Understanding Smile Dysmorphia And Its Risk To Oral Health

Woman hiding smile

Our appearance has always been important to us. This is evidenced by the ongoing evolution of fashion, make-up, and exercise regimes that come and go. The recent rise of social media has made this even more prominent in people’s lives. Now, we are comparing ourselves with millions of people worldwide. While the internet has brought us together, it’s also been central to developing new mental and social health concerns. One such example that’s been affecting the dental industry is smile dysmorphia.


Understanding Smile Dysmorphia And Its Risk To Oral Health

Smile dysmorphia is an unrealistic perception and expectation of how our smile looks. It can result in a negative self-image and promote feelings of inadequacy if we are unsatisfied with how our smile looks. It can manifest in a countless number of ways. Perhaps you’re exceptionally picky about the color of your teeth. Do you obsess over your oral health routine to an unhealthy degree? Does your dentist tell you you have perfect teeth but can’t get over a perceived misalignment or tooth shape? These can all be indicators that you’re being affected by smile dysmorphia.

Many people experience a sense of profound anxiety when considering the condition of their smile. While many cosmetic treatments are available to dental patients, those with smile dysmorphia often obsess over them. Even after receiving an effective treatment that improves their concern to the casual observer, they still aren’t satisfied. They are unable to see their smile through an unfiltered lens, instead obsessing over every perceived imperfection. Treatments that are commonly sought by those in the grips of smile dysmorphia include:


  • Dental Whitening – While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to address discoloration on your teeth, it can be damaging when done to extremes. The solution used can weaken enamel and cause sensitivity to temperature when overused.
  • Microabrasion – When dental whitening doesn’t achieve the desired results, they may start asking about microabrasion treatments. This treatment uses a mildly abrasive substance to eliminate the outermost layer of enamel to remove discoloration. This treatment can be dangerous to teeth with enamel that’s too thin or with repeated uses.
  • Enamel and Gum Contouring – This process removes small pieces of gum or enamel to produce a new appearance for the patient. For those with excess gingival tissue or enamel, this can produce meaningful results without harming the teeth. However, it can pose a risk to those who don’t need it.


These procedures are among those sought by individuals with smile dysmorphia. It’s important to know that merely wanting to improve the state of your smile isn’t a concern. It’s when no amount of improvement ever leaves you feeling satisfied with your smile that it may be time to seek help.


Seeking Help For Smile Dysmorphia

If you’re concerned about struggling with this condition, speak to your dentist. The number of cases of smile dysmorphia that they see each year is on the rise. They can direct you to mental health specialists who work with patients like you. It’s important to develop a healthy relationship with your appearance and set proper expectations for the appearance of your smile.


Alireza Movassaghi, D.D.S and Other Dentist Dr. Alireza Movassaghi brings 30 years of experience to the practice at Alvarado Family Dental Center. As a graduate of the USC School of Dentistry, he works tirelessly to expand access to dental care throughout the Los Angeles area. Along with his passion for expert dental care, he exhibits a love of soccer and beautiful cars.
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