If you have small or short teeth, this could affect how your teeth bite together, possibly leading to eating difficulties or other concerns such as teeth grinding or jaw problems. While small teeth don't always cause physical problems, and don't always need to be treated, a disproportionate smile can cause some people to feel unhappy about their appearance.
If you want to know how to fix small teeth, make an appointment with your dentist so you can discuss what treatments might be an option to help balance your smile. To recommend appropriate treatments, your dentist first needs to understand the cause of your small teeth.
Why do I have small teeth?
Teeth that develop small or only appear smaller than average are known as microdontia (the opposite being macrodontia for teeth that grow or appear too large). Many people naturally have one or two small teeth, but for others, this issue can affect most or all of their teeth.
There are three main categories of microdontia:
- True generalised – all of your teeth are smaller than average. This is usually caused by a condition such as pituitary dwarfism.
- Relative generalised – teeth may be normal sized, but appear small in comparison to a large jaw or the gums extending too far over the teeth.
- Localised – only one or several teeth are affected, which may affect only the crown or root of the tooth. This is the most common type of microdontia and usually affects the upper teeth.
Microdontia is hereditary, so you or your child are more likely to have short teeth if other people in your family do. However, it can sometimes be a symptom of a genetic disorder, a development issue such as a cleft palate or a side-effect of radiation exposure. In these cases, it's often accompanied by hypodontia, or having fewer teeth than average.
Short teeth can also be the result of teeth wearing down due to damage or excessive teeth grinding (bruxism), making macrodontia more common with age. If you do grind or clench your teeth at night, your dentist will recommend options for treating or managing this condition to avoid further damage.
Can small teeth be made bigger?
If you feel that your teeth are smaller than you'd like, or they're causing problems, your dentist may suggest treatments during your regular check-up or when you book an appointment at their clinic.
Short teeth are often an aesthetic concern, but they can increase your oral health risks or orthodontic risks if your teeth don't fit together normally or they have wide gaps. This can increase wear and tear on the teeth or make food and bacteria more likely to get trapped, leading to tooth decay.
There are several dental treatments that can increase the size of teeth. Depending on how much lengthening is needed, as well as your preferences and your price range, these treatments could include:
- Dental bonding
- Dental crowns
- Dental veneers
- Gum reshaping
Your dentist will give you all the information you need about treatment costs and possible risks so you can make fully informed decisions.
Composite bonding involves applying a tooth-coloured resin to repair, rebuild or increase the size of teeth. This may be an option if your teeth only need minor work and you want to avoid the cost and time involved for more complex treatments such as crowns.
To prepare teeth for dental bonding, your dentist will first carefully etch their surface and apply a conditioning liquid to help the composite resin adhere to the tooth. They will then use a colour guide to choose a shade of resin that matches your natural tooth colour for a natural appearance.
The dental bonding procedure involves applying composite resin to the tooth in layers, similar to a white filling. Each layer is shaped and curved before being cured with a UV light or laser. Once hardened, your new tooth surface will be polished and sculpted to make sure it's straight.
As this procedure does not require a lot of preparation and several teeth may be treated in a single visit, dental bonding can be a convenient option for tooth restoration, but it's usually recommended for use on just a few teeth rather than a whole mouth.
As the composite material is less strong than porcelain dental restorations, however, your tooth extensions may not last as long and will be more prone to staining. Your dentist will recommend that you avoid very hard foods that could chip the restorations and avoid common sources of teeth stains such as coffee and red wine.
For stronger, longer-lasting tooth extensions, your dentist may recommend porcelain crowns. A crown is a cap made from porcelain (ceramic) that's custom made from a mould or digital impression of a tooth or teeth to make sure it fits perfectly.
Placing a crown can sometimes take several visits to the dentist, as the tooth first needs to be prepared and impressions taken, then the crown is manufactured in a dental laboratory before being sent to your dentist for fitting and adjustments. However, dental clinics equipped with CEREC technology can design and manufacture crowns on site, often in a single visit.
Like bonding and fillings, crowns can be matched to your tooth shade for a natural appearance. Once crowns are fitted, your dentist will check that your new biting surface is even before bonding them into place to make sure you'll be able to chew and grind food normally and that your teeth and jaw won't be put under pressure.
Once placed, a crown can last for many years when you take good care of your oral health, and you can continue to eat as normal after the cement has bonded with the tooth. The downsides are that crowns can be expensive if you're treating multiple teeth and more preparation is needed of the tooth beneath before impressions can be taken.
Porcelain or composite veneers are cosmetic treatments that cover up the front surface of one or more teeth to change aspects of your smile you want to improve. As well as increasing the visible size of teeth or closing gaps, you can also take the opportunity to whiten or straighten your smile if wanted.
Veneers may be made from porcelain (ceramic) or composite resin. Porcelain veneers are stronger, last longer, look more natural and are more resistant to stains, but the procedure for composite resin veneers is cheaper and faster. Porcelain veneers can also require more preparation of the tooth surface, which has a thin layer removed and its surface roughened to improve bonding.
Veneers can be a convenient and versatile option for modifying your smile, but as a cosmetic treatment, they don't offer the functional benefits of crowns or bonding and you can't usually claim the cost of veneers on health insurance.
Preparing teeth for veneers can sometimes cause a treated tooth to feel more sensitive afterwards and you'll need to be careful about what you eat if you have composite veneers, to avoid damage and staining. While composite veneers may be able to be repaired if damaged, a porcelain veneer that chips or cracks will need to be replaced.
If the issue isn't with your teeth, but rather with your gums extending too far over the teeth and leaving a 'gummy smile,' a dentist or cosmetic surgeon may discuss a 'gum lift.'
Also called gum reshaping or gum contouring, this procedure involves removing this excess gum tissue with a laser or scalpel to expose more of the teeth below. The gum line is skilfully reshaped to leave a well-proportioned and natural-looking smile.
Laser gum surgery is usually painless, but your gums are likely to feel sensitive for a few days after the procedure. If your small teeth have several causes, a gum lift may be combined with crown lengthening or another procedure for a more extensive smile makeover.
If your microdontia may be a symptom of an underlying health issue, your dentist will recommend having this treated or managed as a priority before beginning a cosmetic dental treatment. They may refer you to a suitably qualified health professional or you can talk to your GP.
If you have a family history of microdontia or associated syndromes and you're worried that your child might be affected, you can ask their doctor to test for an underlying genetic condition. This involves a blood test and may require other genetic testing.
Do you need a dentist in Brisbane CBD?
If you or your child has short teeth, you can talk to a dentist if you're concerned about their effects on your oral health or appearance. You should also book an appointment if your teeth or jaws feel painful or you notice wear or damage on your teeth.
Face Value Dental has 5 easily accessible surgeries across Brisbane where our experienced dentists offer a full range of restorative and cosmetic dental treatments. Call us today on (07) 3221 0677 or make an appointment online at our dental clinics in Brisbane CBD, Albany Creek, Helensvale or Toowong.
Better Health Channel. Cosmetic dentistry [Online] 2018 [Accessed October 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/cosmetic-dentistry
Healthdirect. Dental crown procedure [Online] 2019 [Accessed October 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-crown-procedure
Healthdirect. Veneers [Online] 2018 [Accessed October 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/veneers