Whoopi Goldberg shares her experience with gum disease

Local Periodontists

Barry S. Kayne, DDS, Periodontal & Implant Specialist
Barry S Kayne, D.D.S.
58 Omega Drive, Suite F58
Newark, DE 19713
(302) 456-0400
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Sally J. Cram, D.D.S.
Sally J Cram, D.D.S.
1140 19th Street, NW Suite 410
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 785-3021
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Dental Implants & Periodontics Alexandria VA, Waldorf MD
Karl A Smith, D.D.S., M.S., M.B.A.
2500 N. Van Dorn St. Suite 128
Alexandria, VA 22302
(703) 894-4867
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Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC
Karl A Smith, D.D.S., M.S., M.B.A.
601 Post Office Road, Suite1-B
Waldorf, MD 20602
(301) 638-4867
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Periodontics with a Caring Touch
James R Werkmeister, D.M.D., M.S.
4328 Northern Pike, Suite 102
Monroeville, PA 15146
(412) 856-8200
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Cosmetic Periodontics for a Gummy Smile

What is a Gummy Smile?

A smile is said to be ‘gummy’ if a significant amount of upper gingival tissue (gum tissue) is exposed when laughing or smiling. This gives the effect of the upper teeth being too short, and can make sufferers feel very self-conscious.

Ideally your smile should reveal very little gum, and visible tissue should look balanced and even in contrast with your upper lip. Your optimal smile will depend on the shape of your teeth and their size, as well as the shape and size of your lips. Luckily a gummy smile is something that can be corrected through cosmetic periodontal treatment, or by using a combination of treatments.

What Causes a Gummy Smile?

Gummy smiles can be due to several different reasons including the following:

  • Sometimes it's due to the way your upper jaw (maxilla) has developed, as a jaw that is more fully developed in the gum area could allow more gum tissue to be exposed whenever you smile.
  • Depending on the way your teeth have erupted, it may appear as if you have too much gum tissue in your upper jaw. In such cases the teeth can frequently appear too short, but may simply be covered up by too much gum tissue and are actually the correct length.
  • Some people experience problems with the muscle controlling the movement in the upper lip. If this muscle is overactive then it could cause the upper lip to be pulled back more than normal, exposing more gum tissue and giving a very high smile line.

Getting Treatment for Your Gummy Smile

The first step towards resolving your gummy smile is to visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis. Your dentist will be able to evaluate your teeth and gums to discover the exact reason for your gummy smile. It may be necessary to have x-rays so your dentist can see the jawbone and tooth roots.
Depending on the exact cause of the problem, your dentist will be able to refer you to the correct specialist. A periodontist can re-shape gum tissue, but more complex cases may need a combination of different treatments.

Gum Contouring or Crown Lengthening

Periodontists can surgically sculpt the gingival tissue and bone to expose more of the teeth in a crown lengthening procedure, giving a more natural smile. Once the gums have healed the teeth should look more in proportion with the rest of the face. Any stitches used are generally removed after a week unless they are dissolvable.

Minor cases of gummy smiles may be suitable for laser surgery. During this process the periodontist will first anaesthetise the area before using a diode laser to recontour the gum tissue. The laser effectively seals the blood vessels so bleeding is minimal.

No matter the process used, the procedure should be completely painless. It's normal for the gums to feel a little bit swollen or sore afterwards for a week or so, but any short-term discomfort can usually be treated by over-the-counter medication. Patients should still be able to carry on with their everyday life.

Orthodontic Treatment for Gummy Smiles

If your gummy smile is being caused by protruding or incorrectly positioned teeth then it may be necessary to wear an orthodontic appliance to move the teeth into the correct position. Orthodontic treatment usually takes between 18 months and two years to complete, after which it may well be necessary to have the gums re-sculpted by a periodontist to create the final transformation.

Oral Surgery for a Gummy Smile

If your gummy smile is due to your jawbone having developed incorrectly then your dentist could refer you to a maxillofacial surgeon for oral surgery. They will be able to correctly position or shape the bone to give a more pleasing appearance.

An added benefit might be that any malocclusion or improper bite will be corrected. This might ultimately lead to better long-term oral health, as your teeth may be easier to keep clean and will wear more evenly as the biting forces will be evenly distributed. If your teeth don't meet together properly then it can feel quite uncomfortable, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much better it feels after surgery, regardless of the cosmetic effect.

Surgical Lip Repositioning

Surgical lip repositioning involves the lip line being lowered so less gum tissue shows whenever you smile. It might sound drastic, but in fact it's a relatively minor procedure that only takes a short while to complete. It limits the movement of the muscles in the upper lip.

The Health and Cosmetic Benefits of Correcting a Gummy Smile

The main benefits of having treatment for a gummy smile is improved confidence, as the results can be highly effective. Sometimes the crown lengthening or gum reshaping procedure is combined with veneers and crowns to give a perfect smile. In addition gum recontouring can help improve periodontal health, which is the health of the gum tissues.