Digital Smile Design: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Digital smile design (DSD) refers to the treatment planning protocol that allows the careful analysis of a patient’s dental and facial structures using state-of-the-art digital technology and videography. Nowadays, digital smile design is considered the most patient-centric and modern smile design approach patients have access to.

If you are considering digital smile design, here are some frequently asked questions can help you decide if it is indeed the right option for you:

What is involved in Digital Smile Design?

The first step in DSD is collecting clinical information about your smile. This is done using digital clinical photography and videography to capture the range of motion of your facial and oral musculature. X-rays of the teeth and underlying structures are also required, so that the health of these tissues can be assessed in relation to the planned treatment. Then your current dental condition needs to be captured by way of moulds or 3D scans of your mouth.

Your dentist can visualize what an ideal smile will look like for you using your virtual records and try on different smile designs. Once a design has been finalized, it will be 3D printed so that the design can be transferred to your mouth and tried on. This is similar to how a fashion designer will mock-up a proposed design before making the final garment.

At this stage, it is easy to modify the design until it meets your specifications.

The design will also inform the treatments that will be required to make the virtual smile design a reality.

How much does Digital Smile Design cost?

Depending on the extent of the proposed changes, and the experience of the clinician and the lab, prices vary greatly.

Some clinics may charge for additional smile designs, especially if major changes have been requested from the initial design.

When will I be able to see what my new features will look like?

You will be able to see the proposed smile design mock-up after the 3D printed models are returned from the lab. This is normally done at a separate appointment from the initial consultation and records appointment.

Once the 3D smile design has been transferred to your mouth, your dentist will usually take new digital clinical photographs and video which you can view right away.

Are there any risks with DSD?

Although every effort is taken to ensure fidelity of the design process is preserved throughout treatment (from design, to mockup, to prep, to delivery), there may be slight deviations that accumulate. This is why it is still essential to have a clinician’s eye checking the output at every stage of the process.

DSD allows treatment planning to proceed in a logical manner, so that repeat treatment or unnecessary treatment can be avoided. For example, if the smile design requires that teeth be moved to optimize an implant space, then orthodontic treatment can be incorporated prior to surgical implant placement. Performing treatment in the reverse order in this case would be potentially disastrous.

Ultimately, DSD allows the patient to better understand the desired aesthetic outcome even before operative treatment has been carried out. This means that patient satisfaction is much more likely in the end.