Patients, Dentists Differ on Smile Ratings

What do people consider the most important features of an attractive face?

Teeth and eyes, according to a new study. Patients also rate their smiles higher than dentists do, and those younger than age 50 were the ones most satisfied with their smiles.

Published in the December Journal of the American Dental Association, the study asked 78 patients in Norway to rate their own smiles on a 100-point satisfaction scale. The patients' regular dentists and an independent periodontist later rated the patients' smiles from photographs using the same satisfaction scale.

Patients were more satisfied with their own smiles than dentists, according to the survey—rating their smiles an average 59.1 on the 100-point scale. Dentists' ratings of the patients' smiles were much lower—averaging 38.6 (from the independent periodontist) and 40.7 (from the patients' own dentist).

It may be difficult to understand what a smile satisfaction level of 59 really means, researchers say, adding it might be more accurate to say patients are "accepting of, or contented with, their smiles."

Participants in the study, who were not actively seeking cosmetic dental treatments, averaged 51 years of age (ranging in age from 22 to 84 years) and numbered 50 women and 28 men.

"The fact that the patients had much higher opinions of their smiles than we dentists did is interesting," the researchers wrote, adding that patients expressed their opinions from memory while the dentists made their assessments from photographs.

Had patients used the clinicians' detailed approach to include assessing lip lines, tooth shade, spacing and crowding, their opinions about their smiles might have been different, said the researchers.

"Dentists should be aware that patients who seek esthetic services may have different perceptions of their smiles than patients who do not express such desires," they concluded.

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