Unlocking the Secrets of a Beautiful Smile: 7 Keys to Recognizing a Winning Smile Design

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I am here today to discuss the importance of being able to identify a proper winning smile design. With the increasing prevalence of smile design procedures, it is important to differentiate between skilled dentists and those who may not provide satisfactory results. Regardless of cost, reputation, or clientele, it is crucial to be aware of the quality of dental work being performed. As a dental professional, I have encountered patients who have been disappointed by previous procedures done elsewhere. Therefore, I want to emphasize the significance of recognizing a good smile design in order to combat misinformation and ensure the best possible results for patients.

It is crucial to be aware of certain warning signs when choosing a dentist for a winning smile design procedure. It is not advisable to select a dentist based solely on their price or fame. Quality work should be the primary factor when selecting a dentist. Even if a design looks aesthetically pleasing, it could potentially cause damage to your natural teeth. Therefore, it is essential to be able to determine if a smile design has been executed well or not.

As a dentist, ethics are of utmost importance to me. During my training, my university emphasized the importance of ethical practice, and this has stayed with me throughout my career. It is disheartening to see young individuals irreversibly damaging their teeth due to the lack of ethics and the desire to earn more money and fame. Fortunately, most dental issues are easy to resolve, except for those involving excessive carving for a design, which can lead to problems in the future.

In this blog post, I will provide you with the knowledge necessary to recognize a well-executed winning smile design. By understanding the foundations of smile design, you can make informed decisions when choosing a dentist for your dental procedure. Additionally, I will highlight the importance of ethics in the dental industry and encourage dentists to prioritize their patients’ oral health over their own personal gain.

Next we will explore 7 keys to recognize a well-done smile design.

How to recognize a winning smile design?

1. Overcontours

One of the initial indicators of a poorly executed smile design is overcontouring. This issue is easy to identify as it involves the resin or ceramic material extending beyond the gum line of the tooth. During a smile design procedure, whether it involves resin or ceramic, the dentist must ensure that the material does not protrude beyond the gum line. When you run your finger over the gum line, it should feel smooth and seamless without any noticeable ridges or scales between the restorative material and the gum. It is crucial to address this issue promptly as overcontouring can lead to gum irritation, inflammation, and even infection if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to choose a dentist who has the necessary skills and expertise to execute a smile design correctly.

It is essential to avoid overcontouring in a smile design procedure. This is because there are specific biological spaces that must be respected, and if these areas are invaded, bacterial plaque can accumulate, leading to numerous problems. The plaque buildup can be difficult to clean, as the brush may not reach these areas. Consequently, the problem can escalate, leading to inflammation, the formation of stones, and staining in the design, and eventually, bleeding. The severity of the damage depends on how quickly the problem is addressed at its root. These issues can create a domino effect of dental problems that may result in costly and time-consuming treatments. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a skilled and experienced dentist who will ensure that the biological spaces are not invaded during a smile design procedure. By doing so, you can prevent potential dental complications and maintain optimal oral health.

To illustrate the importance of avoiding overcontouring during smile design procedures, let’s consider a few analogies. Imagine going to a hair salon to get extensions, and the stylist attaches them all the way up to your ear. This would likely cause inflammation and even fungal infections. Similarly, imagine going to a nail salon and getting acrylics attached to your finger instead of your nail. The damage that could be caused to your fingers would be significant. Now, consider the same scenario happening in your mouth, which is a crucial part of your body.

Many dentists overcontour teeth to close gaps, which may otherwise require orthodontic treatment. They may also attempt to improve the shape of triangular teeth by making them square, which can invade the biological spaces we mentioned earlier. However, a good smile design should always prioritize both aesthetic and health criteria. A skilled and experienced dentist will recognize how far they can go to achieve a successful design without causing harm to the patient’s natural teeth or gum tissues. Therefore, it is essential to choose a reputable dentist who prioritizes the health of your teeth while providing an aesthetically pleasing smile design.

2. Bad odor

Another important aspect to consider when evaluating a smile design is the presence of bad breath. This can be a clear indicator of poor design and inadequate dental hygiene. As mentioned earlier, overcontouring and the invasion of biological spaces can lead to the accumulation of bacterial plaque, which in turn can cause inflammation, stones, and ultimately, bad breath.

It’s not uncommon for patients to come to a dental clinic complaining of bad breath after having a smile design done elsewhere. This is often caused by the lack of attention to detail during the design process, resulting in grooves and crevices that trap food particles and bacteria, leading to an unpleasant odor.

This is why it’s crucial to choose a dentist who not only prioritizes the aesthetics of the design but also ensures that it is functional and promotes good dental hygiene. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings can also help prevent the build-up of plaque and stones, and keep your smile healthy and fresh.

To solve both the overcontours and bad smell problems, a comprehensive approach is needed. The first step is to perform a thorough dental cleaning using ultrasound and prophylaxis. Next, the excess material that is on the gum should be removed with very thin burs, and the surface should be polished to prevent the buildup of dental plaque and calculus.

However, in the case of ceramic designs, the solution must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, if the ceramic is carved, it may fracture, while in other cases, the problem may be so severe that the entire previous work needs to be dismantled. In such situations, the x-ray must be evaluated first to determine the overall oral health status. Ultimately, a good design should strike a balance between aesthetics and health considerations, and any issues that arise should be promptly addressed to ensure long-term success.

