No one wants to be self-conscious when smiling. But plenty of folks are. For some, it’s about the color or contour of their teeth. For others, it’s about their gums. Specifically, seeing too much gum, something known as a “gummy smile.” Here’s some helpful information on the matter.
Gummy smiles are a combination of issues, a perfect storm, if you will, of several factors:
- Gum tissue that did not recede in adulthood
- Teeth that did not fully protrude from the jawbone
- The size and shape of your upper lip
- The amount of “elasticity” within your upper lip (how much it moves when smiling); this is also called a hypermobile lip
Each of these conditions are not present in every person with a gummy smile, but they can be. The good news is there are procedures that can be done to mitigate each of them.
How your dentist will go about un-gummying your smile depends on what conditions are causing your gummy smile.
When your gingival display is caused by the position of your teeth, a gummy smile can often be fixed with orthodontics. Braces as well as Invisaligns can shift the bite into the correct position and make the gums less prominent, or at least look that way. Your dentist may need to use temporary anchors inside your mouth to pull this off.
So-called orthognathic surgery, or jaw surgery, combined with orthodontics is the course of action for more severe cases of a gummy smile, or cases where the jaw is the main cause of it. An oral surgeon will be required for this situation.
The surgery involves reshaping and repositioning the upper jaw so that it’s in a position more amenable to being covered by the upper lip. The jaw, once repositioned, gets secured with plates and screws while the patient is under general anesthesia.
Lip repositioning surgery followed by orthodontic treatment can be a good alternative to jaw surgery if the excessive gingival display is the result of a short or hyperactive upper lip.
Laser gum contouring procedures can remove extra gum tissue without the need to go under the knife for those with gums that extend too far down covering their teeth.
Lip repositioning surgery: Severs the muscles that elevate the lip so it can no longer rise as far in a smile. An irreversible solution diagnosis is the key to a successful outcome.
Veneers or crowns can change your tooth-to-gum ratio if the cause of the problem is short teeth. Conversely, if the issue is too much gum tissue, a periodontist can perform a gingivectomy—the removal of extra gum tissue to expose more tooth.
Botox injections is another—and cheaper—option than surgery and long-term orthodontics. The chemical paralyzes the lip muscles slightly, so less gum is exposed during smiles. But the results are temporary. Expect to return at least two to three times a year for the procedure.
Depending on the solution, you could be out anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars to get your gums in check. Very few dental plans cover the procedures because they are considered cosmetic. So discuss the options with your dentist or orthodontist thoroughly. In some cases, your condition may be causing medical issues and could be covered by your healthcare plan.