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The perfect smile can be hard to find

Posted by Yvonne Wallace

Health psychologists should support dentists before they begin any aesthetic dental procedures, according to a new study.

The British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology’s Annual Conference was presented with the findings of the research – which looked into patients’ satisfaction with regards to cosmetic dentistry.

A team of scientists from the King’s College London reviewed how 60 participants judged their appearance before and after their dental work. They were also asked to complete a personality test before the procedure took place.

Researchers found that those who were the happiest with their appearance after treatment were also the same people who were happiest with their appearance before undergoing aesthetic dental work. Similarly, those who appeared most dissatisfied before continued in that vein of thought after the procedure was completed.

Lead scientists Sharmila Sarin and Dr Koula Asimakopoulou said: “We found that it is in the patients’ and dentists’ interest to ensure that patients receiving aesthetic dental work start from as high a point of satisfaction with current appearance as possible.”

They continued to explain that neuroticism is likely to interfere with satisfaction over aesthetic dental work.

Dental marketing is a useful tool in managing patients’ expectations, and the findings follow a recent warning by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) for dentists to consider the clinical risks of cosmetic dentistry before carrying out procedures.

The MDDUS warns it is highly important to warn patients of the risks involved before treatment begins, while also making sure they are aware that the end result is not guaranteed to be the “perfect smile” they might be hoping for.

It argues that much of the problem comes from the fact that judgement as to what constitutes an enhanced smile is “highly subjective”, and there will always be situations where the dentist is satisfied with the outcome but the patient is not. 

According to the MDDUS, £1.5 billion is spent on cosmetic dentistry in the UK alone every year.

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