Updated on March 7, 2024
6 min read

What Is Digital Smile Design?

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Seeing what your smile could look like after braces or other dental procedures is important. You might hesitate to start expensive treatments because you’re not sure what the results will be.

With Digital Smile Design (DSD), dentists can give people a preview of their new smile before they start the actual dental work. This digital technology creates a virtual model of your teeth and gums, revolutionizing the process of numerous dental procedures.

What is Digital Smile Design (DSD)?

DSD is a digital imaging technology that lets you see what your smile can look like after a dental treatment. Whether getting veneers, clear aligners, or braces, utilizing DSD helps you and your dentist achieve your desired results.1,2

How Does Digital Smile Design Work?

Digital Smile Design involves capturing and analyzing your facial features and dental characteristics. It requires various digital equipment, including, but not limited to, intraoral scanners, 3D printers, SLR cameras, or a smartphone.

Along with that, DSD incorporates the use of computer systems that let dentists fully customize the treatment plan according to your goals and preferences. These systems also facilitate the creation of dental products and prosthetics, including:

What Treatments Is Digital Smile Design Used For?

DSD integrates seamlessly with major and general dental treatments. Dentists can use it for various procedures, including:3

  • Orthodontics ⁠— Digital renderings help dentists identify the optimal straightening approach for clear aligners and traditional braces.
  • Dental restorations ⁠— Dental implants, crowns, bridges, and veneers are perfectly positioned depending on a person’s unique anatomy.
  • Teeth whitening ⁠— People can see simulations of how different whitening intensities will look on their natural teeth.
  • Dental bonding ⁠— Digital customizations help contour and shape teeth into ideal proportions according to a person’s features and smile line.

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How Much Does Digital Smile Design Cost?

A digital smile design procedure can cost anywhere between $1,000 to $50,000. The total cost depends on several factors, including:

  • Location ⁠— DSD prices are typically higher in metropolitan areas due to the cost of living and local market rates.
  • Type and complexity of treatment ⁠— The number of teeth involved, the type of work needed, and the severity of dental issues affect the procedure’s cost significantly.
  • Dentist’s expertise ⁠— It’s common for highly skilled and recognized professionals to charge more for DSD treatments.
  • Materials and technology used ⁠— Advanced digital equipment and high-quality dental materials typically lead to higher prices.

Below is a cost comparison of DSD and non-DSD treatments. These are estimated averages and can vary depending on factors like your location, dental office, and insurance.

Dental Procedure LevelExamples of Dental ProceduresDSD CostNon-DSD Cost
SimpleTeeth whitening and fillings$1,000 and above$500 to $1,000
ModerateBraces and root canals$10,000 to $20,000$3,000 to $10,000
ComplexDental implants and other oral surgeries$50,000 and above$3,000 to $60,000 (or more)

What are the Benefits of Digital Smile Design?

Traditionally, dentists rely on manual techniques like physical dental molds, X-rays, and visual inspections. While dentists can use these to map out their treatment plan, they can’t give people a visual of the final outcome.

DSD, on the other hand, can do just that, leading to long-lasting and more satisfying smile makeovers for people. Its key benefits include:

  • Improved treatment planning
  • Fully customized patient-centered treatments
  • More predictable and efficient dental care
  • Higher precision of final restorations
  • Collaboration between dentists and technicians

How Can DSD Improve Communication with Your Dentist?

With Digital Smile Design, your dentist can show you digital models to help you visualize your possible treatment results. It also allows your dentist to adjust the models during appointments.

This gives you an active role in your dental care. You can provide feedback and see edits instantly until the result matches your aesthetic and practical goals.

Your dentist can also easily share the digital DSD file with other dental specialists, like orthodontists or oral surgeons. This helps them all collaborate to give you the best smile.

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How to Find a Digital Smile Design Provider

Choosing the right dentist for Digital Smile Design (DSD) treatments is crucial to achieving your desired smile. DSD is a comprehensive approach requiring someone skilled in the process.

Fortunately, finding providers in your area is easy. You can look up “Digital Smile Design” and the name of your city to get fast results. The difficult part is in choosing which dentist is right for you.

