Cosmetic dentistry has become popular in Hong Kong over the past decade. In fact, there is little doubt it will become an essential part of dental care in the years to come, second only to regular oral hygiene or preventive dental care. 'People are getting more information on how to enhance their smiles and looks, [and this is] supplemented by television advertisements,' said Raymond Lee of Pacific Dental Care. 'There is greater awareness of cosmetic dentistry,' Dr Lee said. However, it can be difficult to separate cosmetic dentistry from regular dental care because much of the work can overlap. Tooth whitening and veneers are among the most sought-after forms of dental cosmetics. 'It has become very natural for me to prescribe dental treatments from a cosmetics point of view,' Dr Lee said. Tooth whitening involves professional bleaching of teeth to lighten their natural colour. Tooth-coloured fillings, including ceramic inlays or onlays, have ushered in a new era in filling dental cavities, as the fillings' shade is so similar to a tooth's natural pigmentation that once fitted, they are barely noticeable. Veneers are a thin layer of porcelain fitted over the surface of a tooth to improve its colour, shape and position. 'In a nutshell, cosmetic dental evaluation is about how you want to enhance your smile. This could involve anything from just tooth whitening to a full mouth dental treatment that can change the size, shape and inclination of your teeth,' Dr Lee said. Although this type of dentistry is not an officially recognised specialty like orthodontics or oral surgery, dentists still need additional training and experience to be able to perform cosmetic dental treatment. With increasing demand for such dental treatments and the availability of continuing education courses sponsored by the Hong Kong Dental Association and other dental groups, the majority of dentists in Hong Kong are likely to offer some form of cosmetic dentistry. 'Cosmetic dentistry has gained popularity with both expatriates and locals. Expatriates generally understand the treatments much more quickly because these are more developed in the west while locals, who may not have had a lot of exposure to it yet, will have more questions. But once they understand what it is and what it can do for them, they will also go for it,' Dr Lee said. He was a dentist in California before returning to Hong Kong to set up his practice seven years ago. Cosmetic dentistry and preventive care could become the bread and butter for dentists in the long term, Dr Lee said. As cosmetic dentistry developed, newer technologies and materials would also be introduced.