidence in your specialist’s ability to straighten teeth and align jaws.
Check you’re seeing a specialist orthodontist at: orthodonticsaustralia.org.au/check
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