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Digital Smile Design Dentistry: Cost, Centers, and Eligibility

Natalie Asmussen
Natalie Asmussen
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Eyad Tariq
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What is a smile design? Can it help you achieve a more youthful, healthier smile? Yes! A smile design is the process by which a cosmetic dentist uses digital technology and the golden ratio to optimize a patient's smile.

The design takes into consideration the relationship between every aspect of a person's mouth and face, including the gums, lips, and teeth. Any number of treatments can be used to create your new smile, such as veneers, whitening, and implants.

But there's a lot more behind the smile design procedure, and some of the science can get complex.

So to help you figure out if this is the right procedure for you, we break down the different aspects of smile designing:

  • What is a smile design?
  • How dentists design your smile
  • The dental golden ratio
  • Who is eligible for treatment?
  • What does all this cost?

We hope this information helps you take the next step towards your perfect, healthy smile.

What is a smile design?

A smile design is the process of planning cosmetic and orthodontic procedures that will create an Insta-worthy smile. Cosmetic dentists base aesthetics on the patient's mouth and face. The process can involve implants, crowns, veneers, whitening, lip lifts, and gum alterations. There may be some physical benefits to your smile as well, such as fortified enamel with dental veneers or crowns to cover sensitive areas.

digital smile design dentist
Your dentist will consider every aspect of your smile.

Why get a smile design?

There are various reasons a patient may pursue a cosmetic smile design treatment, including the desire to:

  • Look younger
  • Be more confident
  • Improve chances for career advancement
  • Feel more attractive

Finding a smile design center

There are smile design dental clinics all over the country and the world that offer smile design services. A quick internet search will yield plenty of smile design institutes and dentists in your area. You'll likely need to consult with a few dentists to find the one that offers the best services for you and that fits your lifestyle and your dental budget.

How much does a smile design cost?

A smile design can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000, and maybe even more depending on where you go and the services you get. A full mouth of dental implants and plastic surgery on your lips is more than veneers, for example. You may want to consider traveling abroad to save money, particularly on the more expensive procedures.

What do dentists consider when designing your smile?

Smile design dentists take into consideration two categories: facial and dental features. Facial aspects focus on the soft and hard tissues that contribute to the smile. The dental component focuses more on the teeth and their relation to the soft tissue in the oral cavity, such as the gums.

Let's have a closer look at the specific facial and dental features that your dentist will use to design your new smile.

Facial composition

These measurements help your dentist create your smile.

A smile design dentist needs to take into consideration facial symmetry, alignment, and proportions to design a smile and works with a team of specialists.

This team, including orthodontists, orthognathic surgeons, periodontists, and plastic surgeons need to conduct an analysis for each specialty. Once they're done, they combine their findings into a holistic plan.

Inter-pupillary line

This is an imaginary line drawn between the centers of the eyes' pupils. It should be parallel to the occlusal plane, an imaginary surface that touches the biting edges of the incisors (the four front teeth) and the biting surface of the back teeth.


Lips play a major role in smile design because they border the teeth. The shape, movement, and flexibility of the lips can determine a smile's appearance.

gummy smile
On the left you can see a gummy smile.

When designing the lips, a dentist will take into consideration:

  • Lip length: The designer will measure from the point below the nose to the lower border of the upper lip in its resting position. The upper lip tends to increase with aging, so decreasing this distance, or at least the appearance of this distance could help a patient look younger.
  • Lip mobility: This measures the distance between the top lip in the resting position to when it's in the high smile position. Some patients have hypermobility, which causes a gummy smile.


The face can be divided into two dimensions: horizontal and vertical.

The components of the horizontal dimension include:

smiles design
The contact area is another design factor
  • Face width: Should be five times the width of the eye
  • Nose width: Should equal the inner intercanthal distance, or the distance between the inner corners of the eyelids
  • Mouth width: Should equal the interpupillary distance, the distance between the centers of the pupils of the eyes

The vertical dimension can be divided into three equal parts:

  • Upper third: The lowest point of hairline between the eyebrows to the eyebrow line
  • Middle third: The eyebrow line to the base of the nose
  • Lower third: The base of the nose to the base of the chin

Face shape

There are six facial shapes that you can observe by looking at the front of the face—heart, long, oval, triangle, square, and round. Looking at the face in profile, you can observe one of three profile types—convex, straight, and concave.

