When you look in the mirror, do you like your smile? Like many people, you might have thought: there’s something about my smile that I don’t like. But what, exactly, would you change? What makes a smile look great isn’t just as simple as just making teeth whiter and straighter. These are important, for sure, but there’s much more involved in a smile design. Some smiles are great overall and only need small tweaks and changes to have a huge payoff. Others require more involved procedures. But the process always begins with a careful analysis and diagnosis. For reference, here are some of the attributes of a beautiful smile:
A broad, pleasing, dental arch which allows the teeth to fill the corners of the smile. Dark spaces in the corners of the smile (“dark buccal corridors” in dental-speak) are usually the result of dental arches that are too narrow. A narrow palate with insufficient space for the tongue is usually the culprit.
Axial angles that point toward the belly button. What? Are we still talking about teeth? Think about how some teeth are more straight up and down, some angle outward, and some angle inward. Well, upper front teeth look most pleasing when the central incisors have a slight, but perfectly symmetric, angle inward, rather than being straight up and down, parallel to each other. The next two teeth, the lateral incisors, should take slightly more of an inward angle, and so on for the canines and the back teeth. If you drew a line through the center of each tooth, all those lines would ideally intersect down at your belly button.
A pleasing, symmetric “Smile Line.” T he S mile L ine i s t he l ine f ormed b y t he i ncisal (biting) edges of the upper front teeth. It should form an arch, like a smile, with the middle teeth lower than the canines or side teeth. The opposite is considered very unesthetic: if the front teeth are higher than the side teeth (a “Reverse Smile Line”), the teeth look like a frown, even when the lips are smiling.
Proper embrasure form. An incisal “embrasure” is the tiny, triangular-shaped space between two teeth at the biting edge. When teeth have no embrasures, it’s because they have been worn flat. Young teeth have open embrasures, and teeth with no embrasures look old and worn. There’s a science to how embrasures should be shaped in order for teeth to look natural.
Appropriate shade (color), translucency, and surface texture. Teeth look less natural when they are all one color. Made up of two main structures, enamel and dentin, teeth ideally have a subtle blend of color and translucency that makes them look stunning.
And so much more! We have only skimmed the surface of the many ingredients that make up a stunning smile and what to consider when transforming – or just touching up – a smile. A “Smile Analysis” with photographs is a good way to begin the discussion. The doctors in our office would be happy to help you learn the possibilities for bringing out your best smile ever.
By Brian J. Hockel, DDS, Life Dental & Orthodontics, Resident since 1964