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Understanding Aging Makes Beauty Timeless

How orthodontics, cosmetic and oral surgery enhance beauty

By Dr. David M. Sarver


Upper lip thickness chart.
Figure 1: In guys, the maximum upper lip thickness is reached around age 16, whereas it maximizes at 14 in girls; however, it begins to thin in both sexes after age 16.
Lower lip thickness chart.
Figure 2: The horizontal thickness of the lower lip slows dramatically but is close to its maximum in both sexes at about age 16.

Lip Service

To illustrate how constant change affects the whole face, let's consider just one area — the lips. Have you ever wondered why teens have so much lip? Well it's literally true, and arguably, boys have more lip than girls, at least initially! The upper lip in girls reaches its maximum thickness by age 14 and remains that way until age 16; whereas in guys it does not reach maximum thickness until 16. Thereafter the lips of both sexes begin the slow and inexorable process of thinning throughout the rest of the lifespan [Figure 1]. More broadly, facial changes have been documented from ages 8 to 80 and here is why it's important. The patterns of change that have emerged are actually quite predictable and therefore can be used to create more harmonious and natural results when incorporated into the smile design and orthodontic treatment process.

Does this trend in upper lip thinning level off or continue? And what happens to the lower lip during this time? In males, the overall profile tends to become flatter and the lips become less prominent. Upper lip thickness continues to decrease while there is a slight increase in lower lip thickness [Figure 2]. In females, the profile also becomes flatter, as upper lip thickness decreases, with a slight increase in lower lip thickness (as in males).

Heading South — No Great News Here

And the aging process doesn't end there. Studies have shown that significant skeletal, facial, and other soft tissue changes continue from mid-adulthood (22 to 45 years old) into old age (80+ years old). From maturation throughout aging, the facial profile becomes flatter as the nose gains more prominence and the lower part of the face becomes shorter. The naso-labial (“naso” – nose; “labial” – lip) complex rotates clockwise resulting in a longer upper lip, and thus less tooth display when your lips are at rest and during smiling. And there's no other way to say it, but your nose does get longer as you age. These findings have definite implications for both orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry and should be taken into consideration when planning treatment.