New study shows rise in video calls makes Singaporeans feel self-conscious about their teeth and seek treatment

New research commissioned by Invisalign Singapore –a subsidiary of Align Technology, makers of the Invisalign clear aligner system– unveils a rise in the number of Singaporeans considering cosmetic treatment due to the increased need to join video calls, and feeling more self-conscious.

Among those more likely to consider cosmetic procedures after COVID-19, seven in 10 report that they are now more interested in straightening their teeth, while two in five say that video calls for work have made them more aware of their smiles.

The “Zoom Phenomenon” and achieving healthy, beautiful smiles

Video calls in the work-from-home era have driven many Singaporeans to become more self-conscious about how they appear online, with a fair number visiting their dentist to ask about teeth straightening options. This trend has been dubbed by some dentists as the “Zoom Phenomenon”.

“I am seeing more patients seeking options to improve their smile, and crooked uneven teeth is definitely something that bothers them greatly. Whether it is their smile, laughter, bite, or even the way they speak, Singaporeans are now seeing themselves more than ever before, and in real-time on screen in video calls,” said Dr Jerry Lim, dentist and clinical director of Orchard Scotts Dental.

“Video calls may be a strong motivating factor, but misaligned teeth and malocclusion can also have an adverse impact on patients’ daily lives and health, even affecting how they speak or eat,” added Dr Lim.

In fact, a majority of respondents (77%) admitted that they think about improving their smiles — and it is not just out of vanity. Increased self-confidence (79%) was the most often cited benefit of a healthy and beautiful smile, above improving aesthetic appearances (63%), and better career and professional opportunities (42%). Notably, millennials (47%) were the most likely to seek better career opportunities from improving their smiles, higher than Gen X-ers (29%).

Straightening teeth is not that straightforward

As Singaporeans seek to improve their smiles, medical professionals stress the importance of understanding differences in the treatment options available, especially as more consumers seek to straighten their teeth with clear aligners.

While three in four Singaporeans believe that it is essential to get advice from a dentist on teeth straightening options, not everyone feels the same.

“Even though clear aligners may look the same, they don’t use the same material or technology. Invisalign clear aligners are the only system that have treated more than nine million patients globally. Teeth straightening is not self-care that you can do on your own. It is a medical procedure, therefore ongoing supervision by a dentist is essential,” said Dr Hwang Yee Cheau, orthodontist at TP Dental Surgeons and adjunct associate professor at NUS Faculty of Dentistry.

“If it’s not well treated, there are many possible adverse side effects on the teeth, gum and bone. Some treatment may only move the front teeth for aesthetic purpose. It is important to ensure that when the front teeth move, we are looking at how that impacts the posterior teeth so as not to negatively impact the overall bite for the patient,” said Dr Hwang.

Choosing the right teeth straightening solution

With nearly half of Singaporeans doing their own research into teeth straightening solutions, it is important that Singaporeans are able to effectively evaluate online information, identify potential risks and determine which treatments are doctor-directed. Solutions that are not supervised by doctors may pose risks to the patient, such as damage to roots of teeth, loosening of teeth or gum recession.

To ascertain which teeth straightening procedure is fully supervised by dental experts, Singaporeans can look towards this checklist for guidance:

Checklist: Five must-ask questions before choosing a clear aligner treatment 

  • What are the pros and cons of the treatment option that is being recommended?
  • Is the dentist or orthodontist assessing your teeth at the start also responsible for your treatment until completion?
  • Will payment be made to the clinic or the online clear aligner brand and how will this affect who is responsible for your treatment?
  • Who can you contact if you are experiencing excessive pain or discomfort, or if the aligner does not seem to fit properly?
  • Will you be able to schedule an in-person appointment with the dentist or orthodontist in-charge of your treatment, should you want to?

“Teeth straightening is a medical procedure that requires ongoing supervision of a trusted doctor from start to end. Invisalign patients benefit from the orthodontic knowledge and experience gained from the more than nine million cases treated by Invisalign doctors. This enables us to define the optimal approach to specific tooth movements and case types,” said Dr Lionel Hui Bon Hoa, senior director, Clinical, Asia Pacific at Align Technology.

He concluded, “We believe that teeth straightening is not just a procedure that transforms your smile. It also has the potential of changing your life by improving self-confidence.”