Find yourself covering your mouth when you laugh? You’re not alone. In fact, according to the British Dental Health Foundation, only half of Brits are happy with the state of their teeth. And given that a third of people reckon a great smile is key to attractiveness, it’s little wonder an increasing number of us are opting for a little cosmetic dentistry to supercharge our smiles.

“A good smile shows confidence and studies have shown smiling can have a positive effect on our relationships, careers and overall image,” says Dr. Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation.

So if you fancy, quite literally, putting the smile back on your face, then maybe it’s time you dealt with those niggling dental issues that are preventing you from parting your lips – because whatever your dental dilemma, there’s a cosmetic procedure worth considering.

The Problem: Stained Teeth

Tea, coffee and too much Malbec have left your teeth less than sparkling.

The Solution

New regulations mean some of the super-fast treatments that delivered paper white pearlies are no longer available in the UK, but there are still plenty of options available for anyone keen to whiten their teeth.

The most common treatment involves wearing specially made trays filled with whitening gel at times to suit you for two to three weeks.

The process is done under dentist supervision and results can last twelve months or more depending on how well you look after your teeth and whether you consume a lot of tooth-staining foods and drinks.

The main side effect is sensitivity – something you should discuss with your dentist in advance.

Prices vary but expect to pay £250+.

The Problem: Metal Fillings

You have more ‘silverware’ than Manchester United.

The Solution

Composite fillings. Made of a hard plastic polymer and mixed to match the colour of your teeth, composite or ‘white’ fillings are a great alternative to the often obvious amalgam ones.

The argument still rages over whether they’re as good as traditional silver-coloured fillings, but with the latest composite technology and properly executed fitting they can be as hard-wearing and last as long as their amalgam cousins.

The Problem: ‘Gappy’ Teeth

Your teeth look like tombstones.

The Solution

Veneers. Though expensive (a mouthful will cost you as much as a decent new car), these thin ceramic coverings are the ultimate way to up the appearance of your teeth and disguise any gaps.

In a procedure that’s not unlike re-plastering an unsightly old wall, a thin layer of tooth enamel is shaved off by the dentist and a ceramic ‘façade’ is then bonded over it. Once on, veneers are strong, convincing and should last you ten to fifteen years or longer.

The Problem: A Chipped Tooth

You fell and chipped a tooth.

The Solution

A crown. This is an artificial cap – often made of porcelain – that fits over the existing part of the tooth to provide a strong, smooth and natural-looking surface.

They’re perfect for restoring teeth that are broken, chipped or have decaying areas too large for fillings. To fit them, the tooth is filed down to a peg (a procedure reassuringly not as horrific as it sounds) and a false outer surface, moulded by a dental technician, is then fixed in place with a special adhesive.

If you care for them properly – in the way you would the rest of your teeth – crowns can last for years.

Prices vary but expect to pay around £500+ if having the work done privately.

The Problem: Exposed Gums

You’ve got more gum than Wrigley’s.

The Solution

Gum contouring. In the same way that having your fringe cut allows your face to be seen, this cosmetic procedure allows more of your teeth to be seen, making them appear straighter and your smile bigger and better balanced.

Using a precision laser, the dentist trims the outer edges of your gums so each tooth is perfectly and evenly framed. It’s ideal for anyone with asymmetrical gum tissue, which makes teeth look lopsided, or for anyone with gums that hide their teeth.

“Since gum tissue is extremely good at healing, there’s usually little pain and the results are pretty much instantaneous,” says Dr. Tim Bradstock-Smith of The London Smile Clinic.

Basic contouring starts from around £150.

The Problem: Missing Teeth

A bar brawl robbed you of your dignity – and your two front teeth.

The Solution

Implants. Screwed into your jawbone, implants give you the option of what was once impossible – a third set of teeth.

Popular with celebrities and footballers (they can cost as much as £4,000 a pop, which might explain why), they’re made from titanium, a material that integrates easily with bone tissue.

If implanted correctly, your implant will be with you for life. Once the implant has stabilised – a process that can take up to six months – an artificial crown can be added.

Unlike bridges – a less expensive way of filling the void in which a new tooth is cemented to the teeth either side to fill the hole – you still have a gap between the implant and your real teeth, which allows you to continue flossing.

The Problem: Crooked Teeth

Your teeth are falling over each other for space in your mouth.

The Solution

Adult braces. Not just for kids, braces are one of the simplest and most effective ways to correct crooked, misaligned teeth, and advances in technology mean they are often much less conspicuous than they used to be.

Lingual braces, for example, are attached on the back of the teeth rather than the front. “Braces are one of the most popular treatments with men because they deliver natural results with minimal interference from the dentist,” says Dr. Uchenna Okoye, Clinical Director of London Smiling Dental Group.

Also worth investigating is Invisalign – near-invisible, custom-made plastic aligners that gently straighten teeth and create a balanced, natural-looking smile.

A lightweight, removable and transparent plate (think barely there gum shield), it slips over your pearlies and slowly moves teeth over a period of time. You need patience, as results can take over a year, but the big advantage is that nobody knows it’s there and there’s no difficult-to-clean metalwork in your mouth.

Expect to pay around £1,500-£4,500 depending on how much straightening is required.

Final Word

Although there’s a lot more to life than having nice gnashers, there’s little worse than cringing when it comes to those Kodak moments. Provided you take some time to research dentists and assess the pros and cons, these procedures can help you regain your confidence in your smile.

Did having some cosmetic dentistry change your smile for the better?

Let us know your experiences using the comments box below.