In his dental clinic in Baluwatar, Sushil Koirala (the dentist, not the politician) sees a dozen patients a day.
None of them have tooth aches. In the waiting room, there are students waiting to leave for studies overseas, brides to be, aspiring beauty pageant contestants, television personalities and even politicians.
Koirala’s Vedic Smiles is no ordinary dental clinic: like some others in town it specialises in cosmetic dentistry to bring the smile back on the faces of people with crooked teeth, and with minimally invasive procedures.
“People have become more aware about their looks and are now taking the step to change what they can,” explains Koirala. “Uneven teeth affects not just the mouth, but also a person’s overall looks and personality.”
Dental clinics specialising in cosmetic surgery in Kathmandu are particularly packed just before the wedding season when brides and grooms jostle to find a slot in long waiting lists to get teeth polished or straightened.
Nepalis are not known as a people who spend a lot of time or money on their teeth. After all, there are barely 1,000 dentists for the contry’s 28 million people, and 75 per cent of the surgeons are practicing in Kathmandu. However, there is growing awareness about keeping teeth not just healthy but, increasingly, straightening them for good looks.
While scaling is still the most popular treatment, an increasing number of people are opting for more complex procedures such as full mouth reconstruction and smile enhancement surgery.
Besides being a marker for happiness, a smile also indicates a person’s well-being, social acceptance and level of self-confidence. And whether a smile is dazzling or not depends a lot on the teeth inside the mouth.
When people look at other people’s faces, it is the mouth region that stands out. A pout, a grimace, tight-lipped determination or a smile are all clues to a person’s demeanour, personality, or mood.
Non-invasive cosmetic dentistry removes the hassle of wearing braces, and the treatment is becoming popular with both young and old. While braces are still needed for seriously mis-aligned teeth, crowns or artificial teeth improve a patient’s looks by improving bite and the facial silhouette.
“I had crooked teeth all my teenage years, it made me a shy and unsmiling person,” says journalist Kumar Acharya. “Now, in my forties, after fixing my teeth, my whole face and personality has changed.”
Another of Koirala’s patients is Manisha Pant (name changed) who got a full-mouth reconstruction five years ago and is glad she went ahead with the procedure. “I always wanted perfect white teeth and now I have them,” she says, confiding that her confidence level has got a boost and she is now more outgoing.
Maoist politician Narayan Kaji Shrestha had a gap in his front teeth and rarely smiled. After cosmetic dentistry, Koirala removed the gap and today Shrestha is seldom seen on television without a smile, even during tense negotiations.
“It has changed my personality. People say my smile looks much better,” Shrestha (pictured above) told Nepali Times.
Koirala (pic, left) says cosmetic dentistry is more than just about enhancing beauty, but has a positive psychological impact. “Patients who were afraid to smile are transformed,” he says. “They become more cheerful, confident, easy-going and friendly.”
Koirala’s minimally invasive cosmetic dentistry treatment protocol has gained recognition not just in Nepal, but abroad—he is often found on the international lecture circuit. His holistic, nature-based approach takes into account the patient’s psychological aspects, ethnic background and actual health needs.
Last week, Koirala opened another clinic based on his philosophy of ‘do-no-harm dentistry’, which promotes his minimally-invasive cosmetic dentistry protocol. Also, Koirala has signed up with Thammasat University in Thailand to establish an international training centre in Bangkok. Similar centres are planned in India, Sri Lanka, China and Bangladesh.
Says Koirala: “If we are ethical, take a patient’s overall health and psychological needs into account, we can reduce the cost of dentistry. This is what we hope to demonstrate through this clinic.”
Indeed, the facilities now available for cosmetic dentistry promises not just a much-needed service to Nepalis, but also encourages medical dental tourism.
A Clinical Guide To Direct Cosmetic Restorations by Sushil Koirala and Adrian Yap, Dental Tribune International, Leipzig, 2008
Medical schools in Nepal are now churning out doctors and dental surgeons, and there is growing demand from students to specialise in cosmetic dentistry. And just for that purpose along comes a book co-authored by Nepali dental surgeon Sushil Koirala and his Singaporean colleague, cosmetic dentist, Adrian Yap.
A Clinical Guide to Direct Cosmetic Restorations should be required reading for medical college libraries in Nepal and the subcontinent. Although too technical for the layman, the authors have applied Vedic definitions of beauty in a unique classification for use in aesthetic dentistry. The smile is classified into six different types depending on emotion, facial and eyes expressions, lip movement, visibility of teeth, sound and body gestures. The Sanskirt word, ‘smita’, for example means ‘smile’, and ‘hasita’ means ‘laugh’.
Through the experience of his practice in Nepal, Koirala has identified the main dental deformities which are not just the cause of health problems but also affect the looks, personality and self-confidence of patients. And once the problem is identified, the authors say, it is possible to ‘design a smile’ best suited to you. For all this, fixing one’s teeth is important: not just for appearance but also for speech defects and other issues of oral health. Nepal would probably be a much better place if our politicians smiled more. But for that, like Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, they’d first need to get their teeth fixed.
Smile, and the world smiles with you, #447