August 19, 2018

Perfect Porcelain Crown and Porcelain Veneer Tooth Shapes Personalized for Your New Smile

Personalized Porcelain Veneer Tooth Shapes Major Factor in How Your New Smile Will Look

Enhanced Smile design for porcelain veneers or crowns

This is one of our most popular smile designs, the Enhanced Smile Style. The original design came from the LVI Smile Catalog by Dr. William Dickerson which was utilized as a template and then customized by Dr. Huefner and his ceramist Dave Stohlman from LK Dental Studio.

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your teeth and smile and are considering porcelain veneers or crowns beware!  If you want your smile to look real and natural, and fit your face and personality, then “cookie cutter” or “one type fits all” porcelain veneers or crowns very likely won’t do that for you.  Make sure to discuss your goals with your cosmetic dentist, to make sure that he can and will customize your smile in a manner that will give you the best results and meet your expectations.

natural length central incisors

This young lady in her mid twenties did not have any dentistry done on her central incisors. Note the length and shape of the central incisors, that they are longer than they are wide and that the corners are slightly rounded. Her central incisors are unworn and beautiful. Dr. Huefner did two porcelain veneers on her lateral incisors though. This is a very youthful feminine smile design.

When designing a smile there are three approaches your cosmetic dentist might utilize by themselves or in combination with each other in their goal for the perfect porcelain crown and porcelain veneer tooth shapes for your new smile.  This all depends on the training, experience, and of course very important, the artistic ability of the dentist.  But most important is how the dentist actively listens to YOU and then his effort striving to create an individual smile that achieves your goals.  This process is called smile design.  But understand that cosmetic dentistry is a true art form, and rarely would two different cosmetic dentists create identical smile designs for the same patient.

worn teeth restored with porcelain veneers

Lower photo: This lady in her 60s had severely worn and darkly discolored teeth. She wanted a bright, white, more youthful and feminine smile. Upper photo: This is the same lady after having porcelain veneers. The shape and length of her teeth were restored to the way they were when she was much younger. Specifically note that the veneered incisors are longer than they are wide, compared to the lower photo where they are shorter than they are wide. Also notice the veneered teeth have slightly rounded corners, where as her worn teeth has square corners. The color she chose for her veneers was a bleaching shade BL1, much whiter light natural colored teeth.

Several important things that the experienced cosmetic dentist should be specifically concerned with are obviously the tooth color and length of the teeth.  Also important are the types of restorations, all porcelain dental veneers, partial coverage crowns or all porcelain full crowns.  Things like specific type of porcelain material used, amount of translucency and surface texture are also of concern that effect the naturalness and end results.  However one of the very most important things that you and your dentist need to discuss and consider is the porcelain crown or porcelain veneer tooth shapes. Let’s discuss this very important aspect of individualizing porcelain veneers and crowns and the creation of an individualized “personality” by varying tooth shapes.

soft femine incisors

This lady in her early 60s has not had any cosmetic dentistry. Her teeth have discolored a little over the years but have hardly shown any signs of wear. Note that there aren't any sharp corners on her incisors and they are all slightly rounded. Her lateral incisors are shorter and much smaller than her central incisors and have a very feminine appearance. Cosmetic dentists try to keep these concepts in mind when designing porcelain veneers or crowns for women.

You probably haven’t ever thought about it, but the shape of each of the upper front six teeth play a different role in smile design. The front two teeth, called the central incisors, have the role of the perception of tooth age. The teeth next to the central incisors, the second tooth on each side from the front teeth are called the lateral incisors. They are the teeth that impart gender to the smile design. The next tooth back from the lateral incisors, the “eye teeth” or canine teeth, impart personality. I will explain how each of these teeth perform their respective roles.

masculine porcelain veneers

Three men with masculine smile designs. Note that the lateral incisors are almost the same length as the central incisors. Also that all four incisors have more square corners compared to the feminine smiles. Interesting footnote is that we have generally found that most women prefer to have whiter porcelain veneers than most men.

Rectangular central incisors with rounded corners appear more youthful than shorter teeth with square corners

First, the central incisors, which are the most obvious teeth to be seen.  Or if they are very short teeth and/or if the patient has a long upper lip sometimes these teeth are not even seen. In a young person the central incisors appear rectangular, longer than they are wide, with rounded corners, and are usually 10.5 mm to 11.5 mm in length. However, with age and wear these teeth shorten over the years, sometimes as much as 1-5 mm by the time one gets to middle or late age. Along with shortening, the central incisors oftentimes become more square in shape, so the tooth width and tooth length are almost the same.  If severe wear, the length will be less than the width.  Usually these short teeth have worn down to the point that they have square corners rather than the normal round corners of younger teeth. Thus, for someone who is concerned with their appearance and the perception of their age we need to specifically be concerned with how we make the length and shape of the front two teeth.  Personally, I tend to always try to make my patients look at least a little younger. That’s a good idea, isn’t it? I have yet to have a patient tell me they want to look older, however I don’t discount the fact that somewhere in this country there are a couple patients who might think that way.

pointy cuspids made less aggressive looking with porcelain veneers

Lower photo: This patient not only had very crooked incisors but his long pointed cuspids gave him a very aggressive smile. Upper photo: We placed porcelain veneers to straighten his crooked teeth, but also toned down his cuspids making them shorter and less pointed, giving him a more passive looking smile.

