Aging causes more than just wrinkles and aches and pains – it also affects our smiles. I like to show patients the two slides below, to demonstrate to them what happens to our face, lips and teeth as we age.

I point out to the patient how the amount of tooth display changes with each decade of life, with about 3.5mm of maxillary incisal edge display in our thirties. We see about a 1mm reduction per decade after our thirties, resulting in only about 0.5mm showing by the time we reach our sixties. Furthermore, as we get older we may show no teeth at all, or just our lower teeth.

When I show these slides to my patients, I don’t say anything and I just let the images speak for themselves. This allows the patient to make their own observations and decisions about their smiles.

tooth display

After viewing the slides, I ask the patient three questions:

1. Have you ever noticed how much teeth young girls in lipstick ads show without smiling?

2. Have you ever observed that older TV male presenters sometimes look like they have no upper teeth?

I see them instantly nod their head, and then I see them look at me and I ask my final question:

3. WOULD YOU like to find out how much of your teeth you show?

tooth display

Arezoo Bahar, DDS, Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author


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