When it comes to smile design projects, patients are not actually looking for perfection. This statement may surprise you. I have noticed a growing trend in dentistry towards synthetic smiles that are perfectly symmetrical, which means we are losing the connection between restorative dentistry and natural esthetics and with the real meaning of natural beauty. What does it really mean to create a naturally beautiful smile? Why are we not creating smile restorations that look and feel natural?
1. We’ve lost sight of the perfect imperfections in a natural smile
I believe that we need to re-learn how to appreciate natural beauty. Many of the smiles we’re creating for our patients nowadays are not copying nature. You can be a great dentist or technician and still be creating textures, shapes, and designs that don't exist in nature. We are starting to get used to it, and starting to believe that this is the only way to go. Why is this a problem? Because we are so used to designing teeth and smiles with our own hands that we are starting to believe that what we do as dentists and technicians is better than nature.
In addition, we see that patients are also starting to value more artificial smiles, synthetic smiles, fake smiles, over natural smiles. We need to reset our minds, reset our brains. There are amazing, perfect imperfections in nature: beautiful details in a smile that only nature can create.
2. There’s a limit to our handmade smile designs
There are a small number of incredibly artistic smile designers in the world who are able to handcraft beautiful, natural-looking smile designs. The rest of us are limited by our artistic ability when it comes to smile design. The good news is that Digital Smile Design technology – covering everything from how we scan teeth to how we create veneers, enables us to copy and paste nature.
This is the great advantage of technology and digital workflows in the Digital Smile Design concept. Through scanning technology, through software, and through printing technology, we can now re-learn how to copy nature for real. Copy and paste dentistry, as I call it. If we can copy nature for real, why are we struggling and trying to reproduce with our own hands? Besides the analogue versus digital thing, I believe that the most important message is that we need to learn how to analyze nature, how to analyze natural teeth, and fall in love with nature again. Through that process, we allow ourselves to improve our skills, to reproduce nature for real, and to re-learn how to teach our patients about what beautiful, natural esthetics really means.
3. We are focusing on the wrong challenges
Morphology, texture, arrangement, shapes, design, and facial integration are much more important than color when it comes to dental restorations, but we see many more articles and conferences talking about color than talking about what really matters. One fact that for me emphasizes this feeling that we are, as restorative dentists, losing our connection with nature and what natural beauty means, is the fact that we hear all the time that the most difficult restorative case is the single central. The single central situation is the most difficult case when it comes to color, but in general, color is not the most difficult and most important topic in a smile reconstruction. For me, six veneers are much more difficult to place than a single central. Why? Because the more teeth I need to restore, the more I know I am going to lose the natural references and the more difficult it becomes to reproduce nature. Usually, I can identify my six veneers from far away much more easily than I can identify my single central. This is because it's much easier to blend in the single central than to make six veneers look really natural and disappear in the mouth.
If we add soft tissue problems, ridge defects, then it becomes even more difficult. So the bigger the problem, the more difficult it is to reproduce nature. And I believe this change of thinking, this paradigm shift, will help us understand where we need to focus. Dentists and technicians need to focus much more on understanding the face, on understanding the dynamics, on how to design smiles in harmony with faces, on how to place teeth in the right position in the face. They first need to focus on how to reproduce natural shapes, morphology, arrangement, and texture and then, as the final detail, a good color.
4. Social media shows us artificial smiles
A lot of amazing dentists and great technicians post beautiful pictures of their latest cases on social media channels – they are great cases, the dentistry is done well, but their restorations do not look natural. I am not criticizing those professionals, but what this does is make us start to lose the connection to natural smiles. This is often qualified by a comment that the patient wanted an artificial look to their smile – whether that is in the shape of their teeth or the whiteness of their smile. We are starting to be proud of it, and that is the problem. We need to rewind, reset our brain, go back to nature, and really understand the meaning of natural beauty. As a dentist, your job is to guide your patient to make the right choice for their smile. When all they see are artificial smiles, then it is understandable that that is what they would ask for. Show your patient what their smile could look like with a beautiful natural arrangement,with the perfect imperfections of nature, and they will see what you see.
"We need to rewind, reset our brain, go back to nature, and really understand the meaning of natural beauty"
How do you create a beautiful natural smile design?
I learned something very, very important. When we try to reproduce nature, and we fail, or we fall a little short, what happens is that the safe path to design smiles becomes making them white and perfect. And then the patient is happy, and then we say that this is what the patient wants. But in fact, what is really happening is that we are protecting ourselves subconsciously -- trying to reproduce all the natural imperfections of a beautiful and natural smile can be a challenge by hand. But the fact is that we didn't have the skills to actually reproduce the perfect imperfections of nature. It is very difficult to do this with a handmade design, unless you are very gifted artistically. This is where Digital Smile Design changes everything. The digital technology enables you as a dentist to fall in love with and start respecting nature again. It makes designing complex natural smiles easier and democratizes the smile design process.
"This is where Digital Smile Design changes everything. The digital technology enables you as a dentist to fall in love with and start respecting nature again"
When it comes to patients, you’d be amazed that when you place a smile design with completely natural shapes and arrangements, even the patients who thought they wanted a perfect, white, symmetrical smile will suddenly fall in love with their new, natural, perfectly imperfect smile.
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