The important concept here is that by changing the length and shape of worn central incisors with porcelain veneers or crowns cosmetic dentists can give their patient a much younger looking smile. Also, teeth in general usually darken with age, so to compliment this goal when doing multiple porcelain veneers or crowns we almost always make the new porcelain veneers or crowns lighter in color than the teeth were before treatment.  How much we do to change the color and lengthen and change the shape of the teeth depends a lot on the wishes of the patient.

orange county porcelain veneers

Lower photo: This young lady had two main concerns. She hated her pointy cuspids and felt her lateral incisors were way too short and rounded. Upper photo: Note how we improved her smile with porcelain veneers. The shape of the cuspids veneers was less pointy and the shape of the lateral incisor veneers was longer and less round. She also wanted whiter teeth, so obviously we did that with the porcelain veneers too.

Shape of lateral incisors make smile appear more masculine or feminine

Next, varying the shape of the lateral incisors porcelain veneers can make a smile look more feminine or more masculine, imparting some gender characteristics. Thus for women, we shape the lateral incisors porcelain veneers to be more rounded at the end, and also slightly shorter than the central incisors. We call this a “gull wing” silhouette.

For men, we usually lengthen the lateral incisors porcelain veneers to be almost the same length as the central incisors and make them more square in shape, which makes their teeth look more masculine.

This genderizing of the teeth is very important for someone who wants a personalized smile.  Think how horrid it would look if the cosmetic dentist made feminine lateral incisors for a very masculine guy.  Or if the dentist made masculine incisors for a very feminine lady?  What is sad is that too many dentists do cookie cutter dentistry, making every smile the same and don’t personalize or genderize the smile design.  This whole process starts with the dentist and patient working to a common goal, and then their decision has to be communicated to the ceramist who actually makes the porcelain veneers and crowns.

porcelain veneers orange county shapes

These are a number of patients that Dr. Huefner has treated in his practice with porcelain veneers or porcelain crowns. Notice the variations in size, shape, length, color and proportions of each tooth. Which smiles are your favorites and why? Customizing and personalizing each smile design to the individual patient is extremely important.

Shape of the cuspid teeth influence the perception of personality – generally avoid aggressive or passive extremes

Considerations for porcelain crown and porcelain veneer tooth shapes do not end with the central and lateral incisors.  Probably the most interesting is the choice in shape of the canine teeth, as these are the teeth that most imparts “personality” to the smile design. Cuspids that are pointy, more prominent, and longer than their adjacent teeth impart a more “aggressive” smile. This is used most often when a patient wants to appear “more powerful” with their new smile. The opposite can be created by flattening or rounding the tip of the cuspids and making them less prominent, giving the patient a more “passive” appearance. This design would be used most often with a large person or one with many strong, dominant facial and body features who wants to soften their appearance with their porcelain veneers or crowns. Most patients prefer that we create for them a more normal cuspid, not leaning to either the “aggressive” or “passive” cuspids in our smile design.

I should point out again that this is all “dental art form” and much depends on the training, skill, experience, and most importantly the artistic ability of the cosmetic dentist.  There is no one “right” or “wrong” smile design, but what is most important that the cosmetic dentist discusses smile design options with the patient and that the patient have their input as to their preferences. Sometimes these are subtle differences with regard to shape, length and color of their new porcelain veneers and other times the changes can make a dramatic difference.

 Tooth shapes from LVI Smile Catalog by Dr. William Dickerson

This is the LVI Smile Catalog by Dr. William Dickerson, founder of the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies in Summerland, NV. It is advisable to just look at the general shapes and disregard the names and tooth colors.

But if you truly want natural looking teeth and smiles, one that goes with your face, personality and age you want to project, then definitely avoid cosmetic dentists with a cookie cutter one size fits all approach.  Interview your cosmetic dentist and take special note on whether or not the dentist listens to your concerns.  What recommendation does he have and what approach will he use.  Ask to see photos of his work.  In your discussions note any recommendations your dentist has as to smile and tooth design and any specific concerns about the length or shape of the porcelain veneer or porcelain crown teeth.

Choosing crown and porcelain veneer tooth shapes from a smile library

The Loren Library

This is Loren Library, another very popular tooth shapes library for porcelain veneer or crown shapes.

There are many cosmetic dentists who don’t prefer to personally design the smiles themselves and utilize another very popular and acceptable technique, choosing a smile design from one of the recognized smile libraries.  In our experience the two most popular libraries are the LVI Smile Catalog and the Loren Library.  From these libraries either the dentist, patient or both together can choose the desired tooth shape designs.  The upside of utilizing these catalogs are that virtually every combination of tooth shapes can be seen.  The downside is that with so many it can really be confusing.  Also, the names of the smile styles can often influence the decision.  For example the “Hollywood smile style”.  Many people with either hate or love that style just because of the name.  I caution against looking at the extreme styles.  In general either pointed or flat cuspids aren’t as popular, where slightly rounded cuspids are.  Also very flat incisors with very square corners or very rounded incisors aren’t as popular either. Slightly square or slightly rounded incisors tend to be better accepted by patient.  The most important function for these smile libraries are that they are a starting point, a place to begin the discussion with your cosmetic dentist.  Tell your cosmetic dentist your preferences and what you like about each individual style.  But also take heed and listen to your cosmetic dentist if he or she think that a particular style won’t look good or be appropriate for you and your type of face.  However the bottom line is that the final decision on the tooth shape should be yours.

As a cosmetic dentist there is nothing more exciting to me than creating the perfect smile for one of my patients who has old, worn out, crooked or otherwise unattractive looking teeth.  The right smile can give one more confidence and enhance business and personal relationships.  We have had many patients who got a smile makeover with porcelain veneers or crown that actually changed their life! The selection of the best porcelain crown or porcelain veneer tooth shapes is a huge part of this success.

Dr. Norm Huefner, Orange County cosmetic dentist


  1. Hello,

    I want to thank you for writing so simply and thoroughly on the topic of smile design. I find it all so so interesting. A new smile really can change someones life, and it’s really kind of you to guide people towards optimizing that huge step for themselves and others.

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