Upper Teeth Don’t Show When Smiling

A smile can be one of the most captivating elements of the face. So when there are problems with your smile, your confidence can take a hit. One such problem is when the upper teeth don’t show when smiling, which can be detrimental to facial aesthetics. This article will explain why your upper teeth don’t show when you smile and what you can do about it.

If the upper teeth don’t show when smiling, it could be due to the length of the teeth, the mobility of the lips, the length of the lips, retroclined teeth, or simple aging. 

The teeth and mouth do much more for the face than just basic speaking and chewing food. The mouth is also an important aspect of facial aesthetics. People are often conscious of how their lips and mouth look, especially when they are speaking or smiling.

Some people don’t have visible upper teeth when smiling or even when laughing or speaking. For most people, this creates a serious blow to their confidence. It could affect the way they carry themselves on a day to day basis. For some people, it even restricts them from speaking up or making social connections with others. 

The bottom line is that it can affect people and their lives in more ways than one, so it’s worth fixing.

The Anatomy of a Smile

Several factors affect the appearance of someone’s smile. We will take a look at them in turn in this section. 


First, let’s bring up teeth. One of the major issues that come up with teeth in a smile is that the teeth should not crowd together. There is even a study that looks into how smiles play into attractiveness. The researchers concluded that part of what makes people think teeth are attractive is dental crowding (Armalaite et al., 2018). These findings tell us that the teeth have a lot to do with a smile. 

Two front teeth (central incisors) are usually 20% longer than they are wide. Additionally, according to another study by Murthy et al. (2008), the top central incisors should take up 22% of the teeth’ width when smiling. The teeth actually form golden ratios (1 to 1.6) with the other teeth. This degree of proportion can enhance a smile.

In this context, it is about the lack of visible teeth. But the teeth’ placement plays a large role in how much or how little they show up in a smile. Plus, the teeth should create a normal bite. What this means is not having a deep overbite or an underbite.

As a side note, the color of the teeth is also a determinant of smile attractiveness. However, bright white teeth are not always the perfect answer. Most dental practices will tell you that the tooth’s brightness and hue should depend on their placement and the person’s complexion. Some people do not need perfectly white teeth. 


As the name suggests, the midline is the imaginary line smack dab in the center of the face. This is not where the nose sits, even when common sense tells us it is. The midline is a straight line from the center of your pupils down to your lip’s cupid’s bow. 

Ideally, the center of the two front teeth should be parallel to the midline. A good example of this not working is Tom Cruise, who had braces as a kid. Despite his excellent looks, many people have pointed out that his teeth were not in line with his face’s midline. But this goes to show that jaw and eyes are more important than teeth placement.

True Midline

In Tom’s case, using the horizontal midline is an acceptable metric. The horizontal midline is the line from one corner of the mouth to the other. Ideally, the midline of the central teeth should be perpendicular to the horizontal midline.

Horizontal Midline

Smile Line

The smile line is another contributor to the aesthetics of a smile. An ideal smile line is one that rests perfectly on the curve of the upper teeth. This smile means that very little to none of the lower teeth should appear. The lower lip curve should be more or less equal to the upper teeth curve to achieve this.

The standard of the smile line is a well-known metric in defining the smile. If you look at these beautiful smiles, you will notice that they have great smile lines. In comparison, weak smile lines or straight smile lines will look less attractive.

Ideal Smile Lines



The lips are yet another component that determines facial attractiveness. In movies or books, compliments referring to the lips are always present. So, the lips have become an icon in some form. The lips also matter (a lot) in the aesthetics of a smile.

Ideally, the teeth should occupy most of the space between the lips whenever you smile. This ratio could be off depending on how much of your gums are showing.

Why Won’t My Teeth Show up When Smiling?

Now that we have established the components of a smile and what makes a smile attractive, we can talk about why they’re not always perfect. Certain factors heavily influence how the teeth show up in a smile, such as the following.

Tooth Size

The teeth and how big they are are key components in a smile. Smaller teeth will not show up as well as adequately sized teeth. Some people have naturally small teeth. However, the deterioration of teeth could also be due to aging. Over time, the effects of constantly putting pressure on the teeth could cause them to become smaller. But, this is not the case all of the time. 

In some cases, the sizes of the teeth vary by a lot. This variation could also result in less visible teeth during a smile.

Upper Lip Length

The length of the lip is also something of note. Ideally, the upper lip of a female is around 20mm. For males, it is 23mm (Sarver et al., 2003). Take note that these measurements do not necessarily consider the ethnic differences present in the population. This measurement includes part of the philtrum, not just the vermillion of the lips itself.

Some people can get by with a beautiful smile even if their lip length is above those proportions. That said, an upper lip length that is too long will also restrict your teeth’ visibility when you smile. Try to measure your upper lip and see how it holds up to the average size. That way, you can establish if you are within a normal range or if the reason behind your problem lies in your lip length.

Bite Issues

The way our teeth position themselves also plays a role. People who have problems with underbites risk their teeth not showing up when smiling. Additionally, those who have teeth that are not inclined properly will face this problem as well. 

It can also assist with how much support the lips get. With a properly balanced set of teeth, the lips will get more support. Thus, they will be able to show the teeth more.

For more info on how bite issues can affect facial aesthetics, check out this Looks Theory episode:

Lip Mobility

For some people, their lips simply are not capable of extending far enough to show the teeth. A person with normal lip and mouth morphology will be able to move their upper lip about 6-8mm from rest to smile. Some people will have a decreased amount of mobility. This decreased movement contributes to why only a little (or none) of the upper teeth show up when they smile.

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