One look on the internet for cheap cosmetic dentistry and it’s easy to come across the phenomenon of “snap-on teeth”. Once an idea which would only prove useful at a Halloween party at best, snap-on teeth have enjoyed a herculean rise into a multimillion-dollar worldwide industry.
But is it a serious option? Who should try it? Or is it still just a party gimmick which would have your dentist rolling his eyes in despair?
The first place to start is distinguishing the good, the bad and the ugly, as it were. The word “snap-on smile” encompasses everything from $30.00 for a DIY kit on Amazon, to a thousand dollars or pounds for a bespoke temporary structure, perhaps as part of a £50,000 implant treatment plan.
So What Are Snap-On Teeth?
Just as the name suggests, these are a removable ‘row of teeth’ that are placed over your own gnashers. The aim is purely an improved cosmetic appearance (ie unlike other restorative dental treatments that also aim to improve functional performance such as eating.)
So if you have crooked, discolored or some missing front teeth, you may look at these as a cheap (and fast) way to improve your appearance.
With the more expensive types, you can select how you want the final product to look – Perhaps you may want to copy the smile of a favorite celebrity?!
The cheaper options don’t give you such variety, having only a few ‘stock’ appearances to choose from.
Let’s have a look at some options:
Budget, Stock Clip-Ons
Starting at the bottom and working upwards, Imako and SecureSmile appear to be the two industry leaders at the budget end of the snap-on teeth market. Amazon.com has a long list of informative, interesting, and sometimes cutting and even hilarious reviews of people who have bought one or both of these companies’ products.
Essentially both of these products involve purchasing a standard row of plastic veneers, with a few different sizes available, and then fitting them at home. The fitting process generally consists of heating the product in water and then applying them to the teeth where they harden and take on their final shape. The materials used typically allow a second or third attempt at the process. The need for this property is re-enforced by the large number of reviews which describe the extreme patience required when fitting the product, and the difficulty of inserting and removing it the first few times.
The products, of course, are not a cheap way of getting “new teeth”. They are essentially just pieces of tooth-shaped plastic which cover your won dental arches. It is not possible to eat with them in and hot drinks are not advised as this can re-set the shape. Some people also take time learning to talk with them. They have, therefore pretty limited functionality.
They are, however, a more-or-less harmless teeth-like piece of plastic which certainly seem to make some people happier about going out and socializing at parties, and meeting people in situations which previously made them feel very self-conscious.
Professionally Made Snap-on Smile
At the other end of the market, your dentist (if they provide such a service) would happily talk to you about the Snap-on Smile system which he/she could make for you with the help of a good-quality dental laboratory.
One important reason why this could be necessary is the need for a temporary smile during large dental implant cases where the titanium implants require several months buried in the bone before being used to support teeth. In often similar cases patients who are preparing to undergo very extensive cosmetic work to their own teeth can have a Snap-on Smile device made for them to try out the new appearance, and color, before committing themselves to hours of very expensive dentistry, which is also irreversible.
These more substantial devices are said to be able to be used in eating, but in practice are often taken out during meals due to their insubstantial nature and the entirely temporary way they merely rest over the existing teeth.
There are also a few difficulties with these products. Since they just cover over the existing teeth, a person whose incisors stick out already (proclined) will find it too difficult and unsightly to wear something other the top. A smaller disadvantage is that in the UK the number of dental technicians capable of making the devices are not very many, and the molds taken by dentists here are often sent to the US for processing, resulting in a turnaround time of several weeks.
Despite their temporary nature, therefore, good quality snap-on teeth are difficult to construct and use in an emergency.
Summary of advantages:
Having looked at the range of options, let’s summarize the plus points:
- Cost: A quality, laboratory-made snap-on smile will cost around the same price as perhaps one or two veneers would.
- Drill-less: This system requires no drilling to your tooth surfaces, with all the advantages that brings. Some extreme phobics may find this appealing.
- Fast – Although they may take a few weeks for the lab to construct, these only require a few minutes of actual ‘treatment’ time with the dentist – ie for the impressions to be taken. At-home kits, obviously, don’t even need this time.
- Great way to test permanent work – If you are about to undergo extensive cosmetic dental work, eg involving crowns, veneers and/or bridgework, you (and your dentist) may wish to check that you like the shade and shape of the planned outcome, before committing to it. In truth, however, lab-made temporary veneers and crowns etc. are more commonly used in such circumstances.
There are a lot of foreseeable issues with a snap-on smile, including:
- Oral health dangers: The cheaper versions, in particular will always leave at least a small gap between your natural teeth and the plastic material. This space will also increase with time (as the material will weaken and loosen). This space will give a perfect environment for plaque bacteria, which in turn can lead to decay and gum disease. If, for example, someone became really attached to their snap-on smile and never took it out, resultant damage to the teeth could be catastrophic. So if you do get one, make sure you don’t wear them all the time, and keep your own teeth spotlessly clean underneath.
- The cheaper versions can be really poor – as judged by the reviews on amazon.
- As mentioned above, these are for appearance only – Don’t expect to be able to eat with them in.
- These are not suitable for everyone. As mentioned above, if your teeth are very prominent this will only make them more so. Or if you are missing many teeth the snap-on smile will not be an option.
- Limited lifespan: These are a temporary in nature, and will loosen over time. Don’t expect the budget options to last very long, and ask your dentist about the life expectancy of whatever system they use.
At the cheaper end, then, snap-on teeth are an interesting, perhaps even fun addition to someone’s make-up routine, not too dissimilar to wearing artificial frames for glasses. At the other end they are a bespoke addition to a dental treatment plan of which your dentist would be proud.
Do note that if not used as they should be, they could cause massive damage to your own teeth.
In the right hands, then, the difference between the two shouldn’t just be the price.