We instinctively know an attractive smile when we see one. But although our perceptions are subjective ("in the eye of the beholder"), there are understood aesthetic principles that shape them. For smiles in particular, proportionality is one such principle.
More specifically, an attractive smile's visible gum tissue should be proportional to its visible tooth surface. If the gum amount exceeds this, then the smile will appear too "gummy." There's no set measurement, per se, but most dentists peg it at around four millimeters—just over an 1/8 of an inch—or more.
Fortunately, there are options for improving a "gummy" smile. Notice that we said "options," plural: That's because over-exposed gums can occur due to a variety of causes.
Obviously, an actual over-abundance of gum tissue could be one of those causes. It might also result, however, from the teeth appearing and being too small, less than 10 mm of visible crown length, because the teeth are in themselves abnormally small or they failed to erupt completely during development.
There are also causes beyond the actual teeth and gums. The upper lip may move too far upward while smiling—a problem known as hypermobility—revealing too much gum tissue. The upper jaw may also appear too long because of the position of its attachment to the base of the skull. This in turn might result in too much gum tissue displaying while smiling.
Uncovering a gummy smile's underlying cause thus determines the right treatment to pursue. For oversized gums or undersized teeth, a periodontist might choose to perform a plastic surgery technique called crown lengthening. This procedure reduces and reshapes the gum tissues and underlying bone to expose the full length of the teeth.
Lip hypermobility could be limited temporarily by Botox injections administered about every six months. Another option is a surgical procedure that restricts lip movement and can offer a permanent solution. Similarly, surgery to reposition a long upper jaw could minimize gum exposure and improve smile appearance.
If you or a family member has a gummy smile, there may be an effective way to improve it. Understanding why it's gummy will be your first step to a more attractive smile.
If you would like more information on enhancing a gummy smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gummy Smiles.”
Nina Parker, the host of Love & Hip Hop for six seasons, is now busy with the new game show Blockbusters and her own talk show The Nina Parker Show. But even with a full plate, she took time recently for some personal care—getting a new smile.
Parker's fans are familiar with her noticeable tooth gap. But a video on TikTok in February changed all that: In the video, she teasingly pulls away a mask she's wearing to reveal her smile—without the gap.
Parker and other celebrities like Madonna, Michael Strahan and David Letterman are not alone. Teeth gaps are a common smile feature, dating back millennia (even in fiction: Chaucer described the Wife of Bath as being "gap-toothed" in The Canterbury Tales).
So, what causes a tooth gap? Actually, a lot of possibilities. The muscle between the teeth (the frenum) may be overly large and pushing the teeth apart. There may be too much room on the jaw, so the teeth spread apart as they develop. It might also have resulted from tongue thrusting or late thumb sucking as a child, influencing the front teeth to develop forward and outward.
A tooth gap can be embarrassing because they're often front and center for all the world to see, but they can also cause oral health problems like complicating oral hygiene and increasing your risk for tooth decay. They can also contribute to misalignment of other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate a gap. One way is to move the teeth closer together with either braces or removable clear aligners. This may be the best approach if the gap is wide and it's contributing to misalignment of other teeth. You may also need surgery to alter the frenum.
You can also reduce less-pronounced gaps cosmetically with dental bonding or porcelain veneers. Bonding involves applying a type of resin material to the teeth on either side of the gap. After some sculpting to make it appear life-like, we harden the material with a curing light. The result is a durable, tooth-like appearance that closes the gap.
A veneer is a thin wafer of porcelain, custom-made to fit an individual patient's tooth. Bonded to the front of teeth, veneers mask various dental flaws like chips, deformed teeth, heavy staining and, yes, mild to moderate tooth gaps. They do require removing a small amount of enamel on the teeth they cover, but the results can be stunning—completely transformed teeth without the gap.
Getting rid of a tooth gap can be a wise move, both for your smile and your health. You may or may not take to social media to show it off like Nina Parker, but you can feel confident to show the world your new, perfect smile.
If you would like more information about treating teeth gaps and other dental flaws, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Space Between Front Teeth.”
Orthodontics—the science and art of straightening teeth—plays an important role in ideal dental health. Moving teeth to the places they should be makes them easier to clean (reducing your risk of dental disease) and improves chewing function to better facilitate digestion and overall nutrition.
Although improved health is the primary gain, orthodontics can also provide a secondary gain that can also benefit your life—a more attractive smile. In a sense, orthodontics is the original smile makeover.
Here's how orthodontics could give you a more attractive and healthier smile.
It begins with the orthodontist. Orthodontists are specialists in bite correction. They have advanced training to assess and improve the development of the jaws, the alignment of the teeth and how all that comes together to form a person's individual bite. They'll use their training and expertise to perform a comprehensive orthodontic evaluation to understand your particular bite issues before presenting you a treatment plan.