3. That the dental floss does not fray.

The third aspect to consider is the proper use of dental floss. It should be inserted towards the tooth and then guided towards each wall of the tooth, instead of focusing only on the food particles stuck between the teeth. When the floss tears or frays, it could be an indication of a problem with the material used, even if it is considered top-quality resin. However, it could also be due to an error in the polishing process carried out by the dentist. It is important to note that ceramics have a longer lifespan of up to 15 years in the mouth compared to resins, which may last only 3 to 4 years.

Occasionally, resin may develop tiny fractures, similar to small scales, which can affect the material’s integrity. Unlike ceramics, which are solid and not placed in layers, resin can be layered, and this can sometimes result in microfractures. Therefore, it may not necessarily be the dentist’s fault if the resin experiences these issues. However, the dentist may also be responsible for using low-quality materials, failing to dry the tooth adequately, or not using the appropriate light-curing lamp for the correct amount of time.

Regardless of the cause, if you notice that your dental floss is fraying, it is important to schedule an appointment immediately, as this can impact your oral hygiene and prevent proper flossing. It is essential to note that your dentist should not dismiss this as normal, and you should not leave this issue unaddressed.

To address the problem of dental floss fraying, the dentist uses a technique that involves running a series of mini flosses across the tooth. Starting with thicker ones and then moving on to thinner ones, they work on smoothing out any irregularities until the tooth passes the floss test without any fraying.

4. The bite

Determining the correct bite is an essential component of a successful smile design. However, there are certain cases where a patient’s original bite height has been lost due to various factors such as bruxism, the loss of several teeth, or natural wear and tear. This condition is known as bite collapse, which results in the upper teeth appearing shorter than they should be, making it difficult to see the lower teeth when smiling.

In such cases, a comprehensive dental treatment plan that includes various procedures such as crowns, resins, and inlays may be required to restore the original bite height. These treatments may also be combined with orthodontics and handled by a team of dental specialists to achieve the desired result. It is important to note that only in this specific case should a raised bite be felt, and patients should not feel any discomfort or changes to their bite after a smile design procedure unless there is an underlying issue. Therefore, it is crucial to choose an experienced and qualified dental professional who can accurately assess your bite and design a personalized treatment plan that meets your needs and expectations.

In some cases, it is not acceptable for the bite to feel off-balance, where a certain area feels blocked or a particular tooth prevents proper biting. As a dentist, I like to schedule follow-up appointments with patients after their smile design to ensure their bite feels natural and comfortable. Even if the necessary adjustments are made during the appointment and there are no noticeable pressure points in the bite, patients may still feel “strange” after leaving the appointment, which is normal and can last for about three days.

However, the sensation of an awkward bite is different from the feeling of biting into something hard. If a patient experiences discomfort when biting down, it could indicate the need for dental carving. It’s crucial to address any discomfort in the bite to ensure the longevity of the dental work and overall oral health.

5. Excessive carving

Conservative dentistry is currently in vogue among ethical dentists, as it seeks to minimize the need for tooth carving or preparation during restorative procedures. Only the minimum necessary carving or preparation is performed to ensure proper restoration placement and prevent future fractures. However, there are still many dentists who do not follow these techniques and engage in excessive tooth carving. It is disheartening to see young people with overly carved teeth that can never return to their original state. Choosing a good dentist who provides sound advice is crucial in avoiding excessive tooth carving, as this problem may only become apparent once the design has been removed, and it may be too late to rectify the damage. It is a challenging issue to detect and solve, and therefore, it is essential to select an ethical dentist.

6. Whitening in short roots

On numerous occasions, individuals may be aware of having short roots due to a past x-ray or dental trauma resulting in lost root. However, some people may be unaware of having this condition, which is why dental professionals require x-rays before starting any procedures to avoid causing harm to their patients. Although some studies suggest that tooth whitening may increase the risk of root damage, the scientific evidence lacks sufficient weight. As a dental health professional, it is preferred to perform veneers without prior whitening in such cases to avoid potential side effects and protect the patient’s overall dental health.

7. Design without correct healing of the gum

Gum trimming can be performed in two ways: reshaping only the gum, or reshaping both the gum and the bone. The latter is more commonly required by patients, as simply trimming the gum without cutting bone or respecting the “biological space” can result in the gum growing back to its original position. It is important for dental professionals to take this into consideration when performing gum trimming procedures.

When only the gum is trimmed in a smile design, the healing process is generally quick and patients can start enjoying their new smile within a week. However, in cases where both the gum and bone need to be reshaped, the healing process is longer and patients need to wait at least three months before the smile design is complete. In some cases, such as when a patient needs to travel, it may be possible to shorten the healing time to one month, but it is important to follow the dentist’s instructions to avoid complications.

Failing to wait for the recommended healing time can lead to both short-term and long-term damage, both in terms of the aesthetics of the smile design and the success of the treatment itself. If the gum is not given enough time to adapt properly, it may end up showing the union between the tooth and the ceramic, which can be unsightly.

It is also important to be cautious of overtreatment, as unnecessary dental work can lead to irreversible damage to teeth that are otherwise healthy. Therefore, it is important to choose a dentist who is ethical and only recommends treatments that are truly necessary.

By following these seven keys to recognizing a successful smile design, patients can ensure that they achieve the best possible results and enjoy their new smile for years to come. Don’t hesitate to share these tips with others so that they too can benefit from them.


Sara Pelaez Monsalve

Aesthetic dentistry with more than 14 years of experience in the field. Founder of Clinica Viena and Viena Kids (clinic focused on pediatric dentistry). Professional focused on patient care, on the application of best practices and high-quality world-class treatments.

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