Qatar residents have long embraced plastic surgery as a means to improve their body shapes and facial features.
But now, many are forking over thousands of riyals to obtain a different goal: the perfect smile.
According to several dentists who spoke to Doha News, smile enhancement treatments like dental veneers and teeth whitening have been on the rise in Qatar for the past three or four years.
The increasing popularity of such procedures appears to be related to the rise of social media and the sharing of images online.
According to Anu Rengit, a prosthodontist at Dr. Sarah’s Specialist Dental Centre in West Bay:
“It is the selfie era. Everyone will be seeing your smile, so teeth are definitely important because your smile is your calling card,” she said.
Fatima Al-Binali can relate.
The 28-year-old business analyst said she used to be very self-conscious about her teeth discoloration.
“I didn’t feel confident when I smiled or when I laughed. I felt like every time I smiled someone was staring at my teeth,” she recalled to Doha News.
One day, she noticed and asked her cousin about her white teeth, and was told about dental veneers.
Al-Binali said she went straight to the dentist the next day to ask for a similar procedure.
Veneers and lumineers
Smile enhancement treatments include procedures such as teeth whitening, dental veneers and lumineers.
Dental veneers are permanent thin ceramic layers that cover the surface of the teeth to change the appearance and color of the tooth. Before the procedure, the enamel of the tooth needs to be shaved.
Lumineers are similar to veneers, but are thinner and require less time to do.
Al-Binali said she used to spend an average of QR5,000 a year for a whiter smile, paying about QR1,700 every four months.
However, the one-time cost for veneers ranges from QR3,000 to QR3,500, whereas for lumineers it is around QR4,000.
Oral hygiene first
Dr. Shahnaz Kader, a dentist at Yara Medical Center near Villaggio Mall, told Doha News that about half of her patients now request smile enhancement treatments.
That’s up from about a third two years ago.
The trend is not limited to young people either, with patients ranging from 20 to 50 years old, Kader said.
But as the procedures get more popular, several dentists in Qatar want patients to know that oral hygiene should be their first priority.
Speaking to Doha News, Dr. Hana Hasse, a specialist in orthodontics at the German Dental Centre in Madinat Khalifa North, said:
“We have a duty, and we have an oath in the medical profession to check for cavities, root canal and broken teeth, then we look at enhancing the smile.”
The draw of cosmetic dentistry is now so strong, patients sometimes forgo necessary procedures for aesthetic improvements.
Kader for example said she has had some patients with tooth decay who, instead of getting a filling, sought out smile enhancements.
Health versus beauty
And there can be drawbacks to having a sparkly smile.
Al-Binali said she now suffers from sensitivity after her teeth’s enamel was removed.
“My confidence is boosted because of my veneers, but now my teeth are very sensitive to temperatures. I now wish that I took better care of my oral hygiene when I was younger,” she said.
Indeed, children in Qatar do not have good teeth.
In 2013, the government began mandating dental screenings for kids after finding that seven out 10 six-year-olds suffer from varying amounts of dental decay.
Dentists said they have been trying to do their part by educating patients so that both health and aesthetic enhancements can be obtained.
Dr. Burak Gokdeniz, a specialist in prosthodontics at the German Dental Centre, said:
“Even when patients come for aesthetics, we focus on the health problems first. Without health, aesthetics is nonsense.”