All of these facial measurements are essential when designing any patient's smile.

Dental composition

When your dentist designs your smile, they will take the following dental factors into consideration:


smile design zenith points
A smile design is based on factors like zenith points.
  • Dental midline (line between two upper and two lower front teeth)
  • Incisal length (length of four front teeth)
  • Tooth dimensions
  • Zenith points (the highest points of the gumline arch on teeth)
  • Axial inclination (the angle formed between the long axis of the tooth and the bone it comes from)
  • Interproximal contact area (ICA; the area where two neighboring teeth make contact)
  • Interproximal contact point (IPA; the contact area between two teeth)
  • Incisal embrasure (the space between two endings of adjacent front teeth)
  • Gender, personality, and age
  • Symmetry and balance
smile designing
Smile line is at the bottom edge of your top teeth

Soft tissue

Your dentist will also consider the following soft tissue aspects:

  • Gingival health
  • Gingival line
  • Interdental embrasure (space between adjacent teeth)
  • Smile line

Dental golden ratio

dental golden proportion
Dentists use this as a guide

When viewed head-on, the width of each front tooth beginning in the center and going outwards is 60% of the width of the adjacent tooth, with a ratio of 1.6 : 1 : 0.6. Because patients have varying arch forms, lip anatomy, and facial proportions, it's impossible to exactly reproduce the golden ratio rule, but dentists will use it as a loose guide.

Digital Smile Design (DSD)

This new technology uses computer software to digitally design patients' smiles. It now replaces the older method of manual design in most dentists' offices, but it uses the same parameters in order to plan and optimize smiles.

One of the biggest advantages of DSD is that patients can see the smile preview before they begin the procedure. They can work with the dentist to modify color, shape, and length to create their ideal smile.

DSD also helps make the final result more accurate, as it is done with an oral scanner and 3D printer.

In the video below, you can watch Dr. Mark Jesin, an oral surgeon from Grand Rapids, describe how digital smile designing works.

To learn more, or to schedule a consultation go to Randy Alvarez, host of The Wellness Hour, interviews Grand Rapids, MI Oral Surgeon Mark L. Jesin, DDS

Who is eligible?

To be a candidate for a smile design dental transformation, patients should:

  • First take care of tooth decay or gum disease issues before their smile design procedure, which may involve LANAP surgery
  • Resolve tooth grinding or clenching before the procedure, as this can shorten the lifespan of your new smile
  • Have sufficient enamel for veneers or teeth whitening
  • Have good oral health and hygiene habits


A smile design dental makeover combines multiple aspects of cosmetic dentistry to help patients optimize their smile. The process can involve whitening, veneers, crowns, lip lifts, and gum alterations.

There may be some physical benefits to your smile as well. For example, crowns or fillings cover areas with increased sensitivity. Implants are also sometimes part of a smile design and are considered to be the best way to replace missing teeth.

Smile design technology has come a long way, and nowadays dentists use digital smile designs to achieve more accurate results with their patients. Patients can even see a smile preview before they begin the procedure.


What is a high smile line?

A high smile line happens if, when a person smiles, a lot of gum tissue is exposed. Cosmetic dentists consider an ideal smile to be one where the lips cover the top portion of the front upper teeth.

What is a Digital Smile Design?

Digital Smile Design (DSD) is the newest smile design technology that most smile design dentists use. It allows for patients to see what their new smiles will look like before they begin the procedure. Dentists and patients can work together to create the optimal smile. Digital technology is also more accurate and yields better results than older methods.

How much does a smile design cost?

A dental smile design can cost from $1,000 to $50,000. There are many different procedures that you may or may not need. For example, some people may only require whitening. Others may require teeth shaping, implants, or plastic surgery.

Digital Smile Design Dentistry: Cost, Centers, and Eligibility
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NIH: Dental esthetics and the golden proportion. Consulted 13th November 2020.

NCBI: Principles of smile design. Consulted 13th November 2020.