How to Fix a “Gummy Smile”

What is a Gummy smile? You may not have heard the phrase, but you’ve probably noticed the condition. A “gummy smile” occurs when too much gum tissue (in technical terms, over 4 millimeters, or about one-eighth of an inch) is visible in the smile. A gummy smile by itself is not considered to be unhealthy or abnormal. It has been long considered by dentists to be a normal variation of a persons body. but if you feel it detracts from your appearance, there are several ways dentists can treat a gummy smile.   

A gummy smile can give the teeth a short and unhealthy look. The gingival tissue should be at or just above the neck of the tooth, called the cementoenamel junction. In some cases of a gummy smile, the tissue may cover 50% or more of the teeth. The gummy smile can be caused by a variety of things. These can include:

• Abnormal eruption of the teeth can cause an excessive display of gingival in your upper jaw. As a result, your teeth may appear short due to the excessive gums, although they might actually be the proper length.

• The way your upper jaw bone develops over the years can also cause gummy smiles. For example, if there is an excessive bulging protrusion in your upper jaw within the gums, you will experience an obvious gingival issue.

• The muscle that takes control of the movement of your upper lip can be hyperactive and it can cause your upper lip to rise higher than usual. 

The presence of excess gum tissue makes maintenance of oral hygiene very difficult or at least more difficult than for patients without a gummy smile. This can lead to unhealthy tissue that can bleed easily as well as increased risk for tooth decay. The excessive tissue will allow food and bacteria to get lodged underneath, causing red, swollen gums and bleeding. This early situation is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest form of periodontal disease. If this goes untreated the gingivitis leads to  periodontal disease with progression toward tooth loss. 

Treatment for a gummy smile

If you think you have a gummy smile, visit your favorite Lafayette Louisiana dentist, Dr. Chauvin for confirmation and treatment options. Dr. Chauvin will examine your mouth, teeth and gums to determine the extent of the excessive gingival display and any possible causes. This examination may involve conventional and/or digital impressions of your teeth and gums. You may also need X-ray imaging so that the tooth roots and jaw bone can be carefully examined.

If you suffer from a severe gummy smile, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, like a periodontist, orthodontist or an oral surgeon. Depending on the nature of your specific clinical condition, treatment for your gummy smile could include:

1) Gingivectomy 

This is simply the removal of excess gum tissue. By removing the excess tissue and reshaping the gums, you end up with a very cosmetic result. During this procedure a very small amount of gum tissue needs to be removed.  The procedure is generally quite painless, but local anesthetic is necessary. The treatment requires no sutures and typically the gingival tissue heals within 1-2 weeks. A gingivectomy is usually the prescribed procedure when only a few teeth are affected by the gummy smile. Sometimes, the bone must also be remodeled to correct the problem.

2) Crown Lengthening 

During this procedure, excess gum and bone tissue is removed and reshaped to expose more of the natural tooth. This can be done to one or more teeth to expose a natural, even, wide smile. This procedure is a bit more advanced but still relatively easy to perform by a trained dentist or specialist. The gum tissue is removed in the same way as in a gingivectomy, the bone removal requires rotary instrumentation.

There is a very low risk of complications for both procedures. Any discomfort following the procedures can usually be handled by over the counter medications. Patients will see results immediately. But over the next few weeks following the procedure it will look even better. This is because the gingival and bone tissues need time to fully heal. Once fully healed they will see the full effect of a beautiful and healthy smile and can say goodbye to their old gummy smile!

If you would like more information on treatments for “gummy” smiles, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

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