The natural appeal of a bright, healthy smile – like the idea of beauty itself – has a lot to do with our perceptions of what a smile “should” look like. And needless to say, there’s a wide variation in what different people perceive as beautiful. Yet if you aren’t satisfied with the way your smile looks because it seems to show too much of your gums (or maybe not enough teeth of your teeth), the issue may be what’s known as a “gummy smile.”
As is the case with most things related to aesthetics, there isn’t a strict definition of what makes a smile look “gummy.” However, it may be seen this way when the proportions of teeth, gums and facial features aren’t in harmony with one another. Many people would say that a smile revealing more than four millimeters of gum tissue is excessively gummy. But besides the amount of gum tissue displayed, other factors involved in this perception include the length and width of teeth, the size and degree of movement of the upper lip, and the particular anatomy of the face.
Depending on exactly what’s causing the problem with a smile’s appearance, dentists and dental specialists can offer a number of ways to resolve it. One of the most effective ways to deal with excessive gum tissue is a technique called “crown lengthening.” This is a form of periodontal plastic surgery where small amounts of gum and bone tissue are removed or re-shaped to expose more of the tooth’s crown. It can be done for one tooth, several teeth, or the whole smile.
A crown lengthening procedure is usually performed by a periodontist: a dentist with extensive training who specializes in treating the gums. He or she will use specialized surgical instruments, including conventional or laser devices, to recontour bone and gum tissues near the affected teeth. This routine in-office procedure normally requires only local anesthesia (a numbing shot); anti-anxiety medications may also be given, especially for patients who are apprehensive about dental treatment.
Besides changing the appearance of a gummy smile, crown lengthening procedures may also be employed for the restoration of teeth with other problems. For example, if a tooth is cracked or broken below the gum line, or has insufficient remaining structure for a standard restoration, the procedure may make it possible for a crown or bridge to be placed on the damaged tooth.
Crown lengthening is one way to improve the appearance of a gummy smile—but it’s not the only way. Some other techniques that are often used include orthodontic treatment to move teeth; porcelain veneers to lengthen teeth; or even Botox injections to reduce the mobility of the upper lip, so that less of the gums are revealed when smiling.
If you’re not satisfied with the appearance of your smile, what’s the best way for you to take care of it? Ask your dentist or periodontist—these dedicated professionals will look at every aspect of your dental health and aesthetics, and recommend the most effective treatments. Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.