The Power of a Smile. The impact of restoring the width/length ratio.

Unimaginable, for people with beautiful teeth, to think about hiding your teeth every time you laugh. Imagine, being aware that every spontaneous smile means in the same time trying to hide your teeth that in one way or another lost its glory. Changing those teeth back to the diamonds of the human body they are, can change the patient in a significant way. To feel self-confident and free again. To smile and laugh out loud with confidence and joy. That is a powerful thing.

ugly bulky teeth and shy smile

The patient was very unhappy with her smile. That unhappiness resulted in unwanted tension in the lips with every smile, just to hide her teeth. Creating a beautiful relaxed smile of which the patient would be proud was our goal.

dark stained teeth

The right lateral view. The patient mentioned as her concerns both the dark general colour, and the localized brown and yellow discolourations of and around the old composite restorations. Note the round bulkiness of the central incisors.

dark and yellow teeth

The distal incisal edge of the lateral shows the very beautiful natural colour build-up of her teeth. Being absent in the central composite restorations. One of our objectives to achieve with the final restorations.

retracted view of old composite restorations

What defines an aesthetically pleasant smile? Is it the colour of the teeth? The condition of the gingiva?The lips? Definitely in the top three best answers, is the position of the incisal edge of the incisors together with the width/length ratio of the anterior teeth.

close-up of old stained composite distal tooth 11

In this case the width to length ratio of the patients central incisors is off. They display a short clinical crown length. Resulting in the patients central incisors being square shaped. A rectangular shape is generally more esthetically pleasing because it just looks natural to the eye. On average W/L ratios of a central incisor tend to vary for many reasons also from wear because of age. If you hold in mind an ideal range roughly from 75-85% your final restoration will be pleasing to the eye and will not set off any alarm bells by the spectator that something is off and looks unnatural.

old rough composite restorations with leakage

The length of cuspid, lateral and central incisor does not differ much. Embrasures are very closed. Making the smile look more worn and older. A treatment plan was made to give the patient a bright smile with pleasing W/L tooth ratio and beautiful harmony with the lips. Adding length to the incisal edge only to achieve the ideal W/L ratio would create a disharmony. A combination of surgical crown lengthening and incisal additive composite restorations was chosen in this case to achieve the ideal smile line. Improving oral hygiene and bleaching of the dentition was step one in the treatment.

crown lengthening surgical procedure to restore anatomical crown

Surgical crown lengthening was planned to expose the anatomical crown and create an ideal W/L ratio. A flap was raised and osseous resective and re-contouring surgery was performed.The blue line represents the new bone level. The black stripe is drawn where the newly revealed enamel borders the root cement (CEJ).

The bone level will determine the level of the gingiva and therefore the soft tissue design. A biological width of 2,5 mm between the alveolar bone crest and the CEJ which in this case represents the desired gingiva outline level, guarantees in most cases a healthy gingiva.

probe to measure incisor length

After surgery the gingiva shows good healing displaying a soft pink colour. To be in the ideal W/L zone extra length as anticipated has to be added to the incisal edge of the teeth.

old composite restorations after crown lengthening

Close up image shows the newly exposed enamel revealing the actual anatomical crown with the gingival outline on the CEJ. The wax-up and mock-up from the study models will guide us further towards the ideal W/L ratio of the incisors.

scalpel to trim the cervical resin

An all-over silicone impression was made of the wax-up. The impression was filled with bis-acryl provisional material and placed in the mouth to set. After removal of the silicone, a scalpel is used to trim the mock-up resin at the cervical. This offers a test drive for the initial plan.

mock-up for direct composite restorations

The mock-up showed a beautiful, youthful display of anterior teeth with the lips at rest. Goal defined. Dental team and patient highly motivated. Time to shoot the ball!

tucking the rubber dam for perfect isolation

Tucking the rubber dam in with the help of a thin spatula. Drying the rubber with air will make it stay firmly folded inwards, to ensure proper isolation.

