When we’re talking about cosmetic dentistry, we may sometimes talk about the aesthetics of your smile, and other times we may refer to the attractiveness of your smile. Are these two terms interchangeable?

Not exactly. Understanding the difference between these two terms can help you appreciate the limits of cosmetic dentistry.

What Is Smile Aesthetics?

When we talk about smile aesthetics, we are referring to the different characteristics of your smile that influence the appearance of that smile. There are many of these, but most of the time you might be unhappy with the appearance of your smile, it’s probably because of one of these 10:

Tooth Color

Teeth whiteness is probably the most common concern people have about the appearance of their smile, especially since discolored teeth are associated with age.

Tooth Size

Some people wish their teeth were larger. Other people want their teeth smaller. The relative size of teeth matters, too, since the central incisors are supposed to be larger than the lateral incisors, which appear wider than the canines (but not always longer), and so on. We can change this with porcelain veneers.

Tooth Shape

Other times, you might be concerned about the proportion of your teeth. Maybe they’re too long for the width, or too wide for their height. Or perhaps you don’t like the squareness of your teeth and wish they were more rounded. Teeth can easily be reshaped with porcelain veneers or dental bonding.

Gum Display

Your smile isn’t all about your teeth. Your gums matter, too, and it’s important that you display some amount of gums, but not too much.

Smile Arc

Although your lips do a lot of the work in creating the shape of your smile, it’s important that your teeth help out, too. Your smile arc is defined as the area between your gum line and your incisal edge (the biting or chewing edge of the tooth). Together, these two lines should define an arc that is largest in the middle and tapers while ascending slightly to either side.


Not to be confused with a rhythmic repetitive utterance, cant is another word for tilt. If your teeth are tilted slightly forward or backward, it disrupts the appearance of an attractive, even smile arc. Also important is the presence of rotated teeth, which don’t look right, either.


All your teeth should have enough room for themselves, but they should be touching. If your teeth are all crowded together, or spaced apart significantly, your smile can look off. Your smile will also look off if you have one or more missing teeth, creating a large gap.


For several centuries, human beings have all developed a slight overbite. This looks natural and normal to us. An edge-on-edge bite doesn’t look quite right, and if your upper teeth extend too far forward, that can also look unattractive.

Dental Midline

Symmetry is an essential characteristic of beauty, and symmetry of the face is defined by a line between your eyes, along the bridge of the nose, and down to the chin. The midline of your smile should correspond to this line.

Buccal Corridor

The buccal corridor is the space between your teeth and your cheeks on either side of your smile. Ideally, this should look full, but not crowded.

What all these smile aesthetics have in common is that they can be objectively measured. We can, for example, measure the size, shape, and proportion of your different teeth and compare them to each other. We can also compare them to databases and theories of so-called “ideal” smiles.

What about Attractiveness?

Attractiveness is something different than aesthetics. While we can objectively measure aesthetics, we can’t objectively measure attractiveness. In fact, it’s likely that many people, even in our office, may disagree to some extent about the attractiveness of your smile or someone else’s. Attractiveness is not only subjective, it’s deeply personal.

Do Attractiveness and Aesthetics Agree?

Usually, but not always. Often, when people come to us with a complaint about the appearance of their smile, we can look at the aesthetics of their smile and measure what the problem is and how to correct it. When we do cosmetic dentistry, we can always guarantee that we’ll alter the aesthetics of a smile and achieve a particular measurement.

When it comes to attractiveness, it’s a little more difficult. But that’s why we have a detailed consultation–we work hard to understand how to define your idea of attractiveness in aesthetic terms so that we can achieve the smile you desire, one that you’ll be happy with and that others will also recognize as an attractive smile.

If you’re looking to improve the aesthetics or attractiveness of your smile with cosmetic dentistry in Rochester, NY, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.