A major difference between a cosmetic dentist and a general dentist is that a general dentist has been trained to fix things, and he or she does that with an authoritarian approach. Dentists are trained in dental school that this authoritarian approach reassures the patient that the dentist knows what he or she is doing.
However, in cosmetic dentistry, the opposite approach is needed. Cosmetic dentists understand that listening to the patient over what they expect, what they want their teeth to look like, is critical to successful treatment. Expert cosmetic dentists understand that they are treating the patient’s self-esteem. As such, if the result is not pleasing to the patient, the treatment is a failure.
To accomplish this, the dentist needs to solicit your strong input into the planning of your smile design. To help you with that communication, we have this brief discussion of the three broad categories of smile design.
There are three basic cosmetic dentistry smile design styles, and within each division there are variations on the theme. These concepts of smile design come from Dr. Jeff Golub-Evans, a former prominent Manhattan cosmetic dentist.
The Sexy Smile
A sexy smile has variation in the lengths of the teeth. Since the central incisors tend to be longer than the other front teeth when they first come in and then wear down over time to an even length, we associate longer, more prominent central incisors with youth and “sexiness.”
Therefore, in the “sexy” smile design, the central incisors are significantly longer than the lateral incisors. A sexy smile conveys youth and boldness. It can also convey warmth. A sexy smile design also draws the eye to the center of the face, emphasizing the nose and chin. It is good for people with prominent, attractive lips.
The Sophisticated Smile
This is the opposite end of the smile design continuum. Teeth in the sophisticated smile make a straight horizontal line. Since the longer front teeth tend to wear down over time, this tends to be the appearance of the teeth as we age. Therefore, we associate teeth of even lengths with maturity, wisdom, and “sophistication.” A sophisticated smile conveys maturity and intelligence. It tends to emphasize the width of the lower face.
The Sporty Smile
A sporty smile is between sophisticated and sexy. The central incisors are a little longer than the laterals. A sporty smile design conveys casualness and informality, and can also convey warmth. It’s not quite as serious as the sophisticated smile nor as young as the sexy smile.
Factors that influence the smile design are:
- Your facial shape. For example, a long face may need to accentuate width to appear more oval. Someone with attractive features in the center of the face may need bold central incisors to draw attention to that center.
- Your image aspirations. How do you want to appear to others? A sophisticated smile gives the appearance of more intelligence, maturity and judgment. A sexy smile gives the appearance of more warmth, energy and boldness.
- Your age, or how old you want to appear. Longer central incisors make you appear younger. Also, whiter teeth make you appear younger. Conversely, a flatter smile or a more subdued color to the teeth make you appear more mature.
To read about how these factors are put together, please see my page, How to Design a Smile.
With your smile design consultation, an expert cosmetic dentist will go over all of these factors. He or she may have you pick a smile from a book of photographs of smiles. A good cosmetic dentist may disagree with your pick and will tell you why, but the final decision is still yours. Ultimately, you have to be the one who is happy with your smile.
Quite frankly, the artistic sensitivity that makes a good cosmetic dentist often goes against the grain of the training that occurs in dental schools. Click here to read about the difference between a general dentist and a true cosmetic dentist. Cosmetic dentists are almost a “different breed” from your usual family dentist. A cosmetic dentist has a certain passion about esthetics and creating beautiful smiles that makes him or her want to dedicate his or her practice to this aspect of dentistry and to pursue extensive training in this special field. If you are contemplating cosmetic dentistry, we recommend using the services of a specially trained cosmetic dentist, such as the ones listed in our referral service, rather than a general dentist who merely claims expertise in cosmetic dentistry.
Read about DaVinci veneers, and Dr. Hall tells you if you should look for a dentist that does DaVinci veneers.
This content was written by Dr. David Hall