While many of us are not licensed or registered dentists, it’s safe to say that a majority of the people today know some of the most basic terms used in the dental world. Cavities, fillings, root canals, and braces are all dental phrases that many people can easily recognize and understand. Some people even know common cosmetic dentistry procedures including porcelain veneers, teeth whitening, and dental crowns. However, rarely will someone, aside from a dental professional, know what an occlusal cant is and even though the condition isn’t extremely common, it isn’t entirely uncommon either.

An occlusal cant is when a patient’s teeth appear to be slanted when compared to the condition of the lips, nose, and the rest of the face. An occlusal cant is usually caused by jaw asymmetries that don’t allow for perfect alignment of the teeth with the rest of the face. And believe it or not one of today’s most complex yet result-providing cosmetic dentistry procedures can be used to fix the problem!

A young woman taking a selfie while spending some time in the beautiful outdoors. She's always been concerned with her crooked smile, although hardly noticable! An occlusal cant is when a patient’s teeth appear to be slanted when compared to the condition of the lips, nose, and the rest of the face.

Dental Veneers –Reconstructing Perfection

Though many don’t often correlate dental veneers being used to fix a slanted smile, veneers can be placed to provide better alignment and an overall better look. When the veneers are placed properly on the teeth, they can easily create symmetry and balance. The great thing about porcelain veneers is that they can be put on both rows of teeth as required. Not only will dental veneers be able to provide you with a smile that meshes perfectly into the rest of your face, veneers will also cover up any existing flaws that you may have along with an occlusal cant including discoloration, gaps, unevenness, and any other imperfections.

However, there are other dental solutions to this problem. If you grind your teeth, you may have worn the teeth down on one side of your face. If this is the case, we don’t want to use veneers–bruxism will damage them. In this case, we might recommend dental crowns.

Sometimes, tooth misalignments can be fixed with orthodontics to create a more symmetrical smile.

Skin Effects That Lead to a Crooked Smile

Sometimes, your smile might seem crooked because the skin and other supportive tissue might be less elastic on one side than the other. This will make it hang down unevenly, leading to a crooked smile. This could be related to uneven sun exposure or other environmental causes. Sometimes, skin rejuvenation treatments can restore symmetry when this happens. If it doesn’t, you might consider surgical approaches that can restore symmetry. Usually, though, if facial asymmetry is severe enough to justify surgery, the cause is something other than your skin. Often, it’s your muscles.

Muscles Can Make Your Smile Crooked

While an occlusal cant is a dental problem, there are actually many potential causes for a crooked smile that don’t involve your teeth at all. These usually relate to your smile muscles, which can sometimes pull unevenly on your lips and cheeks. This creates a smile that elevates crookedly, raising higher on one side than another. This can be caused by many things, including:

  • Genetics
  • Torticollis
  • Sitting or sleeping in habitual positions
  • Injury
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Stroke

An uneven smile caused by genetics is most likely to manifest at a relatively young age. It might be visible from a baby’s first smile, or it might develop over a few years. Torticollis also tends to manifest at a relatively young age, though it can also develop later.

Habitual sitting or sleeping position can be hard to realize. You don’t know that you tend to sit in one position for long periods of time. We tend not to notice the things we do on a regular basis. However, if you notice that your smile is growing more symmetrical gradually with age, this could be a factor.

Injury, Bell’s palsy, and stroke will all tend to make a dramatic impact on the symmetry of your smile. If you have an injury that affects your smiling muscles, you will probably notice. It’s likely that you got medical attention and might have been warned about the impact on your smile. Bell’s palsy is a paralysis of facial nerves. It will typically cause your smile to change dramatically. Pregnancy, infection, and dental work are all potential causes of Bell’s palsy. Facial asymmetry is one of the warning signs of a stroke. If you notice asymmetry suddenly and it’s linked to other signs of stroke, seek medical attention immediately. Your smile may remain partially paralyzed even if you get rapid treatment for your stroke.

If your teeth are straight, but your smile is crooked, it is likely related to one of these potential causes. If that’s the case, you can try a couple of simple exercises. First, try the “eee-ooo” exercise. First, say “eeee” for several seconds. Make sure you’re stretching your lips as far as they will go. Then say “oooo” for several seconds, compressing your lips into a tight “o” shape. Repeat this five or ten times. You can also take a pencil or dowel and put it between your teeth. Then go through the process of looking up, down, left, right, and then at 45-degree angles. Repeat this a few time.

Full disclosure: there’s no evidence that these exercises will actually help, but there’s some anecdotal support, and they’re unlikely to do any harm. However, if they don’t help you, you should consult with a plastic surgeon who can evaluate whether you might benefit from botox injections to relax the muscles on the high side or surgery to reposition your smiling muscles.

Enjoy a Symmetrical Smile with Even Teeth

Do you have an occlusal cant but want to be able to enjoy your smile again? If so Dr. Dunayer, with the use of dental veneers, will be able to create a more symmetrical smile that you aren’t afraid to show. With the help of porcelain veneers your new smile will be straight, white, bright, and perfectly aligned with the rest of your face. Contact our office today!