• Dr. Tanner

The Art and Science Behind a Beautiful Smile


A beautiful smile looks natural and appears in harmony with the face.


Creating a beautiful smile involves so much more than just straightening teeth. Many factors should be considered in order to achieve beauty, harmony and symmetry of the teeth relative to the lips, cheeks, nose, smile arc, buccal corridors, gingival display, and profile. There is a real art and science to placing teeth in the most pleasing and functional position. Not something one should leave to chance and let a DIY company like Smile Direct Club to make these decisions!


Orthodontists are trained to evaluate not only how to fit teeth together to create the best functional result but also are keenly aware of the impact teeth have on all facial structures–both inside and outside the mouth. A beautiful smile looks natural and appears in harmony with the face. As part of the treatment planning process, the orthodontist will make decisions about how to move the teeth to achieve optimal facial esthetics while improving the alignment and occlusion.



What makes a smile beautiful? Most of us agree that it starts with straight white teeth but lets take a deeper dive into some of the more subtle and perhaps not so subtle factors that can enhance or detract from the beauty of a smile:

  • Lip support

  • Smile width

  • Smile arc

  • Gingival display

  • Dental symmetry


Lip support: Our teeth play a very important role in how much support they provide our lips. When teeth are properly positioned, the lips are able to gently touch without straining when we close our mouth. Sometimes, teeth can be positioned too far forward (either with or without crowding) and the result is lip incompetence. As the lips are closed, the mentalis muscle strains and flattens the chin making the profile look more convex. In this situation, teeth need to be extracted as part of orthodontic care in order to reduce the protrusion and relax the lip posture.


Smile width: The width of one’s smile can have a big influence on facial esthetics. The buccal corridor is the dark space between the teeth and the corners of the mouth. This dark space is essential in creating a visual contrast with the white of your teeth and also helps your smile look balanced. Too much space in the buccal corridor can make it look like you’re missing teeth, but if you don’t have enough space; your smile can look toothy and full. Many people have inward collapse of their back teeth and orthodontic uprighting can significantly enhance the smile while alleviating any crowding.


Smile Arc: The smile arc is the curve of your teeth. Ideally, the line of your teeth, which is defined by both the incisal edge and gum line, should create a slight upward curve that narrows as it recedes into the buccal corridor. A harmonious smile arc also follows the curvature of the lower lip. 100% of the upper front teeth should be revealed along with a small amount of the gums upon full smile. In addition, the incisal edges of the lateral incisors should be .5mm shorter than the central incisors to avoid the “picket fence” look of the front teeth.

Gingival display: How much gum you show has a significant effect on how attractive your smile is. Many times, upper front teeth overerupt, pulling down the gums with them. This results in excessive gingival display or a “gummy smile”. Orthodontically intruding or lifting up these teeth can establish the proper amount of gum upon smiling. There can also be situations where a single tooth has an uneven gingival margin due to over-eruption and proper positioning can create a more uniform gingival display.


Dental symmetry: The symmetry of the smile is last important factor. Before getting his teeth fixed, many people recognized that Tom Cruise had an issue with his smile–his upper midline was significantly off relative to the middle of his face. This type of situation can happen even when teeth are straight and is likely due to a shift of the dentition from a single missing tooth. Another factor that plays into a harmonious smile is the level or tip of the respective dental arches. If one side of the arch is up or down relative to the opposite side, this cant makes the smile appear crooked or imbalanced. Last, if an arch has a tooth or teeth that are dramatically undersized (typically upper lateral incisors), the symmetry of the smile is lost. In this case, small spaces need to be opened next to the undersized teeth so that they can be restored to their proper dimension post orthodontic treatment.



There are so many factors to consider when setting up a case for success with orthodontics–it is not as simple as just straightening teeth. Treatment planning for a beautiful smile takes into consideration moving teeth to enhance lip posture, facial esthetics and gingival response to achieve a harmonious and attractive outcome. Choose an expert to help make those decisions!


If you have questions about the benefits of Invisalign treatment, please call Visage Orthodontics at 505-670-6145 or visit our appointment page to schedule a complimentary consultation with me, Dr. Tanner, your Santa Fe Invisalign specialist. I will review everything in detail and develop a customized treatment plan to fit your lifestyle and budget.


A confident and beautiful smile is right around the corner!