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What Is A Gummy Smile?
A gummy smile, also known as excessive gingival display, refers to a smile that shows an excessive amount of gum tissue above the teeth.
What exactly constitutes a gummy smile is subjective, but this study showed that people prefer a maximum of two millimeters of gumline exposed when smiling. Anything above that is considered a gummy smile. In general, most people seem to know a gummy smile when they see one, and if you have one, you are probably highly aware of it.
Americans have pretty high standards for smiles. The health, whiteness, and straightness of our teeth are a standard of beauty here and our gums are included in this. Consider your gums as the frame for your teeth. A bad frame can taint the entire image or distract from it.
This isn’t to say a smile with a lot of gum is “bad,” but most people do notice when they have an excessive amount of gum tissue and many feel self-conscious about it, particularly when they smile. Because of this, if they can correct it, they often do.
What Causes A Gummy Smile?
The causes of a smile with excessive gum can include the following:
Gum disease could be causing inflammation in the gums, which makes them appear larger.
You could have smaller teeth, which you’ve inherited genetically, increasing your gum-to-tooth ratio.
This is an oral condition that causes your gums to overgrow.
Overgrowth of the upper jaw
This causes the gums to jut out and appear more prominent.
Hyperactive upper lip
When we smile, our upper lips should lift slightly. However, if the muscles that control your lip are hyperactive, they could cause your upper lip to lift too high, exposing more gum.
A thin upper lip
Having a smaller upper lip can cause the appearance of a gummy smile.
If your teeth grew in improperly, this could cause them to be covered by more gum than is necessary.
Anna is 17 years old.
Anna wore braces for two years, which caused her to have altered passive eruption, which led to a gummy smile.
Once Anna’s braces were removed, she came for a consultation and cleaning with Dr. Sedler. After she improved her hygiene, Dr. Sedler proceeded with the surgery to correct her gummy smile.
The surgery included the full upper arch and took about two hours. Anna spent the next week healing then came in for suture removal.
She was pain-free and didn’t even need pain medication.
After about two weeks, Anna was completely healed.
Anna could see the results the same day of the surgery and is ecstatic about her new smile. Her father came with her during her suture removal post-op appointment and mentioned that she didn’t stop smiling the entire week.
“Anna didn’t stop smiling the entire week.”
Are Gummy Smiles Common?
Research suggests 14% of women and 7% of men are affected by this condition, but this evidence is based on patients who actually seek treatment for their smile, so it’s very likely those numbers are higher for both men and women.
There are a number of treatments available depending on the cause of your gummy smile.
This is a gum reshaping procedure performed by a periodontist to remove excess gum tissue and expose more of the teeth, improving the look of your smile. Gum reshaping procedures are for those whose excessive gum is not caused by structural bone issues or gum disease.
If the jaw or a misaligned bite is causing the gummy smile, orthodontia such as braces could be the solution.
Gummy Smile Botox
If a hyperactive upper lip is causing your gummy smile, you could get Botox injections. Botox will temporarily paralyze the muscles in your upper lip, so your lip can’t rise as high when you smile and will not expose as much gum.
Dental Veneers or Dental Crowns
If your teeth are short, you could get dental veneers or crowns—porcelain coverings for the teeth—that will make your teeth appear longer.
Crown Lengthening Surgery
Crown lengthening removes excess gum at the top of the tooth to expose more of the tooth and allows the gums to recede naturally. This procedure is ideal if your gummy smile was caused by developmental issues.
If a protruding jaw is causing too much gum to show when you smile, having jaw orthognathic jaw surgery may be necessary.
Laser Gum Reshaping
This procedure is similar to a gingivectomy but uses lasers to remove the gum rather than a surgical knife.
Should I Worry About A Gummy Smile?
A gummy smile is usually not a major health concern unless it is caused by inflammation of the gum tissue due to gum disease or gingivitis. In that case, your gum disease will need to be addressed and treated as soon as possible.
Regardless of the cause, it would be best if you talked to your dentist so he or she can determine the next steps and the best way to correct them.
Can I Correct My Gummy Smile Myself?
If you want a normal gum line, you will most likely need to see a periodontist to restore or correct it.
However, if your gummy smile is due to inflammation caused by gum disease, you can practice good oral hygiene to improve the inflammation, depending on the severity.
Is Gum Reshaping Right for Me?
Whether or not a gum reshaping procedure is right for you entirely depends on the cause of your gummy smile. If you have smaller teeth or excessive gum tissue, then a reshaping procedure is probably all that you need.
However, if you have gum disease, a protruding jaw, or if your teeth didn’t grow correctly, a more advanced treatment like the ones listed above may be necessary. Ask your periodontist about the cause, and he or she can guide you to proper treatment.
Who Performs Gum Reshaping Procedures?
Periodontists are dental professionals who specialize in the area around the tooth, meaning the gums, bone, and jaw. They perform various gum surgeries every day. Most likely, a periodontist would be performing your gum reshaping procedure, also known as crown lengthening.
Gummy Smile + Botox
Periodontists, as well as professionals at dental spas and dermatologists, can administer Botox to correct your smile. If that is the suggested treatment plan to improve your smile, your dentist will refer you to the appropriate provider.
How Much Does Gum Reshaping Cost?
Which gum reshaping procedure you get, whether or not you have insurance, and what kind of insurance you have all play a role in how much your gum reshaping procedure will cost.
To give you a rough idea, the average gingivectomy costs $200-$400 per tooth out of pocket. Insurance might cover a gingivectomy if it is performed for gum disease-related purposes, but not if it is simply cosmetic. Call your insurance company prior to your procedure to ensure you know exactly what you will be paying out of pocket.
Cindy's Gummy Smile Correction
Cindy is a 21-year-old girl who presented to Cutting Edge Periodontist looking for help because she was too embarrassed to smile.
She said, “When I smile and laugh, I always cover my mouth with my hand or make sure I don’t smile big.”
She had come to the clinic with her parents, who wanted to help their daughter smile again.
After a careful exam and assessment, Dr. Sedler found Cindy had an excessively gummy smile. Correcting this with surgery could potentially change her life and how she felt about herself.
Dr. Sedler explained the procedure and everything that would be involved with the surgery, and the expected recovery time. The surgery was booked for the following week.
After the surgery was complete, Dr. Sedler gave Cindy a mirror to see the results without disturbing her stitches. When she saw her new smile, she teared up. When asked if she was in pain, she said, ”No pain, I just never imagined I could smile how I wanted to smile without covering my face.”
The following week she came back in to remove the stitches and smiling ear to ear. She was asked how the recovery had been, and she said, “I took my graduation photos this week.” Dr. Sedler asked, “with the stitches in?” And Cindy replied, “I didn’t care. All I cared was I could smile finally.”
Cindy’s parents said she hadn’t stopped smiling since she got home from the surgery. And in the end, we were all smiling.