Your smile is one of your most fundamental features. According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, “close to one in two (48%) people believe that a smile is the most memorable feature after first meeting someone—more so than the first thing a person says.” In addition, “40% of women and 35% of men agree that an imperfect smile makes someone less appealing than a person with a perfect smile.” Your teeth, of course, are the central component of your smile, and many feel that theirs could be improved. At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Craig Armstrong and our team frequently assist patients with cosmetic concerns.
While some of the most common aesthetic complaints are about color or crookedness, size can also be an issue for some. In the following blog, we answer the question “why are my teeth small?” and explain how we can help you size up your smile.
Do You Suffer From Undersized Teeth?
In many cases, patients see that there is something not quite right with their smile, but they don’t know exactly why. You may not realize you have teeth that appear smaller, but this could be affecting your smile in notable ways nonetheless.
Your teeth may seem too small in proportion to your grin if you:
- Notice that your teeth appear “short” in comparison to your gums or surrounding teeth.
- Feel that your teeth are not large enough to fill out your mouth. This could also lead you to think you have a mouth that is “too large.”
- Observe that your gums seem to be too big or long, or describe your smile as “gummy.”
- Believe that your teeth are too “low” on your gums.
- Note that some, many, or all of your teeth are too small to touch each other.
- Have difficulty eating and speaking, in some more severe cases.
These are just a few of the symptoms of this cosmetic condition. In general, if you have any aesthetic issues with the size of your teeth or structure of your smile, Dr. Armstrong and our team are available to assist you.
Sources of a Smaller Smile
What causes the teeth to appear too small? There are a few different factors that could be involved in this cosmetic conundrum. These include:
- Genetic factors. Some people simply have naturally smaller teeth, more prominent gums, or some combination of the two. If other people in your family have similarly small teeth, this may be the cause of your issue.
- Tooth eruption. The way your teeth grow can have an impact on their apparent size. According to Dear Doctor magazine, “tooth eruption is an active process by which the teeth move through the gums and supporting bone to become visible in the mouth…normal variations in the eruption process can give rise to discrepancies in the normal proportions and relationships of teeth to gum tissues, which can result in shorter than normal teeth and gumminess of the smile.”
- Gingival issues. Periodontal problems could cause you to develop surplus or more prominent gum tissue. The technical term for this is “gingival hyperplasia.” The American Academy of Oral Medicine explainsthat hyperplasia can be due to inflammation or “systemic causes,” among other sources.
- Side effects of certain medications. Some drugs can create gingival hyperplasia, just like gum conditions. According to a 2019 article, “drug-induced gingival overgrowth (DIGO), also referred to as drug-induced gingival enlargement… is a noted side-effect of certain drugs given for non-dental uses when the gingival tissue is not the intended target organ.” These medications often include “anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants and calcium channel blockers.” In addition to “cosmetic disfigurement,” DIGO “impedes proper dental hygiene” and “causes painful chewing and eating.” If you’re taking one of these types of drugs and have noticed your gums getting larger or your teeth appearing smaller, you could be suffering from DIGO.
- Orthodontic concerns. Crookedness and misalignment in your teeth could cause one or more of them to appear disproportionately small. As per an article in The Angle Orthodontist on “Tooth Size Discrepancies in an Orthodontic Population… it is recommended that 2 mm [millimeters] of required tooth size correction is an appropriate threshold for clinical significance. A significant percentage of patients have a TSD of this size.” This indicates that many people have orthodontic issues related to the size of their teeth.
- Bruxism. Grinding your teeth against each other can wear them down and lead them to become shorter over time. This often happens during sleep, so you may not register that you suffer from bruxism. According to a 2016 article from the Sleep Research Society, “regularly occurring [sleep bruxism] was reported by 8.6 percent of the general population.” Many more could suffer from sleep bruxism and not realize it. If your teeth appear to be getting smaller and you suffer from symptoms like headache or jaw pain, bruxism could be the culprit.
- A dental condition called “microdontia.” Many people have teeth that they feel are too small, but in extreme cases, this is a medical condition. As an article in Head & Face Medicine explains, “the term microdontia (microdentism, microdontism) is defined as the condition of having abnormally small teeth… ‘in general microdontia, the teeth are small, the crowns [outer areas of the tooth, which typically have enamel] short, and normal contact areas between the teeth are frequently missing.’” This circumstance is much more severe than just having slightly smaller teeth. People with microdontia may have teeth that don’t touch each other. The size of the teeth could also affect their ability to chew and speak properly. According to the Head & Face Medicine piece, it is possible to have microdontia that affects “only a single tooth” or “relative generalized microdontia due to relatively small teeth in large jaws,” but these are not “true generalized microdontia, in which all the teeth are smaller than normal.” Fortunately, full-blown microdontia “is a rare phenomenon.”
These are just a few of the potential sources of too-small teeth. Dr. Armstrong will assess your teeth, go over your dental records, and discuss your concerns with you to diagnose the cause of your condition.
Our Treatment Options
Dr. Armstrong and our team offer a wide variety of cosmetic and general dentistry treatments to help remedy this issue. We will create a customized treatment plan based on your particular circumstances.
This personalized strategy could include one or more of the following:
- Porcelain veneers. These thin shells cover the visible surfaces of your teeth, instantly transforming them by obscuring virtually any imperfection you’d like. Dr. Armstrong will make your porcelain veneers in the precise size you want. If you have smaller teeth, he can make them larger, giving you a fuller smile.
- Porcelain fixed bridges. If a few teeth in a row are too small for your liking, we maybe able to remedy this by placing a beautiful, durable, tooth-colored bridge over them.
- Dental implants. If for some reason the tooth or teeth that are too small need to be removed, Dr. Armstrong can place dental implants (titanium posts inserted in the jawbone) to hold your restorations. Dental implant-supported prostheses are typically more aesthetic, comfortable, and functional.
- Dental crowns. If one or more individual teeth are too small for your mouth, we may be able to enhance your smile with a dental crown. Similar to a fixed bridge, this restoration covers the affected tooth, instantly increasing its size (and whitening it in the process!).
- Gingival treatments. If periodontal disease and related gingival hyperplasia is the cause of your teeth appearing smaller, we may perform a gingival treatment, or refer you to a trusted specialist for more advanced care.
- A night guard. To help with smaller teeth related to bruxism, Dr. Armstrong may recommend that you wear a night guard. This device can help keep your teeth in place and prevent you from grinding them while you sleep, which could slow down or stop enamel loss.
- Changing medications. If DIGO (drug-induced gingival overgrowth) is or could be the cause of your aesthetic concern, Dr. Armstrong and our team may suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to see if you can switch to a different drug.
- Braces or aligners. If your tooth size problem is related to misalignment, Dr. Armstrong may recommend orthodontic treatment. You can straighten your teeth using traditional braces, or clear plastic aligners.
To discover what Dr. Armstrong and our Houston dental team might advise to enhance your unique smile, come and see us for a consultation.
Size Up Your Smile at Our Houston Dental Practice
Are your teeth too small? You don’t have to live with this issue. Contact our Houston dental practice today to find out more and schedule an appointment with Dr. Armstrong!