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Rebuilding Faces: Lovebite


An extensive and holistic understanding of his profession has earnt Lovebite’s Richard Greenlees a reputation as a true artist and a global leader in the dental profession, creating perfectly formed dentures with the ability to rebuild the facial structure from the inside out, dentures which are indistinguishable from natural teeth; handmade, bespoke and individually characterised.

 

ONE OF RICHARD’S OIL PAINTINGS TITLED ‘SEVEN’, AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM RICHARD

 

We caught up with Richard about cutting his teeth in the industry and his journey to the top.

 

Your mother was an artist and your father a carpenter. How did their work influence your career?
Growing up with parents that used their hands to make their living led me to what I do today. My mum Wendy is an artist and has an innate understanding of colour which I think has been transferred to me. Colour comes into play immensely in the fabrication of dentures, crowns and veneers. John, my dad, who has passed, was a carpenter and had an ability to understand things in space and 3D; this helps with my understanding of the empty space left in the oral cavity, filling this space without the denture appearance is where my work sits apart.


Can you recall the very first set of teeth you ever made?
The first set of teeth I made at the age of 16 were a disaster… but I see that as fortunate as I soon realised how difficult and how much of an art it is to make dentures for a patient that has lost their teeth. Taking a patient through a rehabilitation programme means so much to me. Now I’ve got 40 years of knowledge from New Zealand, Japan and Europe where I spent time honing my skills. Implantology is fast becoming an option for patients; this is a very technical approach to rehabilitation and is much more costly, needing planning and time. I am currently looking closely at a new Zirconia system from Europe for these large implant cases.


It must have felt like a fantastic achievement to open your own clinic in Harley Street?
Having my own studio on Harley Street was part of an incredible journey for me. I worked with some of the top prosthodontists/dentists in the world and made teeth for many international celebrities. I also made teeth for the average man/woman and treated all my patients in exactly the same manner. Some of the most interesting people were the ‘behind the scenes’ people… speech writers, directors, businessmen, inventors, fellow artists.
Some very interesting things happened to me during these times… parties, private jets and, ultimately, a role in a British movie! But what drove me then and continues to drive me now is making teeth that improve lives. I can sit at home and see my patients of the stage and screen and have a quiet satisfaction that billions of people are looking at my work, without even realising it.


What brought you back home?
To slow down, go surfing and do my oil painting… there were not many waves in London. Funnily enough, I’m as busy as I have always been… but I like it. I still find myself travelling internationally to keep up with technology, or speak at conferences about my approach to dentures and dental ceramics.


What are some of the common dental situations you see?
The most common thing I’m presented with in my daily work is what I call a ‘collapsed denture face’, caused by a lifetime of denture wearing that has taken away a patient’s appearance and character – and often their self-esteem. Rebuilding this in a natural way is what I strive to do daily. Understanding a patient’s ‘oral architecture’ and what they have lost is critical. I am fascinated by the face and this is what I lecture about internationally – how to rebuild it.


How does it feel to see a client elated by their new appearance?
Seeing a patient restored to their natural appearance is why I do what I do. As I move through the stages of my work, the change can be quite dramatic. This is usually followed by friends querying what they’ve done and commenting on how great they look. Patients carry on their lives – looking and feeling great and no one knows why; it’s their secret. I love this side of my work.

 


 

Light ‘n’ Shade: Lovebite


Clinical Dental Technician and artist, Richard Greenlees of Lovebite, has returned from a tour of Switzerland, Germany and the UK where he contributed to symposia on the latest technology used in denture creation.

 

 

“It has been fascinating,” Richard says, “My main conclusion being that you just can’t surpass a set of dentures completely hand-made and bespoke to their owner”. The drive to computer-generated dentures simply doesn’t replicate Richard’s ability to create a set of dentures indistinguishable from a person’s own teeth. Key to Richard’s stunning results is his passion for studying faces and features. Regarded as gifted by colleagues, Richard has an innate ability to recreate a face as it would be if structured by its natural teeth.

“It is common to be left with a ‘denture face’ after a number of years,” Richard says. “Cheeks collapse and lips thin, distorting the integrity of facial structure.” He finds women often bring their husbands in to get a denture face restored to its original more masculine appearance. Experience plus possessing the eye of a practicing artist enables Richard to visualise how the patient’s face would look at its best authentic self, at its current age.

“The face fascinates me. It shows its owner’s history, illustrates the character and sustains life through its role in eating. Once it is restored there can be quite a dramatic change – patients can look in the mirror and see a younger self looking back. It always moves them and it can take a little time to adjust to this different yet completely authentic self.” Richard’s ‘after shots’ of patients are authentic too, he is strict on no use of stock photos to misrepresent his skill.

 

CASE STUDY PATIENT #4001 (BEFORE AND AFTER)

 

The process begins with Richard observing the face, plus getting to know the personality behind it. A technical phase utilises moulds in different ways. Richard’s own-recipe wax is used to create lip stents as tools to reshape the face, helping decide where the teeth will sit, and where to place the teeth in the skull shape. This skilled and thoughtful analysis sets Richard’s work apart.

Fittings occur to ensure the patient and Richard are happy and then the finishing stage can begin. This is a critical element, where Richard’s artistic side comes to the fore. The denture is handmade, incorporating the shape of teeth and gums, tinting and colouring and the character features that make the denture indistinguishable from real teeth are added.

Creation of the dentures occurs in both the clinic and the art studio space at Lovebite, with the whole process in Richard’s hands only. Far from a 9–5’er, Richard sometimes works on a denture in the small hours, unable to put it down. He puts in long hours, but like any creative enterprise, it is not work, “it’s an expression for me, I love it”.