For some people, the joy of smiling might be affected by a condition known as a gummy smile. It’s when your smile reveals more of your gums than you’d like. In clinical terms, it’s called excessive gingival display.

Whether you consider your smile “too gummy” is largely a matter of personal aesthetics. But you should know that gummy smiles are fairly common.

Some experts estimate that as many as 10 percent of 20- to 30-year-old adults consider their smiles gummy. Plus, more women than men believe their smiles show too much of their gumline.

What’s considered a gummy smile?

No exact definition exists for a gummy smile. In reality, it largely rests in the eye of the beholder. Your perception of your gumline could be affected by:

  • the height and shape of your teeth
  • the way your lips move when you smile
  • the angle of your jaw compared with the rest of your face

Generally speaking, 3 to 4 mm of exposed gumline is considered to be disproportionate, resulting in a gummy smile.

What causes a gummy smile?

According to research, several factors can contribute to a gummy smile. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes.

DIFFERENCES IN THE GROWTH OF YOUR TEETH / UPPER JAW

Sometimes the way your adult teeth grow in can result in a gummy smile. Though this varies from person to person, researchers have found that it may be a family trait.

If your gums covered more of your teeth’s surface when they came in — a condition called altered passive eruption — it might have led to a gummy smile.

If your front teeth grew in too far, or over-erupted, your gums might have grown too far as well. This condition is known as dentoalveolar extrusion.

A gummy smile can also occur due to a condition called vertical maxillary excess. This is when the bones of your upper jaw grow longer than their typical length.

LIP DIFFERENCES

A gummy smile can happen when your upper lip is on the shorter side. And if your lips are hypermobile — which means they move dramatically when you smile — they might expose more of your gumline.

MEDICATIONS

Some medications can cause your gums to grow too much around your teeth. This is known as gingival hyperplasia.

Drugs that prevent seizures, suppress your immune system, or treat high blood pressure could cause the overgrowth of your gums.

In this case, it’s important to treat the condition. If untreated, the clinical overgrowth of gums can lead to periodontal disease.

Treatment options

1. ORTHODONTIC TREATMENT

If your gummy smile is mild and is caused by orthodontic issues such as a bad bite or minor jaw problems, then using orthodontic appliances can help.

Orthodontics such as braces and Clear Aligners can help correct the jaw problems and bite issues which can help make your gums appear smaller when smiling.

2. VENEERS OR CROWNS

Some patients feel like their upper set of teeth appear too short which impacts the amount of gum tissue visible when smiling.

This can be caused by wear and even genetics. Veneers or dental crowns are simple dental restorations that can be used to make your teeth appear longer.

This will help balance out your teeth and gums, making your smile less gummy.

3. COSMETIC GUM CONTOURING

Some patients experience an excess of gum tissue which can be the cause of their gummy smile.

If too much of your gums cover the surface of your teeth, your dentist might recommend a procedure known as a gingivectomy. This is also known as gum contouring and involves the removal of extra gum tissue through surgery or a laser, and the remaining tissue is reshaped to expose more of your teeth.

Gum contouring is a minimally invasive procedure and involves the gentle yet precise reshaping of the gum line.

Your gums will be sculpted by removing excess gum tissue to reposition the gum line so that more of your tooth is visible. The amount of gum tissue removed is just enough to enhance its contour around the teeth.

Evening out your gum line or removing excess gum tissue can help improve the aesthetics of your smile. It can also make removing plaque and tartar much easier which can help prevent a host of other dental problems from occurring.

4. CROWN-LENGTHENING SURGERY

If your teeth haven’t fully erupted (making them look short), a surgery to lengthen the crown can be done.

Gum tissue and/or bone is removed to expose more of the tooth, allowing the gums to withdraw into its correct position.

5. LIP REPOSITIONING SURGERY

If you suffer from a short or hyperactive upper lip, more of your gum will be exposed when smiling.

A lip repositioning surgery can help make your smile less gummy and is a good alternative to the more complicated jaw surgery.

It’s done by removing a section of connective tissue from the underside of your upper lip. This will prevent the elevator muscles located in the area of your lip and nose from lifting your upper lip too high above your teeth.

What does lip repositioning surgery involve?

  • The surgery is performed under local anesthesia so you won’t feel pain.
  • Once your mouth is numb, the doctor will make two incisions on the underside of your upper lip and remove a section of connective tissue from the area.
  • After the connective tissue is removed, the periodontist will stitch up the incisions.
  • The procedure lasts from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • After the procedure, your periodontist may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication for you.
  • Recovery typically takes about a week.

According to a 2019 scientific review, patients who had this procedure were still happy with the results 2 years after the surgery.

In many cases, the results are permanent, but a relapse could occur.

6. ORTHOGNATHIC SURGERY

If your jaw is part of the reason you have excessive gingival display, your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend orthognathic surgery. This procedure will balance the length of your upper and lower jaws.

A lot of planning goes into this treatment approach.

You may need to meet with both an orthodontist and a maxillofacial surgeon. You will probably have one or more scans taken of your mouth to determine where your jaw has grown too far.

Sometimes, before getting jaw surgery, you’ll need to wear braces or other orthodontic devices to make sure your teeth and the arches in your mouth are aligned well.

What does orthognathic surgery involve?

    • With this surgery you’ll be under general anesthesia, which means you won’t be awake for the
    • procedure.
    • The surgeon will remove a section of bone from your upper jaw to balance the length of your upper and lower jaws.
    • The jawbone will be reattached with tiny plates and screws. If your lower jaw sits too far back, it may have to be adjusted too.
    • After the surgery, you’ll likely remain in the hospital for 2 to 4 days so your oral surgeon can monitor the results.
    • You may have to wear elastics to hold your jaw in position while it heals. Healing typically takes 6 to 12 weeks.

7. BOTOX

If your jaw is part of the reason you have excessive gingival display, your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend orthognathic surgery. This procedure will balance the length of your upper and lower jaws.

A lot of planning goes into this treatment approach.

You may need to meet with both an orthodontist and a maxillofacial surgeon. You will probably have one or more scans taken of your mouth to determine where your jaw has grown too far.

Sometimes, before getting jaw surgery, you’ll need to wear braces or other orthodontic devices to make sure your teeth and the arches in your mouth are aligned well.

 

8. HYALURONIC ACID (DERMAL FILLER)

Another way to temporarily correct a gummy smile caused by hypermobile lips involves injections of hyaluronic acid fillers. The fillers restrict the movement of muscle fibers in your lip for up to 8 months.

It’s important to note that injecting fillers comes with risks. Though complications are rare, it’s possible that:

  • Your blood supply could be damaged, leading to tissue loss, blindness, or stroke.
  • Your body’s immune system could react to the hyaluronic acid and form a nodule or granuloma.

Talk To Us

Keep in mind that each patient is unique and your results may vary. Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek advice from one of our Wagga dentists. For more information, call us on 69219500 to make an appointment with our cosmetic dentists.