Here are some tips on selecting a dentist skilled in DSD:

  • Look for dentists who are certified or affiliated with DSD-approved clinics
  • Read patient reviews and testimonials to gain insight into the dentist’s approach
  • Consult with multiple DSD providers to compare their expertise, approach, and treatment plans

Before investing in an expensive procedure, ask as many questions as possible to make an informed decision. Some of the things you can ask include:

  • Can you show me what the treatment process will be like from start to finish?
  • Can you show me before-and-after photos of your DSD patients?
  • How do you customize the DSD treatment for each patient?
  • What technology and materials will you use for my treatment?
  • How long will my entire treatment take?
  • Are there any risks to this procedure?
  • What is the total cost of my treatment? Are there financing options available?
  • What kind of maintenance and follow-up care is required post-treatment?

What Can You Expect During the DSD Procedure?

During a Digital Smile Design (DSD) procedure, you can expect a detailed and interactive process. It’s designed to ensure that your treatment outcome meets your aesthetic goals while remaining functional.

This is what generally happens during a DSD procedure:

  1. Initial consultation ⁠— The dentist gets to know your dental history and any specific requirements you might have. It sets expectations and goals for the treatment.
  2. Digital documentation ⁠— Digital images and videos of your teeth, mouth, and face are taken using digital or intraoral scanners, providing a comprehensive view of your current dental and facial aesthetics.
  3. Design simulation ⁠— The collected data is uploaded into specialized DSD software to create a 3D model of different treatment outcomes. This step is crucial for aligning the treatment plan with your expectations.
  4. Patient involvement and feedback ⁠— You and your dentist review the simulated outcomes, providing feedback and making adjustments as needed.
  5. Treatment planning ⁠— Once you approve the simulated design, a customized treatment plan is created, ensuring that the final outcome looks great and functions well. 
  6. Cosmetic procedure ⁠— The actual dental work begins, guided by the DSD simulation to ensure accuracy.
  7. Final adjustments ⁠— A final review ensures that the results match the agreed-upon design. Any necessary adjustments are made to ensure your complete satisfaction with your new smile.
  8. Post-treatment care ⁠— Your dentist will discuss post-treatment care, ensuring you know how to maintain your new smile for years to come.

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What DSD Training is Required for Dentists?

Various DSD training courses are available on their website. Some options include:5 

  • Basic workshops that talk about the software and fundamental concepts in DSD
  • Case workshops that allow dentists to observe clinical procedures that employ DSD techniques
  • Mentoring programs, where you work with professionals who have extensive experience in DSD

You can also talk to one of their team members to learn more about the DSD journey. They can answer your questions about what to expect after finishing a DSD training course. 

Summary

Digital Smile Design is an innovative technology that helps you visualize what your teeth can look like after dental treatment. The process focuses on involving people in their own dental care to achieve their aesthetic and functional treatment goals.

DSD treatments can cost anywhere between $1,000 and $50,000. Before investing in this procedure, make sure to research DSD providers and ask the right questions during consultations.

What’s Next?

Discover the best fit for your smile.

Explore top at-home clear aligner brands.

Last updated on March 7, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Jafri et al. “Digital Smile Design-An innovative tool in aesthetic dentistry.” J Oral Biol Craniofac Res, 2020.
  2. Thomas et al. “Digital Smile Design.” J Pharm Bioallied Sci, 2022.
  3. Alharkan, H.M. “Integrating digital smile design into restorative Dentistry: A narrative review of the applications and benefits.” The Saudi Dental Journal, 2023.
  4. Blatz et al. “Evolution of Aesthetic Dentistry.” Journal of Dental Research, 2019.
  5. Coachman et al. “Digital smile design concepts.” The Technologist, 2014. 
  6. “Attend a DSD course for dentists and clinic team members.” Digitalsmiledesign.com.
  7. Shin et al. “Use of Digital Smile Design in esthetic restoration in anterior teeth: A case report.” The J. Korean Academy of Prosthodontics, 2017.
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