A smile is worth a thousand words but sharing yours might not necessarily come easily if you are less than happy with the appearance of your teeth. There can be lots of different reasons why we try to avoid smiling in public.
One of the most commonly cited reasons patients dislike their smile is due to a ‘gummy’ smile. This means that they have more gum tissue showing when they smile than is considered average. However, not only do they have an excess of soft tissue on display, but their teeth might also look unnaturally short and your upper lip may sit particularly high.
What causes a gummy smile?
There are a variety of different elements that can cause someone to have a gummy smile and while one patient may have excess gum tissue from birth, another might find that it is a problem that develops over time. Some of the most common contributing factors include:
Genetics. If your parents and/or grandparents have a gummy smile, chances are you do too. There is also a good chance that any children you have could develop the same issue.
Overgrowth of the upper jaw. This is a condition known as vertical maxillary excess and it can make the gums seem to bulge outwards. This can cause the upper lip to thin and expose more gum tissue than it would usually, hence giving you the appearance of a gummy smile.
Failed tooth eruption. Our adult teeth start to erupt around the age of 5 or 6, but this process can continue well into our teenage years. If your teeth fail to erupt through the gum properly, they may remain partly covered by the gums, increasing the amount of gum tissue on display when you smile.
Neurological changes. Some people suffer from neurological changes that can affect their lips and mouth. The muscle that controls the movement of your upper lip can spontaneously contract and this can cause it to rise up, showing more of the gums and teeth that it would naturally. Although you don’t actually have excess gum tissue, it could appear that way and your smile could look particularly gummy.
Treatment for a gummy smile
The good news is that there is no need to live with a smile that you are unhappy to share. There is a range of cosmetic treatments that can address various aspects of your teeth, including fixing the appearance of a gummy smile.
One of the most common treatments for a gummy smile is something that is known as crown lengthening. This is a procedure designed to reshape your bone and gum tissue so that more of your natural tooth is exposed and there is less fleshy gum on display. It is performed using a local anesthetic, and you may be able to be sedated if you are particularly nervous about the procedure.
Crown lengthening can be performed by hand, but many dentists are now also offering laser crown lengthening. This is when the same procedure is carried out, but instead of using sharp tools and instruments by hand, the incisions and contouring are fulfilled using laser technology. This offers patients several benefits including greater precision, reduced risk of human error and minimal bleeding after.
In some instances, we may suggest that the teeth need to be moved into a more suitable position to help rectify the problem of your gummy smile. If this is the case, you may be referred for orthodontic treatment. This involves wearing braces over your teeth which are adjusted over time to bring them and your jaw into a better position. Orthodontic treatment is beneficial for your dental health as well as the appearance of your smile.
Vertical maxillary impaction
This is a form of corrective jaw surgery whereby the entire upper jaw is repositioned upwards. Unsurprisingly, this procedure is much more invasive than crown lengthening and requires a longer recovery period. It involves removing a bone segment of uneven height at the front and back to allow for repositioning of the maxilla by moving it backward. This also helps to change the shape of the face so that it appears less long.
In addition to dental solutions, some patients opt for surgical lip repositioning or lip fillers to hide more of the gums.
If you are living with a gummy smile and would like to find out more about how you can embrace a more natural gum line and restored confidence in sharing your smile, our knowledgeable dental team would be happy to help. Please call PGA Dentistry today to schedule an appointment or learn more at 561-627-8666.