Smile Design (Part 1)

“I have never really liked my smile.  What can be done about it? ”

In 1996, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry conducted a survey to study how people perceived the importance of their smile.  The results were remarkable: 74% of the general public felt that a good smile was an important career asset, 85% felt an attractive smile was critical for attracting a member of the opposite sex, and 92% thought that an esthetically appealing smile would make them more effective in social circles.  That’s almost everyone …

Smile Design-Part 1-Dissatisfied with SmileAmazingly, the same public opinion poll revealed that 50% of people are dissatisfied with their smile. Clearly, a lot of people look in the mirror and don’t like what they see.  For self-confidence and peace of mind, many people want to make a change.  For a few, it is a desire for “perfection”.  For most, it is more a matter of “improvement”.

The question is:  Where do you start?

Beginning with the End in Mind

Think of the driving through an unfamiliar city. You could wander around aimlessly hoping to stumble onto your destination, or you could refer to a map.  After you find your current location and where you want to go, you can chart the most effective path to get from point “A” to point “B”.

Smile Design-Part 1-Pleasing SmileThe same is true with smile enhancement.  Where are you now?  That would be the list of all the things you notice about your smile—including your dislikes and concerns.  Where are you going?  By studying countless stunning smiles, dentists have discovered several esthetic principles that are essential for an attractive appearance.   These “rules” are the destination.

The process of planning, selecting, and coordinating the proper dental procedures to achieve an intentional result is known as “Smile Design”.

I had the honor of writing a feature article about Smile Design for Dear Doctor“—a journal created to provide answers to common questions most patients have regarding dental treatment.  Dear Dr Cover- Fall 2013-Smile Design IntroThe American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry subsequently included that article in its official online reference library for patient education.  Dentists all over the world are currently using the article to help their patients understand the principles of smile design. (The cover of that issue is at right.  You can read the article here.)

Unfortunately, mass media marketing and pop culture periodicals have bombarded us with opinion, innuendo, and partial info that describe dental care procedures rather than dental esthetic principles.  As a result, we find that many patients have already selected a specific treatment option (such as tooth whitening, Invisalign, bonding, or porcelain veneers) before they even arrive in our dental office.  Without a full understanding of the advantages and limitations of each procedure, this can be misguided.  Although the procedures are incredibly effective, they are not universally appropriate for everyone.

To make the right choices for each individual patient, we must first have a good understanding of esthetic smile principles.  We’ll take a look at those in our next post, “Smile Design (Part 2)”.

Copyright © 2013  Stephen R. Snow, DDS