Smile Design Dentistry:
The Hidden Blueprints Cosmetic Dentists Use...
By John Emmanuel

Example of the Golden Proportion when designing smiles

This article on smile design dentistry was written by guest writer, John Emmanuel. It gives you a great overview of what goes into the planning stages of a new smile and what kinds of patient details I need to receive from the dentist in order to work on a cosmetic dental case, and ensure the best results.

Take it away John --


Using the beauty and balance of nature as a guide, cosmetic dentists have found a way to give you the beautiful smile you want.

The first well-known tool is the “Golden Ratio” or "Golden Proportion" (1:1.618), attributed Pythagoras and used by ancient Greeks in architecture and sculpture. It's used to determine the symmetry of your teeth (anterior veneer or crown size).

Dentist measure the width of your two front teeth (central incisors) together, then divide it by 1.618 (phi) to determine the ideal visual length of your teeth.

They do this again to determine the ideal visual length of the canine tooth and again for the first premolar and second premolar etc. This gives you a picture of what your new and improved smile could look like.

But that’s not all that is needed...

Are we looking at a masculine or feminine smile?

There are slight differences between the smiles of the sexes.

Feminine smiles are more likely to follow the curve of the lower lip; they have rounded edges on the teeth, and the laterals are more equal in size to the centrals, plus they have sharper canines, etc.

Masculine smiles usually have flat edges on the teeth, prominent central incisors, smaller lateral incisors, a level smile line, flat canines, etc.

What's the shape of the patient's head and face?

This may seem a bit strange, but typically the size and shape of a person's teeth is in direct proportion to the size and shape of that person's head.

If you take a look at the outline of the central incisor of an individual it is usually the same shape as their head turned up-side-down.

The width and length of the central incisors also correlates to the width and length of the head.

Another strange place to look for the width of the central incisors is the intra-alar distance (the width of the nose at its largest point). People with wider noses also tend to have comparably wider teeth.

How old is the patient?

Crafting the best cosmetic smile calls for consideration of the persons age.

As we age our teeth no longer look as they once did when we were younger. Older teeth are more worn down and have more color to them.

The smile of a 16 year old will look out of place and visually displeasing on the face of a 68 year old.

What kind of shade (tooth color) are we dealing with?

There are four parts that make up the final look of a tooth's color.

  1. Hue: the shade that determines if a tooth looks more yellow or gray or brown. As with hair color, the color of one’s teeth needs to compliment the color of one’s skin tone.

  2. Chroma: i.e. how yellow or gray or brown is it. Chroma is generally determined by age and by the particular tooth in question. As we get older our teeth are more likely to have more color to them and certain teeth in the mouth, like the canine, will tend to have deeper coloring as well.

  3. Value: is the brightness of the tooth from black to white. The value used in veneers or composite restorations is decided by where they are placed in the mouth and by the preferred brightness wanted. Again, skin tone and age play important roles here.

  4. Translucence: this is the amount of light that passes through different layers of the tooth. Teeth tend to be more transparent towards the edges. Similarly the enamel that covers the surface of the teeth is glass-like and tends to be quite see-through as well.

    It is this distinction of the enamel that gives teeth the natural look of depth. When this transparency is absent the teeth no longer look natural.

Small things that really matter

There are other slight differences to think through in the design of a beautiful smile.

Teeth, like faces, have variations which make them different that have to be combined for successful results. There are small changes in the shade, bumps, and ridges on what may look like flat surfaces.

Balance needs to be created on both sides of the mouth.

The lip line needs to be considered and the functional mechanics and the look of the gums also need to be taken into consideration.

Putting it all Together

The final result of a beautiful, natural looking, healthy smile has many different parts that must work together.

The final result must:

  1. Compliment the functional requirements of the teeth, musculature and the TMJ (jaw joint).
  2. Look good with the entire face.
  3. Not negatively affect the natural health of the gums and supporting bone.
  4. Create balance within the mouth and be centered with the face.
  5. Be as conservative as possible.
  6. Bring joy to the patient!

A beautiful smile is easier to have than you may think. It’s as easy as speaking to a cosmetic dentist, arranging an appointment and discussing what needs to be done.

And voila you have the smile you’ve always dreamt of.


Thanks John for that clear review of a sometimes complex subject. In real life cosmetic dentistry, dentists and aesthetic lab technicians communicate a lot through detailed photos.

I can get a better idea of what the final veneer or crown should look like when I have a picture of the patient.

Something new that I plan on using more and more is receiving short video clips of the patient speaking.

Our smiles, and their attractiveness, are often a result of the glimpse  we get when we see them in action. Most people don't walk around with a static smile on their face.

Instead, we speak with our smiles. Beautiful smiles are very dynamic.

You can learn more about John below...

John Emmanuel is a copywriter with a love for health and fitness who has written for a range of companies including Neville Collymore Health & Fitness, Remax (Massachusetts), LotusHR, Blue 40, and Positive Solutions. He is a qualified Sport Therapist, and a qualified coach in several sports. Originally from the UK he now lives in Trinidad and Tobago with his wife, and two kids. | @johnemman1

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