As we continue our discussion about creating beautiful smiles, another factor to consider is the length of our teeth. In our society, teeth that are short and square are not considered attractive no matter how white and shiny they are. In the same way, teeth that are excessively long will always detract from a beautiful smile.
As a periodontist, we have techniques that can correct problems with the length of the teeth. This has been studied extensively. Every tooth has a proper length, both on its own and in relation to the adjacent teeth. Our eyes are very sensitive to these proportions even though we may not be aware of the specifics or the science. This is one of the important factors that are at work when we evaluate the attractiveness of a smile.
If the teeth are too short we can remove a small amount of gum tissue and possibly bone from the visible face of the tooth so that a proper amount of tooth is on display. This can be done without compromising the health or strength of the tooth. It is often amazing how, by removing a millimeter or two of gum tissue from the face of a tooth, we can produce an immediate change in the appearance of the smile, even before anything is done to change the shape or color of the tooth.
In the same way, we can add gum tissue to shorten a tooth that has become too long due to years of recession. This is done by placing the gum on the face of the tooth back into its proper position or by taking some gum tissue from other places in the mouth where there is gum tissue to spare. Again, the visible change is immediate and positive.
One of the problems with recession is that, at a certain point, it exposes the root of the tooth. Because the root of the tooth is not covered by enamel, it is always darker and yellower than the enamel crown. Sometimes dentists will cover the exposed root with a bonding material or porcelain-like substance that matches the color of the enamel crown.
This is a problem for a number of reasons. One is that it still leaves a longer tooth and this will never look as attractive as a tooth with proper length and proportion. Second, it introduces a margin which, although it may look perfect to us, is still a place where bacteria and stain can accumulate. Of course, this is never a good idea.
So, evaluating and, if necessary, adjusting the length of the teeth is an important step in creating a beautiful smile.