Cosmetic dental treatments are essentially any type of procedure or treatment type that improves the appearance of your teeth. They tend to fall into these main types:

Tooth restoration – repairing the appearance of teeth that have been damaged or become worn

Teeth whitening – lightening the shade of your teeth using chemicals

Tooth straightening – also known as orthodontics, adjusting the alignment of teeth, usually with braces

Many cosmetic dental treatments are only available to adults through private treatment, although some tooth restoration procedures e.g. fillings and crowns, are available to NHS patients. The cost of cosmetic dental procedures will vary, depending on what is required and who is carrying it out, but some courses of treatment e.g. veneers, can run into many thousands of pounds. If you’re considering undergoing cosmetic dental procedures, it’s important to understand the risks as well as the benefits, to make sure you can make an informed decision about your treatment plan and will know what to expect.

The most common cosmetic dental treatments

Some of the most popular types of cosmetic dental treatments include:

Tooth-coloured composite fillings

Rather than using an amalgam filling (silver-coloured), your dentist may suggest a ‘white’ or ‘tooth-coloured’ composite filling, especially if the tooth being filled is at the front of the mouth or will be visible when speaking or smiling.


A thin layer of porcelain or resin is placed over the front of worn, discoloured or damaged teeth to restore their appearance. Veneers can also be used to make crooked teeth appear straight or to cover small gaps between teeth.

Teeth whitening

You can have your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist, using a gel containing bleach. Usually this involves having to wear a mouth tray for a set period of time to allow the chemicals to work.

Teeth straightening

Teeth are usually straightened over time using a type of braces. There are several different types of braces that work in slightly different ways, and some are more visible than others. They all gradually move teeth by applying pressure to push them into the desired positions. Usually, braces will need to be worn for between a few months and a few years, depending on the treatment type.

The risks of cosmetic dental treatments

Composite fillings are not always as durable as amalgam ones, meaning that they are not necessarily suitable for all types of fillings or circumstances and could need replacing or repairing after a period of time. Your dentist should discuss this with you before you agree to a treatment plan including a composite filling.

Veneers can fail or require replacing if they are fitted poorly or if an appropriate cleaning and oral health routine is not maintained after the procedure. They can last for several years if the procedure is successful, but are likely to need replacing at some point.

Tooth whitening can permanently damage your teeth if the treatment is not carried out correctly. Home whitening kits are especially dangerous, but even professional tooth whitening procedures done by dentists can go wrong if instructions are not followed precisely or the treatment is carried out poorly by a dental professional. Tooth whitening treatments don’t give permanent results; they can last for a couple of years, but the effects of the treatment will wear off eventually. Tooth whitening can also result in increased sensitivity in your teeth and gum irritation, in some cases.

Braces can be uncomfortable to wear and can be difficult to clean and maintain, so they are not for everyone. Some cases of tooth misalignment may be too severe to be treated with braces.

What if cosmetic dental treatment goes wrong?

Sometimes, cosmetic dental procedures can go wrong and your dentist may be at fault if they have not carried out their work to a good standard or have failed in their duty of care to you, the patient. If your dentist did not properly explain the risks of a type of treatment they recommend and it causes you pain, discomfort or means that you require more costly treatment to rectify the problem, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

Can your mental health affect your oral health?

new study published by the Journal of Clinical Periodontology has suggested that young adults who are suffering from sadness, helplessness and other symptoms of depression, are significantly more likely to also suffer at the hands of oral health diseases.

Researchers monitoring the oral and mental health of more than 500 people, from birth until the age of 30, discovered that those who had regular feelings of depression were almost 20% more likely to also have severe gum disease.

How is depression and gum disease linked?

This study not only makes a connection between depressive episodes and the body’s ability to fight off inflammation; which is one of the early signs of gum disease.

There is much known about the association between emotional and mental health and its connection with the immune health and that’s effect on the body’s health. Alas there’s more not known that is known.

it also provides research to suggest that young adults suffering from symptoms of depression could be more likely to neglect their oral health – this is why dentists need to be vigilant.

It is the dentist’s responsibility to screen, share his/her findings, clinically notate and assist in accessing appropriate care. This is Standard of Care. The appearance of disinterest doesn’t remove that responsibility.

“Understanding that mental disorders can influence the health of our mouth is extremely important. It gives us a platform to be able to increase the standard of oral health, it also increases our clinical and ethical responsibilities.

“More effective education, individual treatment plans, better supportive therapy and aftercare, must be provided for those suffering with depression and other mental health disorders.”

We must therefore improve our ability to spot depression, (just as we would do, dental diseases) which often goes undiagnosed.

Did your dentist recognise the early signs of gum disease?

If you’re concerned that issues regarding anxiety, depression or any other mental health-related problems might be affecting your oral health, the first thing you need to do is visit your GP to discuss your options and what support is available. You should also keep a look-out for any early symptoms of gum disease, which can be easily treated. These can include:

Bad breath

Cartoon of bad breath
Breath odor may be the sign of gum disease and a failure to care for yourself.

There are other causes of bad breath ranging from poor oral hygiene to medical conditions such as some cancers, metabolic disorders or local disorders (ie tonsil/adenoid infection or swelling). Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) or snoring can be associated with bad breath too.

Gums appearing puffy or swollen

Your dentist or hygienist should note this immediately and investigate further. It may be superficial or it may be deep and progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis along with the risk of eventual tooth loss.

Gums appearing a dark red colour

The cardinal signs of gum inflammation are – redness, heat, and swelling. The other two sigs of inflammation – pain and dysfunction are usually not present which from a diagnostic standpoint is actually a disadvantage.

Gums bleeding easily, particularly when you are brushing or flossing

Inflammation increases vascularity and the likelihood of bleeding under slight touch or injury. In health -GUMS SHOULD NOT BLEED.

Gums appearing to recede

Gums can recede due to anatomy (either crowding or poorly planned orthodontics) but is also commonly associated with bruxism (tooth grinding) – such damage is referred to as abfraction which often go unobserved or misdiagnosed by dentists and hygienists who simply see them as tooth brush wear from incorrect toothbrushing. Fillings placed without an understanding of cause will repeatedly fall out.

photo of teeth with gum-line notching
Gums can recede due to anatomy (either crowding or poorly planned orthodontics) but is also commonly associated with bruxism (tooth grinding) – such damage is referred to as abfraction

If you have noticed any of the above, it’s important that you also try to schedule a visit to your dentist for a check-up as soon as possible.

“My dentist failed to diagnose gum disease”

If you have already visited your dentist with concerns regarding gum disease and you believe that they have failed to spot any symptoms, or you believe that your dentist may have contributed to ongoing oral health issues through misdiagnosis, poor treatment or negligence, you may be entitled to recompense.

Stephen Bray DDS


Dentist looking closely at you (view through your mouth)

21-year-old Miss Y from Manchester, UK, left without her front tooth after poor treatment from local dentists
X-rays revealed that the dentists should have extracted the tooth in 2012 but they did not refer her to have the tooth removed until 2016
Miss Y was forced to take out a loan to pay for dental treatment that was inadequate.

(UK Case)