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Splashing out on the perfect smile...

The Budget may be biting but it isn't just celebs who are spending thousands on their teeth, writes Deirdre Reynolds

You've heard of a million-dollar smile -- Keith Duffy's cost €20,000, but the Corrie star says it's left him feeling a million dollars anyway.

Dubliner Duffy may play a broke barman on Coronation Street. But when he opens his mouth to deliver his lines, it's more Hollywood than Weatherfield.

Earlier this year, the dad-of-three dropped €20k on cosmetic dentistry to have his trademark chipped front teeth fixed -- and he's hoping it'll help him take a bite out of US TV.

"Doing auditions in America has made me a lot more self-conscious about my appearance," says Duffy (37), who had his mouth makeover at Dental Options in Clane General Hospital, Co Kildare.

"I know it's a lot of money but I see it as an investment. Some people buy expensive laptops for work -- I need to look my best."

He's not the only celeb to go under the drill in the name of beauty.

Fellow Boyzone colleagues singer Ronan Keating and manager Louis Walsh both splashed out on new gnashers.

While further afield, Catherine Zeta-Jones and husband Michael Douglas, Miley Cyrus and George Clooney are just some of the stars sporting immaculate man-made molars.

But it's not just the glitterati who are overcoming their odontophobia in the pursuit of perfect pearly whites.

Despite recent budget cuts and tax hikes, Irish consumers are finding the cash to have something to smile about according to dentists here.

"Since we opened in 2007, we've been doing a lot of veneers," says cosmetic dentist Dr Edmond O'Flaherty of Seapoint Dental Clinic in Blackrock, Co Dublin. "We thought it would drop off with the recession, but it hasn't -- we still get several phone calls a day enquiring about veneers.

"Basically, a veneer is a wafer of porcelain that's applied over your own tooth to improve the appearance. The average veneer lasts 10-15 years and our best quality ones, Da Vinci veneers cost up to €1,200 per tooth.

"Nowadays, people are going for a more natural smile rather than a crazy white Hollywood one," he adds. "They want to look like themselves, but better."

One such customer is mum-of-two Nikki Kavanagh from Dublin. The singer and make-up artist forked out €5,000 for a makeover at the clinic this year -- and reckons it was worth every cent.

"I've always hated my teeth," says Nikki (33). "Although they were straight, they were very small and I had a gap between my two front teeth.

"It really knocked my confidence and I always kept my mouth closed for photos.

"Then in January, I just decided to do something about it by getting veneers.

"I didn't want a fake Hollywood smile or to end up looking like Ross from Friends [in the episode where he whitens his teeth]," she adds. "I just wanted to be able to smile.

"I had six veneers done on my top teeth and they're absolutely amazing."

Even dreaded braces -- once the reserve of spotty teens -- have become an unlikely fashion accessory thanks to celebrity metal-mouths including Tom Cruise, Myleene Klass and Madonna's daughter, Lourdes Leon.

In an age of belt tightening though, could you justify spending thousands on sexier tusks?

"I have patients of every age and walk of life who have their own personal reason for getting their teeth done," says Dr O'Flaherty.

"One lady in her fifties had just gone through a divorce and wanted to boost her confidence. A man in his thirties had been made redundant -- and used his pay to invest in a great new smile.

"Your smile is something that's always with you," he adds. "Even when Britney Spears shaved her head, she still had one thing going for her -- a fantastic smile."

Belfast Telegraph