Maybe you’ve never thought about the length of your teeth before, but in truth, if they are too long or too short, they can interfere with the overall balance of your face and even make you look older. To determine the right proportion for teeth, we turned to Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Laurence R. Rifkin, DDS, for some guidance.
“Every tooth has its own natural proportion,” Dr. Rifkin says. “Central incisors usually have an 82 percent to 85 percent height-to-width ratio, but other teeth have their own specific proportions.”
Over time, your teeth can actually appear longer or shorter due to things like gum recession or grinding, so having their length evaluated can be an important step in creating or maintaining a more balanced look.
“Teeth that are too long look horsey, and teeth that are too short age you,” Dr. Rifkin says. “There’s usually a pleasing range of tooth exposure when you’re not smiling that’s usually between 1 to 3 millimeters. Unworn and youthful teeth are displayed when you’re not smiling. However, older people have had more time to wear their teeth shorter, and they don’t show teeth when they’re not smiling at all.”
Teeth that are too long are typically caused by receding gums, inflammation or bone loss, Dr. Rifkin explains. “Gums that recede after bone loss can indicate periodontal or gum disease. Bone loss can also come from grinding or clenching your teeth, which will wear the teeth down as well as make them shorter,” he says.
Your dentist will first need to determine why your teeth are too long. If it’s due to gum recession, you may need to have gum tissue grafted and placed over the tooth where your gum is missing. If your gums are not an issue, longer teeth can also be reshaped with tooth contouring (having them sanded down), or your dentist can use orthodontics to push them up a little higher into the bone.
Sometimes you may notice that your teeth look too long after dental work, such as bonding or veneers, and you may need to see a dentist to reshape them, Dr. Rifkin explains.
If teeth are too short because they did not grow enough out of the gums, your dentist may be able surgically remove the excess gum tissue. However, if the teeth are shorter because of grinding or wearing them down, then you can add length by direct bonding or porcelain veneers, Dr. Rifkin says. “This should all be selectively done with respect to harmony with the gums, lip, and face.”
With bonding or veneers, Dr. Rifkin advises that you keep up with proper brushing, flossing and occasional tooth whitening to keep your teeth looking great.
“Direct bonding will eventually discolor and will need to be replaced in five to 10 years,” he says. “Porcelain veneers are considered a more permanent choice because they don’t discolor, and would only need to be replaced in the event of fracture or sometimes gum recession, which you can prevent with proper hygiene and wearing a night guard to avoid the trauma of grinding and clenching.”
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