Cosmetic dentistry and the Societal Shift towards the ‘Instagram Smile’


Cosmetic dentistry is an advancing, universal specialism within modern dentistry. The sector has grown vastly within recent years and it is a fundamental aspect of the dental industry today. According to research studies, it is thought that the number of requests for cosmetic treatments in dental practices has risen by 50% in the last five years1, highlighting how the expansion of cosmetic dentistry is continually on the rise. This article will explore the contemporary phenomenon of cosmetic dentistry, the influence of social media on its development, and hence the public appeal of achieving the perfectly aesthetic ‘Instagram’ smile.

What is cosmetic dentistry?

The scope of cosmetic dentistry within the dental profession is vast. Ranging from composite bonding to porcelain veneers, and from teeth whitening to Invisalign treatment, cosmetic dentistry aims to improve the aesthetics of our teeth, rather than enhancing its functionality2.

To gain a wider insight into the foundations of cosmetic dentistry, let us take a look at the example of porcelain veneers.

Porcelain veneers are an incredibly common treatment, however, it can cause great damage to the natural structure of our teeth. This is because, during the procedure, a patient will have the enamel of their teeth (the hard and protective white outer layer that we see) shaved down so that the thin veneer made of porcelain can be placed on the outer surface of the teeth3.

In the picture below, there is a before and after picture showing the transformation of teeth using veneers, displaying how dental veneers can precisely mimic an individual’s natural tooth colour, thus improving the aesthetic appeal of a patient’s smile.

Porcelain Veneers Before and After
Porcelain Veneers Before and After4

How has social media fuelled the rise in cosmetic dental treatment?

Social media is a powerful tool in modern-day society, influencing various aspects of our lives. However, social media and the use of terms such as ‘The Hollywood Smile” and “Smile Makeovers” have inevitably influenced the rise in cosmetic treatment over the past few years and thus caused people to feel more concerned about the look of their teeth. This idea is supported by a BBC article, detailing how adult orthodontic treatment has become more common within clinical practice due to media coverage5, therefore highlighting how the use of online platforms has greatly influenced the growing aesthetic allure of straight teeth, making it a more widespread option in dental practices. This notion extends towards wider communities, particularly evident through a research study conducted in New Zealand, detailing the influence of popular media on cosmetic dentistry. In the research study, General Dental Practitioners recorded that the majority of their patients perceived an increased demand for tooth whitening (77.8%) and veneers (54.8%) after watching reality makeover programmes. This greatly supports the ideology that popular media has a significant impact on patient perception of aesthetic dentistry6.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the growth of cosmetic dentistry?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that many people have been spending more time on their phones, utilising virtual software such as Zoom, and indeed spending more time using social media. This increase in online usage, and video conferencing, for example, has inevitably made people more critical over their appearance. Currently, in many dental practices, inquiries about tooth whitening have risen (partially due to the fact that dental treatments were halted during the lockdown ). Tooth whitening procedures are not only minimally invasive, and thus help to retain the tooth enamel, but they also help to improve the aesthetics of our teeth, allowing a more natural result to be achieved. These factors reinforce the power of social media in contributing to the rise of cosmetic dental treatments, and its influence on making individuals feel more conscious about their smile7.

What is the future of cosmetic dentistry?

I believe the future of cosmetic dentistry is promising. With digital dentistry on the rise, I envisage dental technology and cosmetic dental treatments working hand in hand to provide holistic patient care. Furthermore, new and developing innovations in dentistry, such as CAD-CAM machinery can allow teeth restorations to look more natural8. It is therefore important to understand how these advances within dentistry allow dental professionals to expand and develop their clinical knowledge within their field of study.

Overall, I see cosmetic dentistry as an integral part of the dental field; helping individuals to improve the look of their smile, thus enhancing their confidence and self-esteem. I believe that if patients can identify the balance between a healthy and a happy smile, then cosmetic dentistry has the power to dominate the future of the dental industry, contributing to the provision of inclusive cosmetic dental care.


  1. “Why is cosmetic dentistry on the rise?” (2018) [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  2. “Five types of cosmetic dentistry procedures” [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  3. “Dental veneers” [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  4. “Porcelain veneers before and after” [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  5. “Adult braces: Why are more grown-ups getting their teeth straightened?” (2019) [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  6. “The impact of the popular media on cosmetic dentistry” (2006) [online} [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  7. “The ‘Zoom Boom’ – how COVID-19 increased interest in cosmetic dentistry” (2020) [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]
  8. “The Future of Cosmetic Dentistry is Digital” (2016) [online] [Last Accessed 30 October 2020]


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