According to an article published in this month’s Journal of the American Dental Association, patients rate their smiles higher than dentists do. The study shows that teeth and eyes are rated as the most important features of an attractive face, and people younger than age 50 are most satisfied with their smiles.

In the study, 78 patients in Norway were asked to rate their own smiles on a 100-point satisfaction scale. Later, the patients’ regular dentist and an independent periodontist rated the patients’ smiles from photographs, using the same satisfaction scale.

According to the study, patients were more satisfied with their own smiles than dentists, rating them an average 59.1 on the 100-point scale.  Dentists’ ratings of the patients’ smiles were much lower, averaging 38.6 (independent periodontist) and 40.7 (patients’ own dentist).

The researchers say that it may be difficult to understand what a smile satisfaction level of 59 really means, adding it might be more accurate to say patients are accepting of, or contented with, their smiles.

"The fact that the patients had much higher opinions of their smiles than we dentists did is interesting," said the researchers. They explained that patients expressed their opinions from memory, while the dentists made their assessments from photographs.

Had patients used the clinicians’ detailed approach to include assessing lip lines, tooth shade, spacing, and crowding, their opinions about their smiles might have been different, the researchers speculated.

"Dentists should be aware that patients who seek aesthetic services may have different perceptions of their smiles than patients who do not express such desires," the researchers concluded.