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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Can't smile without you

From special translucent braces to quick-fix aesthetic treatments, there are now more ways to cosmetically enhance your smile
The Straits Times - October 14, 2011
By: Karen Tee
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Can't smile without you -- Photographer: ASHLEIGH SIM

By today's standards of beauty, a straight and healthy set of teeth is non-negotiable.

Fortunately, with the many innovations in the orthodontics trade today, almost anyone with the means can lay claim to an impressive mouthful of pearly whites.

Even if braces are called for, one no longer has to suffer a mouthful of angry-looking metal. The latest orthodontic braces are made of a fusion of transparent glass fibres and plastic material.

They are hard to see, even though they are worn on the outside of the teeth like traditional metal braces.

These transparent braces, such as SimpliClear by Singapore company Biomers, are used even by working models.

Ms Kyla Tan, 22, has worked on runway shows without anybody noticing them. 'Unless they have been looking at me for a long time, most people I converse with do not even notice that I am wearing braces,' says Ms Tan, a beauty queen and part-time model.

The innovations have contributed to a steady increase in adults seeking cosmetic dental treatments.

Dr Arthur Lim, the president of the Association of Orthodontists Singapore, estimates the number has doubled over the past six years.

Some are even in their 50s, says DrLynette Ng, the dental director and prosthodontist for The Dental Studio, a subsidiary of the Singapore Medical Group.

Dr Ng says: 'Patients see a beautiful smile with white and straight teeth as anti-ageing and, perhaps, even rejuvenating for their faces as the smile is the first thing a person notices.'

But they must be prepared to put up with some discomfort for at least a year, she says.

Typically, a course of orthodontics lasts for about two years for teens and kids and half a year longer for adults.

This is because adult bones have hardened and need more time to be moved.

The same range of treatment is available for both adults and kids.


Getting one's teeth straightened does have health benefits, says Dr Vivien Tan, a senior consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Dental Clinic. Straight teeth leads to better speech. It improves one's chewing ability and hence digestion. Orthodontic patients are also more aware of the need for proper dental hygiene habits.

But to get these benefits, one must be prepared to pay.

Regular metal braces start from about $3,500, whether at a government dental centre or a private dental clinic.

If you opt for 'invisible' braces, SimpliClear starts from $5,000.

Aside from transparent braces, there are also lingual ones, which are fixed to the backs of the teeth and invisible from the front. These can cost from $8,000.

Then there are tooth veneers, thin shells bonded to the actual teeth to reshape and whiten them. They now come in stronger, crack-resistant materials such as zirconia and lucite. Veneers can be done in just one or two sessions.

For that, expect to pay around $1,000 per tooth.

Teeth bleaching technology has also evolved to incorporate laser treatments, with less-harsh bleaching solutions being used.

These days, people want what DrChia terms 'liquid paper white' teeth, to emulate the blinding white smiles of Hollywood celebrities.

In addition, 'lunchtime' aesthetic procedures such as Botox and filler jabs can correct what dentists term a 'gummy smile', which is a smile that reveals too much of one's gums.

The Botox injection relaxes a muscle behind the nose which elevates the lip when smiling.

Orthodontics also seems to draw patients of both sexes, says Dr Melvin Mark Chia, the chief dental surgeon of Tooth Angels & Co Dental Surgeons at The Central. Half of the clinic's adult orthodontic patients are men.

'Men tend to have fewer ways to improve their looks,' he says.

For both men and women, a beautiful smile can do wonders.

Says Dr Tan: 'The results enhance their self-esteem, self-confidence and self-image. They feel less self-conscious and are happier with themselves.'



What's new: SimpliClear braces, launched last November, are made of transparent plastic.

They are the world's first completely transparent braces and can be used on most patients.

Earlier forms of 'invisible' braces, which include Invisalign and lingual braces, had their limits.

Invisalign is a series of removable clear acrylic trays which are placed over the teeth to get them to gradually move, but these can be used only for minor repositioning.

Lingual braces are wire braces placed on the back of the teeth so that they cannot be seen.

However, patients often suffer from ulcers on their tongues due to the constant friction with the braces. Dentists also find it more difficult to manipulate the wires behind the teeth.

The manufacturing process for the SimpliClear polymer was developed by Singaporean mechanical engineer, DrRenuga Gopal, for a post-graduate project at the National University of Singapore in 2001.

It was a joint project between the Dentistry and the Mechanical Engineering departments.

Dr Gopal and two other partners formed a company called BioMers to market SimpliClear last year.

The polymer has properties similar to that of a metal wire - it is flexible enough to be bent and can exert a constant pressure on the tooth to cause it to move - which makes it suitable for orthodontics.

It is available in about 20 clinics in Singapore.


l It is suitable for a broad range of patients - anyone who is suitable for metal braces can use SimpliClear.

l It can be worn by those who are allergic to metal.


l The plastic wires are more brittle than metal ones, so they are more prone to snapping if you crunch on something hard such as ice.

l One set of SimpliClear braces costs about $1,000 more than metal braces.

Cost: From $5,000 to $6,000, from Tooth Angels & Co Dental Surgeons, B1-01 The Central.



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