Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
As more men embrace cosmetic improvements to their teeth, they’re also improving their oral and general health. By Frank Leggett
While women were early adopters of cosmetic dentistry, men have taken a little longer to warm to the idea. Now cosmetic dentistry for men is a growing area in many dental practices. These men want to make improvements to their teeth and smile—and improve their general overall health at the same time.
“Over the past five to 10 years, cosmetic dentistry for men has grown considerably,” says Dr Barbara Szylkarski, owner of Leichhardt Street Dental in Brisbane. “My cosmetic work is split evenly between the sexes. The biggest difference seems to be that women visit regularly and stay on top of their dental needs and wants. Many men tend to wait until there’s a problem that needs fixing. Once the decision has been made to fix things, then men are completely on board and proactive. Their desire for cosmetic work usually morphs out of their desire to improve their oral health.”
While cosmetic dentistry is common among a younger male demographic, Dr Syzlkarski’s practice is located in the heart of the Brisbane CBD, and older business people make up a large proportion of her clients. They might want to rehabilitate their smile to express a healthy business persona, or they may be putting everything in order as they prepare for upcoming retirement.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into a full mouth rehabilitation,” says Dr Szylkarski. “And I want to make sure the client is happy with the end result. As part of that process, I’ll mention cosmetic work that will reflect the healthy oral condition of the patient.”
Dr Szylkarski, who graduated from the University of Queensland with honours and the Owen Pearn Prize in Operative Dentistry in 1994, says teeth whitening is her most popular cosmetic treatment for men. “Businessmen always want results fast. Home whitening simply takes too long for them so invariably they opt for an in-chair whitening.”
As the general public is made aware of the many health issues that can arise from bad teeth—and the positive health benefits of good oral health—men are taking ownership of their dental issues. In this age of social awareness and social exposure, it’s not enough to just have a healthy mouth—it also has to be seen.
“I’ve found there’s no longer a gender bias when it comes to cosmetic dentistry,” says Dr Peter Poulos, owner and principal dentist at Sydney Cosmetic Dentist in Bondi Junction. “Men are competing in a domain where workplaces are no longer male dominant. Empowerment is not just about the work you present and the clothes you wear, it’s the aura you give and the confidence behind it. Your smile is the first thing that people notice about you.”
Men are not only more conscious of their health these days; they simply choose to have nice teeth. They are aware of the way they present and don’t want to feel self-conscious hiding a bad smile.
“In the past, it was almost a badge of honour to walk around with a visibly missing tooth or crooked teeth,” says Dr Poulos, who graduated from the University of Sydney in 2004. Dr Poulos is also a graduate of the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. “Complete smile makeovers are very popular in my practice, along with veneers and/or implants. It might be a broken or infected tooth that drives a man to come in and then decide to rehabilitate their entire smile. Unfortunately, many men will leave things until they’re fairly dire.”
Encouraging male patients to consider cosmetic dentistry can be a fine balancing act. While some men are happy to be approached with a blunt question, others need to be handled more delicately.
“I generally wait for my male patients to bring it up,” says Dr Szylkarski. “They might be sharing their concern about some chipped teeth and I’ll take the opportunity to suggest veneers as an option. I think it’s better if the impetus comes from the patient rather than the dentist in these situations.”
Dr Poulos has a different approach. With the word ‘cosmetic’ in the name of his practice, his patients are open to advice and direction about improving their smile. While cosmetic dentistry is his focus, he practises all types of dentistry.
“I will not embark on a veneer case or a full mouth rehabilitation unless the patient displays good oral health,” says Dr Poulos. “It starts with getting the gums right, then stabilising the teeth and then having the patient demonstrate effective oral maintenance. I came up with a program called ‘Our Perfect 10’ that’s designed to be customised to the patient’s specific needs.”
Dr Poulos’s program is underpinned by the three principles: function, stability and dentist techniques. All lurking problems must be eliminated before he’ll start any cosmetic work.
“It’s not about sticking on veneers and the patient walking out the door,” says Dr Poulos. “If things aren’t in the right position, they’re going to break. If not enough tooth has been taken off, it’s going to look too bulky. If the bite’s not anchored right, the facial muscles are not going to be sitting in the right position.”
While cosmetic dentistry is sometimes dismissed as a distraction for the vain, nothing could be further from the truth. Men are embracing cosmetic improvements and the by-product is that they are improving their oral health and general overall health.