How to Choose Shapes and Shades When You Have Cosmetic Dentistry


The evolution of aesthetic dentistry has seen us advance from the trend of displaying snow-white, artificially straight teeth resembling that of piano keys – to a smile that is not only more natural, but can also now express an individual’s sense of personality and identity. By Dr Sam Thandar 

Tooth colour selection is a combination of various factors, such as the age of a patient, the underlying colour of the existing teeth, the white of the eye, and most importantly, psychological influences.

When choosing the appropriate shade and shape of teeth, I use a particular type of interview and technique with my patients based on a concept called visagism. This unique approach involves the customisation of a given individuals smile design that best expresses their sense of personality and identity. Let me elaborate…

Visagism unpacked

The analytical psychology that is visagism (a phrase derived from the French word ‘visage’, meaning face) was founded by Carl Gustav Jung, a swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Jungstudied civilizations and cultures, where he discovered that symbols, shapes, lines and colour all held a universal meaning which transgressed cultures, gender and creed. These universal symbols were then termed archetypes.

Now, when an individual looks at something for the first time, the emotional brain perceives it as lines, shapes and colours with specific meaning. Yet, it is only once the visual cortex is stimulated that we see the image as a whole.

Aesthetics and archetypes at work

Hippocrates, regarded as the father of medicine, revealed that a person’s personality is a unique combination of four different temperaments – where often one or two dominate within an individual. These are as follows: choleric/strong; sanguine/dynamic; melancholic/sensitive and phlegmatic/peaceful.

By integrating the theory of archetypes with personality, clinicians involved in facial aesthetics and cosmetic dentistry can apply these elements to their work. The shape of the face and teeth can then be manipulated in relation to the four temperaments.

Furthermore, when it comes to observing teeth, there are various different lines and shapes. Each of these lines are archetypical symbols, which means specific variations in their composition will arouse specific emotions within the patient.

So, not to get too carried away in the detail and depth of this type of analysis…

People or patients with personalities exuding a particular temperament will find beauty within different shapes and colours. There are four basic tooth shapes: square, rectangular, triangular and oval with some variations.

What’s more, these shapes are broken down into horizontal, vertical and curved lines, which interact in infinite ways to create the diversity of tooth shape. This creates their own power of expression and emotional relevance:

  • Vertical straight lines represent power and masculinity
  • Horizontal straight lines represent the surface on which we are born,
    live and die, while expressing tranquillity and passivity
  • Inclined straight lines represent dynamism, movement and joy
  • Curved lines represent the transition between two planes, and express gentleness, delicacy, femininity and sensuality

The above mentioned allow us insight into the behaviour of people with different temperaments as they would recognise beauty in different archetypes.

For example, a strong/choleric temperament would identify with teeth that show an overall design that has more ninety degree angles and straighter edges, with more solid shades of white.

Body language of the mouth and lips

In essence, the mouth not only dominates the lower third of the face, but also contains both verbal and non-verbal communicative functions. Non-verbal communication happens within a fraction of a second, when the eye meets the mouth and registers the archetypical symbols which are understood unconsciously and emotionally.  This intails the design of the teeth, shape of the lips, as well as the shape and form of the mouth.

Now, while there are several ways and means to achieve a perfect smile, there is one technique that truly stands out, as it offers the best results when it comes to customising an individual’s mouth expressions – the digital smile design (DSD).

The technology that is DSD has become one of the leading forefronts in dentistry, as it places us dental clinicians in a more favourable position to manipulate the four different temperaments. This means that we can achieve a promising aesthetic result, and most importantly ,a result that our patients can identify with.

Written by Dr Sam Thandar  BDS ( Wits) PDD ( Aesthetic Dentistry) DDont (Endodontics) Fell ( lasers)(Genoa Italy) Clinical Director ThincClinic.

A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice. 

CURRENT Issue 30 – September 2019 (Winter)

This article was written by Dr Sam Thandar and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine June 2019 Edition (Issue 30). 

A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skin care, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies).

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