Anatomy Of A Smile

When it comes to true smile designs and cosmetic dentistry, it is about more than just the teeth

Without saying a word, your smile can convey optimism and confidence, making you appear more attractive. An esthetically pleasing smile can lure people to you or generate comfort to those around you.

Your smile can also have a psychological and emotional influence on your personality. If you are unhappy with your smile it may affect the way you are perceived by others, as you will appear withdrawn, hesitant, sad or angry. This will make you feel insecure, inadequate and even unattractive.

Fortunately, with the advance in cosmetic dentistry, people are now able to benefit from smile makeovers which is capable of positively influencing their lives.

Components of a smile

There are certain rules, tools and strategies which are taken into account when your teeth and gum condition gets assessed by your dentist, to determine which cosmetic and restorative procedures would better enhance your appearance.

This includes:


Although white, unstained, straight and evenly spaced teeth with no gaps creates the most attractive smiles, when you smile your top teeth should show in a good proportion to your gums, and the line where the teeth and gums meet should be smooth and even. The term “tooth reveal” describes the amount of tooth structure seen from different angles and lip positions

The smile line of the upper teeth follows the curve of the lower lip, while the midline is in the centre of the face.


Your lips frame your smile and covers your teeth and gums. Enhancing the shape and symmetry of your lips can make your lips appear fuller. When your lips form a broad smile an imaginary line could be drawn through the corners of your mouth, and for the best esthetics your facial features should line up to you lip lines and teeth. The amount of upper front teeth you reveale helps create a youthful vibrant image.

The upper front teeth should fill between 75 to 100 percent of the space between your lips when you smile, to create a more youthful smile.


The midline is the imaginary vertical line drawn between the two upper front teeth. The facial midline should be in the middle of the face, however, certain facial features – such as nose, chin and eyes – can be misleading when locating the midline. For instance, if your nose is slightly off centre it may lessen its usefulness in finding the midline.

The point between the Cupid’s bow and the eyebrows are two facial landmarks that can be used to accurately determine the midline. Your dentist can draw a line between the Cupid’s bow and your eyebrows to locate the midline and determine its direction. The midline between your teeth should coincide to your facial midline, or be perpendicular to the imaginary line that can be drawn through the corners of your mouth.

Smile Line

You smile line is the line that is created by the top of your lower lip. Ideally, the edges of your smile should be parallel to your lower lip and the bottom of your lower lip should have the same line as the gum of your lower jaw. Once your dentists has assessed your smile line, he or she can create can design its curve or shape and determine the length of your new restoration.


Smile Design Principles

Smile design are the principles involved in a smile makeover. When combined, they can influence the overall smile of an individual.

These principles are:

Gingival (Gum) Esthetics. Excessive gingival displayed in your smile, gum inflammation, uneven gums and exposed root surfaces can weaken your smile’s appeal. The appearance and health of your gums are the key elements in smile design.

Facial Esthetics. How your lips frame your smile when you laugh, smile or speak should be considered and studied through visual and photographic analysis, as this plays a big role in smile design.

Microesthetics. This involves the subtle features that makes your teeth look the way that is does, whether it’s the way they reflect in the light, unique marks or colourations. The ideal restoration should have the qualities of your natural teeth.

Macroesthetics. This analyses the relationship between front teeth, surrounding tissue and facial characteristics, ensuring natural restorative care and smile makeover treatment. Your dentist and a laboratory technician will create a natural and esthetically pleasing appearance in which shape and size arrangement of your teeth compliments your features.

Other significant considerations for teeth that could influence an individual’s smile include:

Incisal (Biting) Embrasures. A pattern develops between the central incisors and progresses sideways, which is followed by the space between the edges of the teeth. These patterns help to create and attractive smile. The size and volume of the incisal embrasures increase as the teeth move away from the midline.
Colour. The upper front teeth are the brightest and lightest teeth in your smile line. The upper side teeth might be similar in colour but is slightly less bright. The canines (third tooth from midline) have a greater intensity or saturation of colour, while the first and second premolars (teeth behind canines) are lighter and brighter in colour compared to the canines. Your dentist will examine how closely matched your upper and lower teeth appear because both sets of teeth should look similar in colour top compliment your hair, skin and eye colour. Anterior restorative and cosmetic treatment should come close to the colour of your natural teeth, rather than being a shade brighter or lighter. Shade guides are used to evaluate optimal colour before teeth whitening.

Tooth Proportion. Although most people perceive a pleasing smile as one where the central front teeth are prevailing with a width-to-length ratio of 75 to 80 percent, over the years your teeth can shorten and experience and aging effect which affects your overall appearance. The length of your teeth also plays a role in facial contouring. For instance, long square shaped teeth on a round face creates a slimming effect

Tooth Texture and Characterization. Cosmetic dentists can give you a feminine (smaller, smoother, oval or round-shaped) or masculine (larger, square-shaped, blunt) appearance, as well as correct any imperfections you might have, such as chips and cracks.

Teeth Angulation. Your teeth should not overhang, be set too far in, be crooked, overgrown or uneven, as this will affect the lower lip in relation to the midline. The ideal teeth angulation is one in which your teeth has a symmetrical appearance in the front and a balanced appearance in the back.

The relationship between your upper and lower teeth when they come into contact as you chew or bring your jaws together, is critical. This is referred to as “Proper Occlusion”. This could impact your teeth, gums, neck, head, jaw muscles, joints and overall oral health.

Incisal Edge Position

The incisal edge position – how far down/long the top two middle teeth are – influences the proportions of the rest of your smile and smile line. The incisal edge position is vital with regards to speech and making sounds that start with “F” and “V”.

Gum (Gingival) Tissue

An ideal smile should not show more than three millimetres of gums between the top of your tooth and the bottom of your upper lip, and should reveal healthy gum tissue, not red, puffy or bleeding gums. The shape of the gums of the lower incisors should be half-oval or half-circle shaped, while the upper centrals and canines should have a more oval gum shape.

Buccal Corridor

This is the dark spaces between the corners of the mouth. Individuals with smaller buccal corridors are considered to have the most attractive smiles.

Emergency Profile

This is the angle at which the tooth emerges from the gums when viewed from the side, and can affect the fullness of your smile as well as provide cheek and lip support.

Other Smile Anatomy Considerations

The impact of your smile can not be determined by the beauty of individual teeth and gums. The beauty of your teeth is in the eyes of the beholder, and varies by age, sex, looks and personality traits. In order to get an “ideal” smile, you will have to consider your facial features, skin tone, hair colour, size and condition of your teeth as well as gum tissue and your lips. In addition, this may influence the smile design in both natural and restored teeth.

Modern technology, such as digital imaging, lasers and whitening procedures, allows dentists to create smile design makeovers with procedures and techniques that range from invasive whitening and composite bonding, to porcelain veneers, crowns and dental implants. They can also use soft tissue augmentation to correct facial aspects – such as thin lips- to increase attractiveness. Advances in cosmetic dentistry and sedation dentistry makes it possible for patients to have this procedure done with less pain and anxiety.


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