Britons to spend £1bn in pursuit of Hollywood smiles

Perfect teeth come at a price, and dentists warn of the dangers of DIY kits
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The Independent Online

By 2012 Britons will be spending £1bn a year on cosmetic dentistry, according to a new report that reveals demand is already surging for treatments such as tooth whitening, stain removal and porcelain veneers.

The boom is fuelled by an increasing obsession with Hollywood smiles that is luring new entrants – such as high-street chains and beauticians – into the market.

The pursuit of eternal youth is driving the growth of aesthetic treatments over functional care, according to new research by Mintel, and the market is growing at around 13 per cent a year.

The top celebrity smiles belong to Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, dentists report. "People come in clutching pictures of actors," said Phil Stemmer, of the Fresh Breath Clinic in London.

The value of cosmetic dental treatments in the UK is estimated to have rocketed by almost 150 per cent during the past 12 months to £519m, as consumers follow the example set by celebrities such as Shania Twain and Jude Law. One in three Brits would like whiter smiles, the report said. Its author, Alexandra Richard, added: "There has been a big spurt on the back of extreme makeover TV shows."

Dr Stemmer, who counts the model Laura Bailey and rock star Liam Gallagher among his patients, warned: "With over-the-counter kits the trays don't fit very well so patients swallow a lot and get inflammation of the throat and tummy. If they use the kits many times, which they need to if they want a result, it can dissolve their teeth and cause permanent sensitivity."

The General Dental Council has seen complaints about tooth whitening by non-professionals soar as more firms seek to cash in. Duncan Rudkin, its chief executive, said: "We are investigating these allegations and prosecuting individuals where we need to."

Superdrug is the latest alternative for treatments; the chain offers cut-price teeth whitening, breath freshening and hygienist treatments in some stores.

Many consumers are trying to cut costs by taking "dental holidays" abroad, which can cut the cost by 70 per cent. The website Treatment Abroad said 22,000 Britons travel for dental work each year, spending around £2,500 each. But cosmetic dentist David Dewson said he saw more botched work done in Bulgaria and India than anywhere, and warned: "The NHS will not remedy any treatment done abroad."