Preity Zinta’s dimpled smile is undoubtedly one of her best assets. And Dr Sunil Bhoolabhai, smile-care expert on the Femina Miss India panel, keeps it looking good. Most top Bollywood stars, including Karisma Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Madhuri Dixit and Kareena Kapoor, have had their smiles improved.
These days, however, smile designing is not limited to those in the glamour world. People in the middle and lower-middle class bracket are also eager to flash those pearly whites. Dr Partha Sarathi Mondal, who is doing his masters in dentistry (MDS) from the department of conservative dentistry and endodontics, Dr R. Ahmed Dental College, Calcutta, is among those helping people hone their smiles. He turns gap-toothed and discoloured smiles into picture perfect ones.
This line of dentistry, says Mondal, gives him creative satisfaction. He is no exception. An increasing number of those studying dentistry are opting for aesthetic dentistry, popularly called cosmetic dentistry. It encompasses procedures such as fixing buck teeth, whitening stained teeth, straightening uneven teeth or restoring cracked and chipped teeth which go on to improve the appearance of a person.
“There is a great demand for aesthetic dentistry all over the country,” says Dr Dibyendu Mazumdar, principal, Dr R. Ahmed Dental College. “According to the recommendations of the Dental Council of India, aesthetic dentistry has been included in the MDS course on conservative dentistry and endodontics.”
So if you want to design smiles, first equip yourself with a bachelor of dental surgery (BDS) degree. “You have to be very strong in your basics,” says Dr Debashish Bera, director of the Smile Craft Dental Foundation and Research Centre in Salt Lake, Calcutta. He adds that cosmetic dentistry is an interdisciplinary science. After BDS, you can specialise in operative surgery, conservative dentistry or prosthodontics but to be a good cosmetic dentist, you will need to have knowledge of all the fields, apart from a modicum of aesthetic sense and an ability to visualise.
You could also opt for one of the certificate courses in cosmetic dentistry offered by universities abroad.
Dr T.K. Pal, who heads the department of perodontics and community medicine at Guru Nanak Dental College, a private college in Panihati, Calcutta, says “These short-term courses help gain expertise in a specific area.” Pal recently did a course on implants, that is, replacing lost teeth permanently by embedding a false tooth in the gum.
These short-term courses — offered by the State University of New York, Buffalo and New York University, among others in the US — cost between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 3 lakh.
Not all doctors, however, feel it is mandatory to do a short-term course in cosmetic dentistry. “If you have done your BDS from a reputed institute (the government colleges are all good), then you should be able to handle the work,” holds Dr Seema Taneja Gupta, a Delhi-based orthodontist. But she adds that a postgraduate degree, preferably in oral and maxillofacial surgery or conservative dentistry, helps.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery deals with the jawbone and the mouth. Dental surgeons who specialise in this field can also do rhinoplasty, popularly known as a nose job, the most common cosmetic surgery. Orthodentia, which Taneja Gupta specialises in, is the art of straightening uneven teeth, usually with braces. Conservative dentistry, on its part, tries to preserve teeth, instead of pulling out diseased ones. This branch advocates salvaging as much of the natural tooth as possible and then capping it to make it look perfect.
A perfect set of teeth apart, a patient can also have his jaw line improved, says oral and maxo-facial surgeon Dr Ajay Shahi of Apollo Gleneagles, Calcutta. “And we have plenty of takers for this operation.”
That is mainly because people have become conscious of their appearance, especially since looks are important in the fast growing hospitality and glamour sectors. “That is why there is an emphasis on all dental work looking good. Alongside, we now have the material, like composites, which make it possible for all repair work, including fillings, to be invisible,” says Calcutta-based prosthodontist Dr Samiran Das.
Dental surgeons can usually find employment with government hospitals, private nursing homes and public companies that have their own health services. They can even set up private practice but it is advisable to work in a hospital or nursing home, or with an experienced practitioner, before setting up one’s own chamber.
Salaries at government hospitals start at Rs 10,000 while a private nursing home pays a qualified fresher Rs 25,000 approximately. The earnings from private practice are low in the beginning but can eventually go up to more than Rs 50,000 a month. The sky, however, is the limit if cosmetic dentists can carve a niche for themselves.
Not everyone, however, is attracted merely by the lucre. Ujjal Das, a first year BDS student, is a case in point. “Nothing can be more satisfying that making a person smile beautifully,” he says. Preity Zinta would surely say cheese to that.