This is the first post in a series I will be writing to provide information and insight behind all things “smile”.
What makes a smile healthy and aesthetic?
Why is a happy smile a big deal?
How do I get a great smile?
And how do I take care of my smile?
What’s behind an attractive, appealing smile?
There are a myriad of factors that are taken into account when evaluating how appealing or visually pleasing a smile is, such as:
- Facial symmetry
- Individual tooth shape and symmetry
- Color of the teeth and gums
- Spaces or missing teeth
- Cultural and personal preferences
Although ultimately “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, these factors are key contributors to having a smile that “wows!”.
The human eye subconsciously recognizes even minor discrepancies in symmetry, and while subtle irregularities add character and individualism to things, drastic deviations or imbalances stand out like a sore thumb!
Generally speaking, in an aesthetic smile the midline of the face is in alignment with the midline of the front teeth. A notable exception to this would be everyone’s favorite maverick:
Even though his midlines do not line up, other traits and characteristics of his face and teeth still allow for this to be seen as an attractive smile. (I bet you’ll never look at him the same way again, though!)
Individual tooth shape and symmetry
Teeth have their own ranges of ideal ratios and shapes as well; similar to how there are “ideal” ranges for facial proportions to be viewed as visually pleasing, . A good cosmetic dentist takes these things into consideration when providing treatment to improve a patient’s smile.
Teeth that are too short can look worn down or blocky. This can sometimes convey an “immature” or undeveloped smile. Sometimes this is a result of the morphology, or shape, of the teeth while other times it can be the result of having a “gummy” smile.
This phenomenon of showing too much of your gums when smiling is often the result of “altered passive eruption”. What this basically means is the permanent teeth “erupted” into the mouth after losing the baby teeth like they should have, but the gums and bone beneath them did not “passively” recede to expose the entire surface of the tooth. This condition can be easily addressed by a simple surgical procedure called “crown-lengthening” and results in more naturally proportioned teeth and a more pleasing smile.
Color of the teeth and gums
Without getting too graphic, the color of the teeth and gums is very important to the perceived health and vitality of an individual. While generally thought of in terms of “white” or “not-white”, there are variations in natural looking and occurring tooth shades that actually contain more grey, red, and yellow in their subtle hues and values that aren’t always easily identifiable as such.
Factors to consider when selecting what shade a filling or a crown/veneer should be are multifaceted:
- The color and condition of the existing adjacent and opposing teeth must be considered.
- The patient’s age and skin tone are contributing factors since teeth generally become more grey or yellow with age, and certain hues and tones pair better with one another than with other shades.
- The number and location of teeth being restored. If doing an entire arch, more liberties can be taken since all of the teeth will match.
- The options of materials to be used by the lab in the restorations as the properties can vary based on strength, thickness, and stainability.
- Any other treatment plans that could alter the current presentation such as at-home or in-office whitening therapy.
Personal preference is of course always a large factor, and so long as expectations are accurately conveyed and understood as to how they mesh with reality, great results can be delivered!
The color of gum tissue is a good indicator of its overall health. Studies in the past few years have even begun to show a connection between gum disease and increased risk of heart disease.
Healthy gums are gums that are uniform in color and a soft pink color (allowing for slight differences due to racial pigmentation). Generalized or localized areas of red, inflamed tissue that is puffy and easily bleeds upon brushing or flossing are indicative of potential gum disease and treatment should be sought to assess the best course of action to bring them back to a healthy status.
Spaces or missing teeth
- Low self-confidence
- Trouble speaking
- Difficulty eating and drinking
- Decline in social activities
- Perpetuating a cycle of tooth loss and pain
Missing teeth for whatever reason (wisdom teeth aside) can drastically alter the appearance and perception of a person’s smile. Losing a tooth doesn’t have to be the end of your smiling career! Great improvements in the field of dental implants means that you have ways to replace those missing teeth!
Differences and discrepancies should not always be avoided or shunned. After all, variety is the spice of life! I had spaces in my teeth as a child, and wore braces for several years as a result. But there’s also nothing wrong with embracing your unique-ness and just smiling with pride! I see nothing wrong with either side.
Gaps between people’s front teeth might be the most common place for extra space. However, there are other areas where excess space can draw your eye as well.
The extra space at the corners in the top picture is most often a result of a narrow upper jaw. This extra space can appear as though a person is missing teeth in those areas.
Cultural or personal preferences
Culture and people everywhere are full of preconceived definitions and ideas of what makes something beautiful. After all, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, right?
Human history is rife with examples of social norms and preferences that have come and gone, and come back again! What constitutes a beautiful smile today might be different than the standard of tomorrow. And I believe the field of dentistry will change alongside it to strive to provide people with healthy, beautiful smiles. However they choose to define it!
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share this post and comment below!