If you ask this question of Orthodontists around the world you may be surprised to hear that the answer can be quite different. In some countries “perfect” means everything is totally level at the tips of the teeth (this is the American way). In Europe we tend to make the 2nd incisors (not the middle 2) ½ mm shorter than the middle teeth.
However there are some overriding principles that most orthodontists will agree on. In 1972 an Orthodontist called Lawrence Andrews came up with a definition of the “normal” occlusion (how our teeth fit together). It was based on 6 principals and is the foundation of most specialist orthodontic teaching and training. To achieve the ideal occlusion the orthodontic treatment needs to try and deliver these principals. In reality, doing so is much more difficult and in some patients nearly impossible due to tooth shape and size, jaw relationship and the patient themselves. However understanding and mastering orthodontic principals is key to correct planning of treatment. After all you need to know the rules inside and out in order to be able to bend them.
Most master painters spent their early years apprenticing and learning the correct way to paint, use the materials and techniques. Only then can they manipulate those principals and create something amazing. Orthodontics is no different. To truly master it, you need the fundamental knowledge of how teeth move, understand the limitations and how to overcome unplanned tooth movement. You also need to know when it is acceptable to bend the rules and accept a less “perfect” result. Without out this key understanding things can go wrong and not knowing how to resolve these problems can leave patients with a poor result and dissatisfaction.
Imagine the difference between a paint by numbers Mona Lisa and Leonardo’s Original
One is a masterpiece of technique, skill, vision and execution the other looks ok – it has the same features, subject matter and background but it is not as aesthetically beautiful and lacks the brilliance of the master painter’s hand.
So what makes a master orthodontist? Knowledge, training and experience and a little bit of artistry.
What you need to decide is do you want a “Da Vinci” smile?