soflex discs to remove old composite

After placing the rubber dam the old composite is removed using fine instruments and magnification to ensure no enamel or dentin is unnecessarily touched.

clamps for maximum rubber dam retraction

Etching and bonding is finished. Distributing the width of the two central incisors equally is of utmost
importance. We start by making the palatal ‘Box’ by first building the palatal and approximal walls. Central incisors that have equal width are soothing to the eye. The use of a small digital calliper in the process to check and possibly adjust the composite is recommended.

palatal composite wall and sectional matrix for incisal lenghtening

The palatal walls are made with the help of a silicone index. Remember that using a silicone palatal key might sometimes require you to remove the clamps temporarily. Sectional matrices and wedges are used to guide the construction of the approximal walls. In case of diastema closure, the first approximal wall build-up sometimes needs some support of the sectional matrix with the help of some liquid rubberdam.

palatal boxes for direct composite restorations

Both boxes completed with cervical build-up with a body composite.

layering mamelons with composite resin

Mamelons sculpted in a dentin shade.

composite layering of central incisors

A body shade one shade lighter than the cervical was used on the mid third, as you can see on tooth #11. On tooth #21 the final enamel layer is applied.

angle lines marked with pencil for finishing of composite anatomy

Correcting the light reflecting angle lines on the surface according to the article: The power of Pencil.

surface texturing and secondary anatomy on composite restorations Secondary and tertiary surface anatomy

Secondary and tertiary surface anatomy.

polishing composite with wheels and felt

Multistep polishing procedure ensures a shiny enamel-like surface of the composite. From thermoplastic wheels to felt with aluminium oxide paste.

polished composite veneers

Final result after finishing and polishing procedures.

before and after front teeth restoration

Before and after.

beautiful direct composite restorations

Final result. The glory of the patient’s dentition restored. Bringing back her beautiful smile.

lifelike and seamless composite restorations on front teeth

The patient can laugh and smile confidently again.

before and after crown lengthening and composite restorations smile

The natural vibrancy of her teeth is restored. And the new length of the incisors is positioned perfectly in between the upper and lower lip. Patient feels now free to raise her upper lip. And smile. Carefree.


What defines a highly esthetical smile? Is it the colour of the teeth? The condition of the gingiva? The lips? So as we asked and mentioned before, the width/length ratio of the anterior upper teeth is for sure in the top three answers. This case has shown that, if you tick all these boxes, there is a big chance to satisfy all of the requirements for success. Yet, the number one definition of a beautiful smile is and must be confidence. To restore a patient’s confidence while smiling is the ultimate goal. A radiant smile equals a radiant person. How great is that to create!


1) Sterrett JD, Oliver T, Robinson F, Fortson W, Knaak B, Russell CM. Width/length ratios of normal clinical crowns of the maxillary anterior dentition in man. J Clin Periodontol. 1999 Mar;26(3):153-7.

2) Gönülol N, Yilmaz F. The effects of finishing and polishing techniques on surface roughness and color stability of nanocomposites. J Dent. 2012 Dec;40 Suppl 2:e64-70.

3) Manauta J, Salat A. Layers, An atlas of composite resin stratification. Chapter 10 Surface and polishing Quintessence Books, 2012

4) Schmitt VL, Puppin-Rontani RM, Naufel FS, Nahsan FPS, Coelho Sinhoreti MA and Baseggio W. Effect of the Polishing Procedures on Color Stability and Surface Roughness of Composite Resins. ISRN Dent. 2011; 2011: 617672 published online 2011 Jul 11.

5) Chu SJ. Range and mean distribution frequency of individual tooth width of the maxillary anterior dentition. Pract Proced Aesthet Dent. 2007 May;19(4):209-15.

6) Gargiulo et al. (1961) Dimensions and relations of the dentogingival junction in humans

7) Villarroel M, Fahl N, De Sousa AM, De Oliveira OB Jr. Direct esthetic restorations based on translucency and opacity of composite resins. J Esthet Restor Dent. 2011 Apr;23(2):73-87.


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