DocTalk: Get the Smile You Want

by Valerie Wee

A wise person once said that. “A smile is beauty you can find right under your nose.” And indeed, a big and wide laugh is certainly the best kind of makeup for anyone. 

This article is written in consultation with Dr Jaclyn Toh.

Several studies conducted in the past have shown that smiling correlates with the perception of how good looking or beautiful you are seen. There is even a term for it – smile attractiveness. Research has indicated that the size and how straight your teeth are can determine whether you go on a second date. So it is not surprising that cosmetic dental procedures have become one of the most popular ways to improve your looks and overall confidence. So how do we make sure we get that confident beam that will dazzle the beholder. For this, we ask an expert from Elite Dental,  Dr Jaclyn Toh some pertinent questions on how to achieve your best smile. Expect some surprises here.

A perfect smile reflects health and symmetry.

These are the universal qualities of a beautiful smile (regardless of trends). We as a species are wired to prefer nice teeth because it is a marker of health. In the animal kingdom, dental problems can cause starvation but in human society, good teeth have become associated with privilege.

General qualities that patients of all cultural backgrounds seek out are:

  1. Symmetry
  2. Even bright tooth colouring
  3. Appropriate display of gum tissue
  4. Good teeth alignment

Unfortunately, there is not much by way of dental characteristics or features that automatically make a smile beautiful or exceptional.

The most important thing about a smile is that it should suit the individual. What the “ideal” smile actually means varies depending on your personal taste, your cultural background, and your age. 

We as dentists are always trying to make our patients look like they were born with a beautiful natural smile! Your smile should complement your face and blend in with your features harmoniously. 

Not to be cliche, people with less than the ideal smile still have wonderful smiles, because their confidence and personality shines through! I believe that a smile is generated from the whole face, rather than only the mouth. A smile to me, is more of a feeling than a set of rules. Not to mention that many of these so-called “rules” are very Eurocentric (another issue that is too complex to be discussed here).

I really like Keira Knightley’s smile because she has not gone down the typical Hollywood route of ultra-straight and white teeth. This makes her smile interesting.

The procedure with the biggest bang for your buck is teeth whitening. Some patients may come in wanting veneers, but may end up very happy after some simple teeth whitening.

I believe that the main benefit of seeing a professional for a consultation is that you get a bespoke prescription. Too often, we see patients chasing after procedures that a friend/relative/celebrity has done without the understanding of whether it is appropriate for them. I spend a lot of time getting to know what my patient wants and their aesthetic.

In Singapore, there is plenty of untreated malocclusion (crowded teeth). In adults, treatment can be more difficult because of undiagnosed and unmanaged skeletal growth issues (undersized or oversized jaws) which would ideally require surgery to fix and the presence of complex dental problems like compromised or missing teeth, extensive prosthetic work and so on.

May be useful for smokers or if you are prone to staining. Charcoal itself does not have the ability to change the natural colour of your teeth.

Probably harmless, but requires a significant time commitment. It would be interesting to see a clinical trial comparing this against conventional teeth whitening.

Big NO! I’m not sure why you would use this for teeth whitening since this would eventually strip and erode your enamel (which gives the tooth a bright appearance).

This is a dental term that means to reshape enamel. Is a useful tool for dentists when used in the right situation.

This is a very generic term for gluing things to teeth. I can bond composite or porcelain to a tooth to change its shape, size and colour.

Useful for treating gummy smiles and hyperactive muscles from teeth grinding (bruxism).

LED light trays that attach to mobile phones for on-the-go whitening

Probably just temporarily “whitens” the teeth through dehydration.

Not sure how this is relevant to teeth since our permanent teeth are already fully-formed in our jaws by the age of 3, no amount of vitamin D or calcium supplementation in adulthood will make any difference to how your teeth will look.

Correction of protruding incisors is a request that is common among the Asian population, especially my Chinese patients.

I feel that a globalised Eurocentric beauty standard has begun to permeate popular consciousness. This, combined with rising Asian affluence and the prevalence of social media are probably the driving forces.

The most exciting technique to come out recently is Digital Smile Design (DSD). This allows your dentist to non-invasively plan and share the vision of your ideal smile even before treatment has begun.

I am very excited about this technique because it improves the predictability of planning, transfer and execution of aesthetic dental treatment. Prior to this, dentists would be working blindly without awareness of the final look. DSD gives us the tools to share the vision with our patients and have all players (patient, dentist and technician) on the same page before starting.

It is an indispensable tool for communication. I believe more and more that communication is the key for successful aesthetic dentistry, so anything that helps with that is welcome.

Most of the time, ignorance is the reason that patients delay or avoid treatment.

I don’t believe that people should be shamed, scolded or judged for having complex dental issues because these are usually accompanied by deeper issues.

Some may have avoided dentistry for years because of fears around cost, being judged or embarrassed by the dentist. They could have experienced a history of difficult or painful dentistry, previous sexual, psychological trauma or neglect.

As a dentist, my job is to be a guide and to help these patients recover their health.

Tongue cleaning is useful if you are trying to prevent bad breath (halitosis). Due to the carpet-like structure of the dorsum (top surface) of the tongue, conventional mouth rinse may not be effective.

The easiest way to clean the dorsum of the tongue is with your toothbrush. You can also consider tongue scrapers. For patients with black hairy tongue (yes, that is an actual condition!), a nectarine pit was recommended by my professor while I was training in dental school. 

The key is to be gentle. I have had patients strip their tongue of taste buds because of overenthusiastic scrubbing or scraping!



Register or schedule an appointment with Dr Jaclyn Toh here.


More about Dr. Jaclyn Toh:

Credentials and training

Dr. Jaclyn Toh
B.Dent.Sci (Dublin)

Dr. Toh has been pursuing excellence since her days in the Dublin Dental School and Hospital, Trinity College, Ireland. Her passion is combining restorative and cosmetic dentistry with orthodontics. She is interested in overall wellness, hitting the gym most mornings and has been taking ballet classes since childhood.


Elite Dental Group Pte. Ltd.  is at 1 Grange Rd Orchard Building #12-03, Singapore (239693)

Register or schedule an appointment here.


General Dentistry ⋅ Dental Veneers ⋅ Teeth Whitening ⋅ Invisalign ⋅ Dental Bridges ⋅ Root Canal Treatment ⋅ Aesthetic Dentistry ⋅ Sedation Dentistry for Anxious/Fearful Patients ⋅ Tooth Coloured Dental Fillings ⋅ Dental Crowns ⋅ Ceramic Onlays ⋅ Partial Dentures ⋅ Full Dentures ⋅ Custom Bite Guards for Grinding/Bruxism · Sports Mouthguards · Dental Trauma · Ceramic Braces · Smile Makeovers/Digital Smile Design


This feature article is produced in consultation with Dr. Jaclyn Toh from Elite Dental Singapore. Artwork by Curatedition, all rights reserved.

All content featured in Curatedition Health and Wellness articles is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for personalised professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor, qualified health service provider, or 995 immediately.


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