There’s a trend of videos of people showing off their “shark teeth” on Tik Tok before getting cosmetic dentistry; the process of shaving down the natural teeth to look like shark teeth prior to getting “veneers”.
But is it really necessary to shave teeth down in this way?
Well, not according to Gareth Stephen Edwards, principal dentist and co-owner of Smile Stories, a cosmetic dentist in Bournemouth
“The real issue is people are being sold veneers but getting crowns. Crowns are easier and faster to apply and the end result can be aesthetically pleasing. But crowns should never be used unless teeth are too damaged for veneers. Aggressive shaving down of teeth can lead to nerve damage and constant pain. This is especially common when people go abroad to get veneers.”
There are some key differences between the application of veneers and crowns. Because veneers are attached to the front of the tooth, any damage is minimal. Veneers require minimal enamel removal and very little — if any — shaving down of natural teeth. Crowns, however, cover the entire tooth and require extensive shaving down. It’s this process that gives teeth the appearance of “shark teeth” or stumps.
This process can lead to nerve damage and increase the likelihood of losing teeth later. Gareth explained, “Prior to applying a crown, you need to remove approximately 60% of the tooth. This weakens the tooth and, when nerve damage occurs, can leave the person in terrible pain.”
When teeth are shaved down to fit dental crowns, various problems can occur. Two common problems are:
Improper placement — One of the most common mistakes of inexperienced dentists lacking adequate training is incorrect placement of the crown. This can lead to problems with your bite and discomfort when chewing, which can cause the crown to crack or break. But worse still is the potential damage to the tooth under the crown if bacteria get in and cause decay. Unfortunately, you may not know the tooth beneath the crown is decaying until it is too late and it has to be removed.
Sensitivity — When the tooth is shaved down, this can lead to nerve inflammation and severe pain. This might begin almost immediately or weeks or months after having crowns. A root canal is the only way to stop the pain and will require the removal of the crown. Following the root canal, a new crown will need to be applied.
Veneers are typically either made from composite or porcelain. There are benefits and disadvantages to both types. We explain more below:
Composite veneers are made from a composite material a little like putty. Because composite veneers are applied directly to the tooth surface, they can be fitted in just one dental appointment. They typically last between three to five years but can be discoloured by stains and chip or break more easily than porcelain veneers.
Porcelain veneers are made from a thin layer of porcelain in a dental laboratory before being applied. You will need two dental appointments — one to take a mould of your natural teeth for the lab and then a second one to apply the veneers. Porcelain veneers typically last between ten and fifteen years and are more durable than the composite variety. They will not stain and do not chip or break as easily.
The key takeaway is to be extremely careful if you are considering a smile makeover — especially if you are going abroad for treatment. Ask the dental practitioner if they will cover the entire tooth (this is a crown, even if they call it a veneer) and for clarification on the type of veneers they are using. The General Dental Council (GDC) guide to dental treatment abroad has a list of additional questions you should ask.
Crowns may look amazing on TikTok and can look great in real life, but why ruin your natural teeth and risk tooth loss when you can have veneers?