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Smile Makeover: Considerations and Components of Smile Design


A smile makeover is the process of improving the appearance of the smile through one or more cosmetic dentistry procedures, such as dental veneers, composite bonding, tooth implants and teeth whitening.

Essentially, a smile makeover is something that you choose to have performed, while a full mouth reconstruction is something that you need to have performed.

Smile Makeover Considerations

A smile makeover takes into consideration your facial appearance, skin tone, hair color, teeth (color, width, length, shape and tooth display), gum tissue and lips to develop your ideal smile. Smile makeovers are performed for many reasons and customized according to your unique considerations.

Image courtesy of Larry Addleson, DDS, FAACD

What is it that you like or dislike about your smile or your teeth? Some aspects of your smile that your cosmetic dentist will review with you and that could be improved with a smile makeover include the following:

Tooth Color: Silver or amalgam dental fillings can be replaced with natural, tooth-colored composite restorations, while teeth whitening can improve the color of stained or dulled teeth. Tooth color and shading are important considerations during the evaluation of and preparation for various procedures, including porcelain veneers, crowns, bridges, composite bonding and dental implants.

When considering the color of your teeth, keep in mind that dark or discolored teeth may suggest an aged mouth. A well-shaped smile comprised of bright, white teeth lends to a youthful appearance. The shade your dentist selects for teeth whitening and veneers is carefully evaluated with special consideration given to the tone and color of your face and hair. Cosmetic dentists are skilled at finding the right balance between providing you with a brighter, whiter smile and maintaining a natural tooth color.

Alignment and Spacing: Teeth that are crooked, overlapping or have gaps between them can be straightened and aligned when necessary through orthodontics or Invisalign and improved with veneers.

Missing Teeth: One or more missing teeth can negatively affect the appearance of your smile – as well as affect your bite and increase your risk for tooth decay – making replacement an integral part of oral health and facial esthetics. Missing teeth can be replaced by dental implants, bridges or partial dentures.

Harmony and Balance: Uneven, chipped and cracked teeth can be cosmetically bonded for an improved appearance, and a gummy smile can be re-contoured to help improve the overall look of the smile.

Fuller Lips, Smile and Cheeks: An unshapely or aging face can be improved or rejuvenated with certain procedures in the smile makeover category, including orthodontics and/or oral maxillofacial surgery.

A cosmetic dentist will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan designed to achieve exactly what you want from your makeover. This treatment plan may consist of many cosmetic and functionally restorative procedures, potentially including teeth whitening, composite bonding, veneers, dental crowns, orthodontics (braces), oral maxillofacial surgery and gummy smile reduction.

Esthetic Components of a Smile Makeover

In addition to the color, alignment and balance of your teeth in the esthetic zone of your smile (the section of upper and lower teeth that show when you smile), there are several attributes of your teeth and smile that your cosmetic dentist will evaluate with you when planning your smile makeover. These include:

Tooth Length: Long teeth lend a youthful appearance. Aging produces wear and tear that often results in shorter teeth, and a gummy smile also can make teeth appear shorter. A smile makeover treatment for shorter teeth may include reshaping and lengthening the two front central teeth with composite bonding or porcelain veneers. If you have a gummy smile, your cosmetic dentist may provide treatment to modify the gum line and lengthen the appearance of the teeth using laser dentistry procedures. You may also be referred to a periodontist for crown lengthening if necessary.

Teeth lengthening may also impact your overall facial appearance. For example, shapely, long, square teeth on a round-faced individual can provide a slimming effect.

Smile Line: The smile line is an imaginary line that follows the edges of your upper teeth from side to side, which ideally should be the same as the curve of your lower lip when you smile. This standard point of reference for smile makeovers may be used to help determine how long your new teeth should be.

Tooth Proportions: Your cosmetic dentist will examine your teeth to determine if they are in correct proportion with each other. Most people recognize a pleasing smile as one in which the two central front teeth are dominant and have a width-to-length ratio of 4-to-5. This proportion guides the length and width of other teeth in the esthetic zone so that the smile line appears balanced.

Tooth Texture and Characterization: Cosmetic dentists performing smile makeovers are adept at blending functionality and esthetics. An artistic dentist can characterize your crowns or veneers to create a more feminine or a more masculine appearance, in addition to matching the look and feel of natural teeth or those you've seen in photographs.

The Life of Your Smile Makeover

Cosmetic dentistry procedures require regular oral hygiene care and may require maintenance over time. For example, teeth whitening must be repeated on occasion in order to maintain brightness. Porcelain veneers may chip or break off and need replacement. Permanent composite bonding may stain and require enhancement or replacement. Dental crowns typically require replacement after 10 to 15 years. Gummy smile improvements may also require enhancement over time.

Your ceramist, lab technician and the materials chosen by your dentist also impact the longevity of your smile makeover. To achieve the best results, take special care in selecting your cosmetic dentist and inquiring about your material options.


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