The Ideal Smile
Almost anyone can have the ideal smile they dream about. But there is a great deal more to the ideal smile than white teeth. Most people who look at a smile will look at the color and the alignment of the top and bottom teeth and notice whether teeth are crooked. A filling or a crown that doesn’t match natural tooth structure may also be noticed. But the teeth are only one of three equally important components of an ideal smile.
The human mouth is a stage framed by the lips and the soft tissue (gums) that surround the teeth. If either of these deviates from the accepted norm, even if the teeth are straight and white, the smile may appear to be unsightly.
The Ideal Smile
Your lips frame your gums and teeth. There is not much a dentist can do about the muscles and attachments of the lips. But the lips play a dominant role in your ideal smile. The lip line is divided into three types: low, medium, and high.
- A low lip line means you show little or no tooth structure when you talk or smile. In the United States today, this is regarded as being the appearance of an older person. The skin and muscles of the human face drop about 1 mm every 10 years, beginning at about age 40. This is due to gravity and a loss of tissue elasticity. As the muscles and skin drop, less tooth structure is seen, which contributes to an older appearance of a low lip line. The older you are, less of the top teeth will be visible, and more of the bottom teeth will be visible.
- A medium lip line is one where the whole tooth shows when talking or smiling. The line of the teeth generally follows the lower and upper lip lines. This appearance, coupled with dominant front teeth, is considered as being the most desirable type of smile.
- A high lip line is one where all of the front teeth and gum tissue above the top front teeth are visible. It can range from a little gum to a large amount of gum tissue visible. This is considered a less pleasing appearance.
The gum tissue surrounds the teeth. The gum tissue should fill in the space between teeth that touch so that all you see is gums and teeth no spaces. Where the tooth appears to come out of the gum, the gum should have a scalloped (wave-like) look. The gum should be situated higher on the central incisors (front two teeth), lower on the lateral incisors (smaller two side teeth), and higher again on the two eyeteeth. Usually, the gum tissue is higher around the eyeteeth than the front two teeth. And, of course, the left and right sides should be a mirror image of each other. This scalloping should follow the upper lip line. Correct appearance here is of primary importance in developing an ideal smile. If the height of the gum is too low or too high around a specific tooth or several teeth, even if the teeth are straight, they will look wrong. Gum position defects can be (and should be) corrected before any major front tooth restoration. Treatment may be minimal or major, depending on the number of teeth and type of problem present.
The teeth themselves should generally follow the lip line from left to right. They should be proportional to each other and themselves. Most often, a length to width ratio of 1.6:1 is desirable. Adjacent teeth also follow a similar proportional ratio when viewed straight on. If individual teeth are too long, wide, not in proportion to each other, or not mirror images left to right, esthetic problems result.
We can recognize these problems and offer suggestions for improved esthetics. You may look and not know what is wrong with your smile, but you know that you do not have the smile you want. It may not be the teeth alone. The framing of the teeth by your lips and the architecture and position of the gums surrounding your teeth are two variables in a three-part equation for an ideal smile!