Body Image and the Beautiful Smile

Dr. Donn M. Hickman

by Dr. Donn M. Hickman | August 16, 2010 @ 03:00PM

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 The shape and posture of the human lips have been admired, studied, and portrayed in art and literature for centuries. The standards of what constitutes a beautiful smile and lips differ among cultures and change readily with the whims of fashion. There is a basic shape of delicate curves and mounds that give rise to shadows, and there is a harmony in the relationship of the upper lip to the lower lip that is a rhapsody with the rest of the face. The subtlest of emotions is conveyed with little movement. Cosmetics enhance the look and it is color that draws attention to the appeal of the lips.

Often a patient comes to a Plastic Surgeon complaining of sagging skin of the face and neck, and invariably tugs on the cheeks so as to lift not only the cheeks, but the lips as well. The whole look changes. In a best effort to assure the patient of improvement after a well-designed facelift, the patient returns to find that there is little change around the lips and mouth. If there are wrinkles, of course these can addressed by several resurfacing techniques, including laser, peels, and dermabrasion. One can also have injectable fillers applied to the wrinkles to plump up and smooth the skin. There are perhaps 25 different agents on the market to accomplish this, but the gold standard and safest is fat and collagen. Other products may cause reactions, and some contain silicone and other reactants that could be deleterious. These remedies may do little if applied outside the lips to enhance the smile. A number of approaches are also available and may included Corrective Cosmetics, Cosmetic Dentistry to embellish the teeth and bite, and Cosmetic Plastic Surgery to the lips themselves.

A few key beauty secrets included matching the curve of the brow to the lips, as do Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, and Brooke Shields. Use a neutral color to line the lips even if the lipstick color fades and wears through the day. When applying bold makeup, don't highlight the eyes and the lips at the same time. Soft light colors for the mouth with dark colors for the eyes and vie versa, is the rule. A well-outlined upper lip Cupid's bow and rounded lip creates a natural look, like Tyra Banks. The puffy Uni-lip has a blush painted across the top to remove the peaks of the bow, like Naomi Campbell, Letisha of Victoria's Secret in some pictures, and Katherine Hepburn.

The study of beauty in life and lips is nowhere better seen than through Cosmetic Dentistry. The harmony of the perfect smile is part of the Golden Section or Golden Mean that occurs throughout nature. The perfect smile displays the upper six that are golden to the width of the lips by a factor of 1.66 to 1.0, as seen in the beautiful smiles of Nikki Taylor, Julia Roberts, and Christy Turlington. The aging smile on the other hand, will display the lower six teeth and less than the golden proportion, due to loss of bone in the jaws and a falling away of the lower lip from the jaw. The full height of the beautiful lips should be slightly more than 2/3 the distance from the upper lip to the bottom of the nose. If it is ½ the distance or less, then the upper lip will look too long, as in the lips of Ted Dansen of Cheers and Becker, and John Lithgow of 3rd Rock from the Sun. Tooth lengthening with caps and veneers, and use of Orthodontics, can improve the smile and restore these relationships remarkably. These smiles are those seen in news anchors and are the so-called broadcast news smiles, where beautiful white teeth jump right out at you when they speak.

The excellent contributions of makeup and Dentistry are compelling. The procedures offered by Plastic Surgeons can help in the support of sagging lackluster lip shape. The fine lines are treated by the methods of skin resurfacing and injectable fillers. For the outer corners of the upper lip, which begins to sag in the late 30s, one can perform a corner lift. This services to remove an isosceles triangle segment of skin at the edge so the red part of the lip can be raised to its youthful horizontal position. This can be combined with some wrinkle treatment to the lip edges and perhaps some fat injection to the lips to bulk them at the same time. To isolate the lips, one can use one of the various fillers to plump the lips and the corners. In addition, strips or sheets of processed human skin can be placed in the lips, which can last one to two years. Fat may last three to 12 months or longer. Plastic materials may be used, but can render the lips stiff, and rarely prone to extrusion or infection from the artificial materials. For a longer upper lip, a sliver of skin can be removed from the base of the nose to lift and evert a long lip. For folds around the mouth (nasolabial folds) one can inject them with fillers or surgically trim them away and place tiny meticulous sutures. Several procedures are now available for inside the lips to make small cuts and suture the lips in such a way that they move forward and look fuller. A new technique can place a small scar in the moist pink part of the lip near the outside and suture the muscles to create a more long-lasting plumping. Thus, there are several methods to restore the smile with injectables, resurfacing, and surgical cuts around and inside the lips. Makeup for bruising and camouflage of any external scars are necessary as healing continues. Most of these procedures take 3-10 days for acceptable healing to meet the public.

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