Putting the plan together. During those first exams, your orthodontist will take a lot of information—specialized x-rays, photographs and dental impressions—to acquire the “big picture” about your particular bite problems. From this, they'll develop a detailed plan for how best to correct your bite. Besides braces or clear aligners to actually move the teeth where they should be, the orthodontist may also include other specialized appliances for fine-tuning that movement.
The process itself. Orthodontists use their knowledge and skills to work with the teeth's natural ability to move in response to changes in the mouth. The orthodontist uses braces or clear aligners as the foundational treatment to apply focused pressure on teeth in the direction they need to move. The underlying bone and periodontal ligaments respond, and the teeth gradually move to their new and improved positions.
Correcting a poor bite usually takes months or even years of focused attention. It may also require the expertise of other dental professionals like periodontists, oral surgeons or general dentists for a successful outcome. But that end result is well worth the time and effort. An improved bite is an investment in better long-term health, and a new, beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on improving your smile through orthodontics, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
There's a good chance you have an over-the-counter pain reliever in your medicine cabinet right now. They're handy for safely and effectively coping with mild to moderate pain, swelling or fever. They could also prove an invaluable resource after your upcoming dental work—your dentist may recommend one of these common drugs to help you manage your recovery period.
These particular drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. The most common sold under various brand names are aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. Unlike narcotics (opioids), which depress the central nervous system to control pain, NSAIDs block substances in the body called prostaglandins, which are released when tissues become inflamed or damaged. This in turn reduces pain, swelling or fever.
There's another significant difference between NSAIDs and narcotics—NSAIDs aren't addictive like opioids. Because they're also milder, NSAIDs don't require a prescription except for stronger formulations. With the trend to limit the use of narcotics in both dentistry and medicine, dentists are turning to NSAIDs as their primary means for managing dental pain.
There are, of course, some situations where narcotics are the preferred course. But dentists are finding NSAIDs are just as effective for managing discomfort following most dental procedures. They've also found that combined doses of ibuprofen and acetaminophen greatly amplifies the pain relieving effect.
Although NSAIDs are much safer than narcotics, they do have potential side effects. For one, they can reduce the blood's ability to coagulate, especially when taken consistently over several weeks. This could make it difficult to stop bleeding due to injury or illness.
NSAIDs can also irritate the stomach lining in some people over an extended period of use, leading to ulcers and other digestive issues. Prolonged use has also been linked to major problems like kidney damage, miscarriage or heart attacks.
But NSAIDs are still a safe alternative to narcotics: Their side effect risks are quite low when taken in proper dosages—between 400 and 600 mg for adults—within a limited amount of time like a few days. Their temporary use can help you cope with discomfort after a dental procedure and get you well on the road to full healing.
If you would like more information on managing discomfort after dental work, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Pain With Ibuprofen.”
Historically speaking, implants are a recent blip on the centuries-long march of dental progress. But few innovations in dentistry can match the impact of implants in its short history on dental function and appearance.
Dental implant therapy has already established itself as a restoration game-changer. But it also continues to improve, thanks to a number of emerging technologies. As a result, implant restorations are far more secure and life-like than ever before.
Here are 3 examples of state-of-the-art technologies that continue to improve this premier dental restoration.
CT/CBCT scanning. Functional and attractive implants depend on precise placement. But various anatomical structures like nerves or sinuses often interfere with placement, so it's important to locate these potential obstructions during the planning phase. To do so, we're increasingly turning to computed tomography (CT). This form of x-ray diagnostics is the assembly of hundreds of images of a jaw location into a three-dimensional model. This gives us a much better view of what lies beneath the gums.
Digital-enhanced planning. Implant success also depends on careful planning. And, it isn't a one-sided affair: The patient's input is just as important as the dentist's expertise. To aid in that process, many dentists are using digital technology to produce a virtual image of a patient's current dental state and what their teeth may look like after dental implants. This type of imaging also allows consideration of a variety of options, including different sized implants and positions, before finalizing the final surgical plan.
Custom surgical guides. To transfer the final plan details to the actual implant procedure, we often create a physical surgical guide placed in the mouth that marks the precise locations for drilling. We can now produce these guides with 3-D printing, a process that uses computer software to produce or "print" a physical object. In this case, the 3-D printer creates a more accurate surgical guide based on the exact contours of a patient's dental arch that's more precise than conventional guides.
Obtaining a dental implant is a highly refined process. And, with the aid of other advances in dental technology, it continues to provide increasing value to patients.
If you would like more information on restoring teeth with dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How Technology Aids Dental Implant Therapy.”
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