Move over, millennials - Gen Z has arrived, and they’re serious about their smiles. And why wouldn’t they be? Whether it was their parents’ phones or their own, today’s young people practically grew up in front of the camera, and now they’re getting smiles to match.

During 2020, appointments for dental treatments like teeth straightening and whitening rocketed up by nearly 50%. It’s true that some of those people were working age adults who got in on the cosmetic “Zoom Boom” - but just one search for #veneerscheck on TikTok is all it takes to see that the youngest among us have been very busy working on their glamour grins.

What are elective dental treatments?

Before we get to the top types of elective dental treatments, let’s get familiar with the difference between elective and non-elective treatment. Both sets of treatments will help you get a better looking smile, but the “hows” and “whys” behind them are very different.

Non-elective treatments

Non-elective dental treatments are focused on your health. They help you get a healthier smile, which - by extension - is also a better looking smile. If you don’t get these treatments, your oral health - and potentially your general health - will be negatively impacted.

Elective treatments

Unlike non-elective treatments, elective treatments follow a looks-first approach. While they might have some benefits for your oral health, they’re meant to give you a smile that’s perfect in your eyes. But if you don’t get them, your oral or general health won’t be affected.

The top elective treatments among teens and young adults

Now that we know the difference between elective and non-elective treatments, we can take a look at the ones that have caught the eyes of teens and twenty-somethings in Canada, the United States, and around the globe.

Veneers

What It Is

Attached to the front of a tooth, a veneer can completely change its size, shape, and colour. Getting multiple veneers delivers a total “smile makeover”.

Why It’s Popular

The “perfect” smiles that celebrities have are almost always a product of veneers, and young people want that for themselves. Veneers let them upgrade their smile relatively quickly, which is very appealing to a generation that’s used to instant gratification.

Teeth Whitening

What It Is

Teeth whitening uses a combination of bleaching agent, heat, and light to remove stains or discoloration.

Why It’s Popular

Because it’s quick and affordable. In-office or take-home teeth whitening treatments from a dentist are more powerful than store-bought whitening kits, so the before-and-after difference is more noticeable. The whitening effect typically lasts for longer, too.

Orthodontics

What It Is

Cosmetic orthodontic treatments, like braces or clear aligners, improve a person’s smile by changing the alignment of their teeth.

Why It’s Popular

Today’s orthodontic options - especially clear aligners -  make it very easy to quickly and discreetly correct minor misalignment issues. Full treatment can take around 2 years, but a small smile adjustment can be done in just a few months.

Bonding

What It Is

Bonding involves adding composite resin to a tooth, shaping the resin to change the appearance of the tooth, then bonding the resin to the tooth using a special light.

Why It’s Popular

While it isn’t as strong and long-lasting as orthodontic treatment or veneers, bonding offers a way for people to quickly and affordably fix minor damage, gaps or dark spots in their smile - and do it much more quickly and affordably than the former options.

Should young people even be getting these kinds of treatments?

Generally, elective treatments aren’t meant for children, or even pre-teens. It’s not really a question of safety - all of these procedures are well-established and proven to be safe. 

Rather, at that age, a person’s face, teeth, and jaws are still developing, so - in the long term - adjustments might not work out as intended. Young adults, teens, and children don’t always have the best gum health and dental hygiene either, and those are must-haves before starting any kind of dental procedure.

The bottom line: while there can be - and are - exceptions, young people should only be getting elective procedures around the ages of 16 to 18 (or older).

The dollars and cents of it

At the low end of the price scale, elective procedures cost in the low hundreds, but at the high end, it isn’t uncommon to see billing in the five figures.

While some lucky folks have a platinum card from The Bank of Mom and Dad, that’s a bit of an exclusive club. So how are most young people paying for their treatments? 

Not with insurance...but with financing

A bit of a disclaimer here: I don’t have any statistics to back this observation up. This is just something I’ve noticed at my own practice and during discussions with other local dentists. 

In almost all cases, insurance doesn’t cover elective treatments. But today’s money-savvy youth have found other ways to make their procedures affordable - chiefly, through in-office financing or by taking out a loan directly from a bank or credit union.

Most major treatments are available through payment plans. It’s something we offer here at Poco Comfort Dentistry, and you’ll find it at nearly any dental office you visit. 

Chasing the perfect smile - but not always for vanity

Why do young people want to change their smiles?

It’s easy to automatically think that a smile makeover is about vanity or the pursuit of online stardom (and sometimes they are!), but I can confidently say that isn’t the “why” behind elective treatment as often as you might think.

In most cases, young people who get veneers, whitening, or any other elective treatment aren’t doing it to impress anyone else. They just want to feel confident and secure about the way their smile looks, and I wholeheartedly support that. As a healthcare professional and a caregiver, I’m just as big on mental health as I am oral health.

If you’re a parent reading this, I’m not saying you should automatically just agree to let your child get whatever procedure they want. But - tough as it can be sometimes - I would suggest that you don’t dismiss their interest in elective treatment out of hand and instead try to understand why your child wants the treatment.

Need advice about your (or your child’s) smile? Let’s talk.

Just think - you could spend hours sorting through general information online...or you could ask a dentist with almost 3 decades of experience. 

Honestly, a short chat goes a long way. With orthodontics, for example, people are often surprised at how quick and easy the process can be when they’re just looking to make some aesthetic adjustments. If you’ve been thinking about changing the look of your smile, but you’ve still got questions, my door (and inbox) are always open. I’m available through the online form here or by email at info@pococomfortdentistry.com.

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