While physical signs of aging are unavoidable, there are ways we can fix our adult insecurities with a trip to a medical professional. According to Houston cosmetic dentist Guy Lewis, DDS, one of the biggest complaints he sees from older patients in his practice is a collapsed smile, but he has a solution: a smile lift. “If your teeth are so worn down that your face is collapsing, a smile lift can do the trick in fixing both your bite and your teeth length. This procedure alone is so dramatic that it can take 20 to 30 years off your face.” In the interview below, Dr. Lewis breaks down what we need to know about this smile-enhancing procedure.
What is a smile lift?
A smile lift, which we call a ‘facelift for the teeth,’ is a type of smile makeover. The typical smile makeover is where we place veneers, crowns or fillings on the teeth to give patients a brand new smile. The difference between that and a smile lift comes down to the bite. In a smile lift, patients not only need to have their teeth fixed with crowns or veneers, but they also need to have their vertical dimension—the distance between the chin and the nose—adjusted. As people age, their teeth become more worn down due to grinding and such, which creates a collapsed-looking face.
To fix this, we need to make more room in the mouth, which entails bringing the vertical dimension back to where it was and lengthen the teeth. This procedure alone can make the lower half of the face look like it did 20 to 30 years ago.
How do you change the vertical dimension and the bite in a smile lift?
The bite is opened with porcelain crowns and veneers, but not just regular veneers. If we choose to use a veneer for this procedure, we use what’s called an onlay veneer. Unlike traditional veneers that cover the front of the tooth, this type of porcelain veneer covers the front of the tooth as well as the biting surface of the tooth. The porcelain is built up on the biting surface of the back teeth acting as a doorstop for the bite, which opens the vertical dimension and allows room to lengthen the teeth.
Does a smile lift help with the shape of the lips?
A smile lift helps with the lips because, usually, a collapsed mouth also means thin lips. When we open the smile up with the lift, the pressure of the face is taken off the lips. As a result, lips often look much fuller and more even.
What does the whole process look like?
I can perform a smile lift from start to finish in just two visits. Prior to starting, we’ll make what’s called a diagnostic wax-up— which is essentially the blueprint of the new smile. During this stage, I work closely with my dental lab to customize and design their new smile. On the first visit, we prepare all their teeth, I take impressions to send to the lab, and I make a set of temporary teeth for the patient to wear around for a few weeks before having the final teeth made. If desired, changes can be made to the temporaries during this phase. Once the patient is satisfied with the temporaries, the lab finalizes the new teeth and the patient will come back for the final visit.
Why do you give the patient a set of temporaries to wear before the procedure?
This step in the process allows the patient to see if there’s anything that they would like changed before the permanent teeth go in. This may include length, shape, size or style. This also gives the patient a lot of confidence because they can edit their smile before it’s placed. If they don’t like something about their temporaries, it’s really not a big deal at all—if the patient desires changes, this can easily be done during this phase. I like the process to be customizable for the patient, however, I’m there to lead them in the right direction. I like to refer to this step as a ‘test drive’ of their new smile.
Does this procedure require a long recovery?
After you have the lift, all you have to do is make sure you’re wearing a night guard because it will prevent clenching or grinding as well as prevent teeth from shifting. If there are any bite adjustments needed, or if something feels off, the patient may need to come in for a third visit where we can do a small adjustment. This doesn’t involve any anesthesia and it’s generally painless.
Sponsored by Guy Lewis, DDS