The smile line is commonly used as a parameter to evaluate and categorize a persons smile. This systematic literature review assessed the existing evidence on the validity and universal applicability of this parameter. The latter was evaluated based on studies on smile perception by orthodontists, general clinicians, and laypeople.
Methods: A review of the literature published between October 1973 and January 2010 was conducted with the electronic database Pubmed and the search terms smile, smile line, smile arc, and smile design.
Results: The search yielded 309 articles, of which nine studies were included based on the selection criteria. The selected studies typically correlate the smile line with the position of the upper lip during a smile while, on average, 75 to 100% of the maxillary anterior teeth are exposed. A virtual line that connects the incisal edges of the maxillary anterior teeth commonly follows the upper border of the lower lip. Average and parallel smile lines are most common, influenced by the age and gender of a person. Orthodontists, general clinicians, and laypeople have similar preferences and rate average smile lines as most attractive.
Conclusions: The smile line is a valid tool to assess the esthetic appearance of a smile. It can be applied universally as clinicians and laypersons perceive and judge it similarly.