A person is said to have a “gummy smile” when more than 3 mm of the gums are visible while smiling. A gummy smile is characterized by a larger upper jaw bone when compared to the lower jaw bone, and the appearance of a stretched upper lip, causing an excessive display of gums when a person smiles. A gummy smile can be corrected for both aesthetic and functional aspects.
Gummy smiles range from mild-to-severe cases, and may lead to a feeling of self-consciousness among some. It may be caused due to:
- Genetic factors or developmental influences
- Overactive upper lip muscles, which pull the lip upwards
- Formation of excess bone above the teeth, causing the bulging of gums
- Incomplete recession of gum tissue once adult teeth erupt
Before surgery, your doctor plans a suitable treatment strategy after assessing parameters such as systemic health and habits, height and symmetry of face, thickness and length of lips, dimension and condition of teeth, smile line, facial bone level and width of the gums.
Treatment procedures may involve the following:
Gingivectomy: This is the least invasive option and is performed when there is little gum to be reduced. The surgery is conducted under local anesthesia and may take a few minutes to hours to complete depending on the number of teeth that need to be treated. Your doctor carves the excessive gum tissue from the crown of the teeth, using a scalpel, electrosurgery unit, lasers or diamond dental burs, to reshape your smile. The procedure requires no sutures, and the gum tissues heal in two weeks.
Lip repositioning: During the procedure, a small horizontal section of tissue is removed from inside your upper lip, and stitched back together in a lower position. Through this process, your lip is not lowered, but its movement is restricted such that the lip does not rise too high, exposing too much of your gums. The surgery may last for about 45 minutes.
Crown Lengthening: During this surgery, your doctor makes an incision in the gum tissue to expose the bone that encases your teeth. The flap of the gum tissue is repositioned. A small portion of the bone is cut off and the gum flap is sutured back firmly into place. This exposes more of the tooth/teeth. In some cases, instead of crown lengthening, your doctor may recommend orthodontic treatment to avoid surgery and permanently remove bone tissue.
Risks and complications
Like all procedures, gummy smile treatment may be associated with certain complications including:
- Poor aesthetic outcome
- Sensitivity of tooth root
- Root resorption
- Transient mobility of teeth
Based on your condition, your doctor will choose the best technique for you.