So you’re considering getting dental veneers – the goal of this post is to help you determine what specific elements you would like to see in your smile. And secondly, be able to communicate those elements with your dentist to achieve the smile that you want; the smile that you’re investing your time and hard-earned money into!
Determining What You Want
Let’s get specific about what you want your smile to look like. The more specific you are, the better able your dentist will be to help you to achieve your goal. Referencing a celebrity or bringing a photo of a smile you like to your appointment is a good start, but what exactly about that smile do you want to replicate? It’s not enough to say “I want my smile to look like this…”, because your mouth and the way you smile are unique to you. Like a hairstyle, the exact same cut may not look the same on you as it does on that celebrity (the ‘Rachael’, anyone?). So we need to figure out which elements of that smile draw you to it, and figure out how to re-create those elements in your smile.
Your Smile Style
Let’s start with your style – do you want your smile to look like you, just improved? Or do you want your smile to look glamorously picture perfect? With the former, the goal is for your nearest and dearest to not realize that you had any cosmetic work done – only to see that you look great! You could keep the shape of your teeth, any characteristics that make your smile unique to you, and change or soften the aspects you don’t like – whether it be the color of the teeth, crowding, rotated teeth, a front gap, etc.
Alternatively, you may want a completely different smile than the one you have! A bright, perfect smile that is red carpet ready. Can you get something in between the two? Of course, but good communication is the key to achieving this goal.
Elements That Make Up a Smile
Here, I’m going to show you photos of smiles and point out elements that we consider when designing a new smile. Since every patient’s face and desires are unique, we won’t be able to cover every single thing that could be altered with dental veneers, but this will give you a good foundation for being able to communicate your ideal smile to your dentist. While I reference certain style preferences below, keep in mind that this is only a guide and what is thought of as conventionally attractive may not work for everyone’s personal style.
1) The edges of the teeth follow the curve of the lower lip when she smiles. Oftentimes, the edges of the front teeth become worn and short of the lower lip, meaning there is space between the edge of the upper front tooth and the lower lip. Lengthening the teeth to meet the lower lip (in a smile) gives a youthful and fresh appearance. In some cases, however, lengthening the teeth to meet the lower lip can make them appear too long.
2) The “flat” edges of the teeth aren’t perfectly straight, and are very slightly uneven. This was a design choice to keep the teeth looking more natural. If you look around you, you will see that nothing in nature is perfectly straight and the same is true for teeth. Flat edges in teeth are usually a result of them having been worn down, which ages the teeth. Adding some unevenness will give your teeth a more youthful and natural appearance.
3) The corners are rounded. There are differing degrees of “roundness” that are suitable for each smile. The more round the teeth, the younger and more feminine they tend to look. For a more masculine look, the teeth generally look more square. With that said, more “masculine” teeth can look great and natural in a woman’s mouth and vice versa. These are not strict rules, but just general guidelines for style.
4) Related to style is also the prominence of the canine or “fang” teeth. Some people will want their canine teeth to blend in with their smile, while others may want them to stand out a little more. Prominent canines tend to look more “masculine” and aggressive, but again, it can look great in anyone’s mouth given the right style.
5) Translucency in the edges of the teeth. If you look closely, you will notice a tiny amount of “greyness” close to the edges of the teeth (most noticeable in the two front teeth). This is to replicate the translucency found in the edges of natural teeth. For people with flat, worn front teeth, you probably won’t see any translucency because that portion of the tooth has been worn away. This is also a personal style preference, as not everyone likes the look of translucency in dental veneers, but if you’re going to request translucency in your dental veneers, then the key to translucency is keeping it subtle.
6) The gumline of the upper teeth. The level of the gumline differs from smile to smile – it can range from completely hidden to completely visible in a smile. Generally, most people have a little bit of their gumline hidden when they smile, at the very top of the teeth. When it is completely hidden, it usually means that the upper lip is low or doesn’t move much to reveal the teeth in a smile. Dental veneers can help to “push” the lip up, so that more of the teeth are visible in a smile. When a gumline is completely visible in a smile, we can reduce the amount of pink gums visible and even out the gumline if it is asymmetrical between the right and left sides.
7) Color variations in a single tooth. If you look at a natural tooth, there are different colors in different parts of the teeth. They aren’t just one solid color. Natural-looking dental veneers also should exhibit color gradients, but the variation is generally less than in natural teeth in order to make them more esthetic.
8) The buccal corridor is a dental term that describes the visible empty space between the corner of your mouth and your teeth. It is generally thought that a wider smile, and therefore a narrower buccal corridor space, is more esthetically pleasing. Filling in the buccal corridor generally requires more teeth to be veneered, because it is the back teeth that fill that space in.
9) A cant is when the edges of your teeth seem to be on a diagonal plane, instead of horizontal. If your teeth follow a diagonal plane, then taking into account your “facial flow” (the way your facial features appear on your face), the shape of your lips when you smile, and the line connecting your eyes will be used to determine the most esthetically pleasing angle. A perfectly horizontal angle is not always the most esthetically pleasing, especially if the lips (which frame the teeth) are also on an angle.
10) Shape of the teeth – this is another personal style preference. If you want your dental veneers to look natural, then you may want to follow a similar shape to your natural teeth. Otherwise, rectangular teeth are popular preference for many people with varying degrees of roundness in the corners.
Do Your Research
Instagram is a great place to see a lot of examples of dental veneers, look up #PorcelainVeneers to start. What you should look for when doing this search is examples of dental veneers that you like, and figure out what in particular you like about them, using the 10 points outlined above as a guide. The more specific you can be, the better you will be at communicating your goals to your dentist.
Picking Your Dentist
Now that you have an idea of what style of dental veneers you would like, check out the Instagram account or website of your dentist.
- Do you like the dental veneer examples that you’re seeing?
- Are the teeth shape the same in all the examples? Or does the shape differ in each example? If they are all the same, is that the shape you want?
- This is an important question because dentists do not make the actual veneers, they communicate with dental lab technicians who make the veneers. Some dental labs have a signature style, and if you don’t want that style, then you need to make that clear to the dentist. Most dentists use the same 1 or 2 labs for all their cosmetic cases, so you can expect a similar result to what they have posted in terms of style and appearance.
If you’re not happy with the results shown by your dentist, then do a google search and repeat your research until you find what you’re looking for. Once you have selected your dentist, make an appointment for a consultation and discuss with them everything we have talked about here. Photos of the dental veneers you like will also help, and tell them specifically what you like about them. This will allow your dentist to give you a mock-up that is close to what you want. Important: do not skip the mock-up. This is a crucial step in making sure you are happy with the end result, and it will also allow the dentist to see any limitations (e.g., a buck tooth) that may require another procedure to get you to your esthetic goal.
Stay tuned for part III, where we will discuss the Nitty Gritty details of dental veneers and part III, where we go over some “under the hood” type of information!