What is ‘Digital Smile design’?


This article is written by Dr Gurudev, Senior dentist and Digital Smile Designer, Smilestation, Bangalore.


As fancy as It sounds, what exactly is Digital Smile Design?

Digital Smile Design (DSD) is a unique process for designing a personalized, confident smile based on facial analysis and personality evaluation using digital technology.

Digital Smile Design (DSD) process is a set of strategies and workflow, utilizing the two primary DSD tools – technology and better communication systems.

1. To improve facial analysis and smile design

2. To improve diagnosis and treatment planning

3. To improve the way we present our treatment plan to the client and finally

4. To improve the way we perform dentistry.

As you can see, it is not just limited to a software or a particular technique, product, or an idea. It’s an ecosystem in itself, and it’s very sophisticated.

What are the steps involved in Digital Smile Design?

The DSD process has four significant steps





In architecture, the forms are arranged in a way that balances function, beauty and feeling. Digital Smile Design does the same with teeth and face, the foundation for a beautiful and unique smile.


As smile designers and smile restorers, we design smiles better, if the design is facially driven. The facial analysis considers features like facial symmetry, right or left facial dominance, reference planes of the eyes, the mouth and the teeth, the curvature of the lips, lip dynamics, the amount of teeth and gum display in a full smile and the chin prominence.

By taking these facial traits into account and analyzing them, we can personalize the “smile” that best suits the individual. With the use of readily available digital technologies like digital photographs and 3D scans of the face and the mouth, 3D x rays of the jaws and artificial intelligence, we create a “virtual you” in the process of designing a smile.

Just as good buildings are explicitly designed for context, climate and culture… the smile is designed specifically for your appearance and personality.

With the help of professional software, we then create the smile that fits you best. It is a complete science in itself. It is effective, predictable, replicable, impressive and certainly exciting for everyone involved, including the client. And that’s just step one.

Today, it is unimaginable how a smile could be arbitrarily designed, freehand, with no reference to the face, especially when the smile is the most important feature of the face and determines the individual’s personality.


The second step has to do with teamwork. In modern dentistry, there is no place for one man show. This is a collective effort to deliver the best possible solution to the client.

Once the face analysis and initial smile design are complete, the plan cannot end with the primary smile designer. This initial plan is shared with the interdisciplinary planning team, which consists of the principal smile designer, the restorative dentist, the orthodontist, the gum specialist and the dental technician. The international background team at Spain for DSD and Costa Rica for Invisalign also receives the data to allow technical support. This planning team and background team with better information to begin with face analysis and smile design brainstorm on the initial plan to improvise the treatment plan.

Asynchronous and transparent communication systems and protocols between teams ensure better communication, better treatment plants and a fantastic end result.

The process is just like how an architect would analyse your requirements and prepare the designs and drawings for your dream home with inputs from engineers for the contractor to execute.


Now that we have a better design and treatment plan, it’s time to unveil the clients’ treatment plan. It’s when the curtains drop, it’s when the suspense is over.

Just like one would never buy a car without a test drive, how about doing the same with the new smile? They get to see the new smile, feel the new smile, experience the new smile first hand, through a motivational prototype. When they see themselves in the mirror for the first time with the prototype, it is overwhelming, and they experience a surge of senses. This is the moving part of the entire smile design process and almost always, emotions flow.

Presentation is perhaps the most critical step between design and execution. An architect would create 3D views, walk-throughs and mood boards to translate the client’s imagination into reality.

This is undoubtedly the best part of the client’s journey so far. After seeing the impact of their new smile, they respect the project. The value proposition is high; they prioritize having that smile over many other things and have no hesitation in enrolling.


The advent of 3D technology has opened up a whole new range of dentistry possibilities and in many other fields. With 3D technology being incorporated right at the beginning of the project with the scans of the face, teeth and jaws, it sets the ball rolling into the diagnosis and planning phase. The interdisciplinary and background teams work on the same smile with all the information and tools necessary for the final design. The quality of the data is not only as good as meeting clients directly, but also is a viable, repeatable and communicable model. The 3D trial of the Smile prototype ensures that the client has all the information and fully understands the process and expectations. Now is the time to turn these ideas into reality with “Guided Dentistry” and “Digital Quality Control.”

3D technology allows the team to respect the design plan of the smile with a plethora of guides for the different procedures, within the framework of guided dentistry like the DSD click guides for “all on 4” dental implants, Perio-guides for adjusting the gum and the bone levels in the smile, direct guides for direct composite natural restorations and the orthognathic splints for jaw correction surgery.

The beauty of using technology goes further than that. Once the guided procedures are fully executed, 3D technology enables digital quality control to access any deviation from the plan. It is an excellent tool to introduce improvisation at work and also standardisation.

Is Cosmetic Dentistry the same as Digital Smile Design?

In our opinion, cosmetic dentistry has a very superficial meaning and relevance, as its primary purpose is limited to an improvement in appearance or aesthetics. This does not necessarily involve facial analysis or functional improvement.  Any limited appearance enhancement without functional gains is incomplete per se.

On the other hand, although smile design brings a drastic improvement in appearance, it is fully based on the face and personality study to create a smile that suits an individual best. It improves function and improves durability at the same time. The digital shift in smile design also brings the added benefits of digital design and planning, predictability, reproducibility and also post-work assessment.

In architectural relevance, cosmetic dentistry would look more like an exterior paint or a cladding job that would improve the facade without structural improvements to enhance usability and durability.

“DESIGN is not just what it looks like and feels like. DESIGN IS HOW IT WORKS.” – Steve Jobs.


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