The amount of gum tissue we possess, just like how much hair we have on our heads, is merely a matter of personal anatomy – some of us just have more of it than others. If you are unhappy with your smile though, and consider yourself to have “too much” gum tissue, there are a few ways to relieve you of a gummy smile. Let’s take a look at the three most common options:
Gingivectomy (Gum Lift, Gum Contouring)
The most common and speediest solution for revitalizing a gummy smile is a gingivectomy. A gingivectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of gum tissue from the crown of the tooth. It can be done with a scalpel, an electrosurgery unit, lasers or diamond dental burs. There’s some art to this procedure, since your dentist effectively “carves” away the excessive tissue, reshaping the landscape of your smile so it conforms to your desired result. The procedure is done under local anesthetic and takes only a few minutes to an hour to complete depending on the number of teeth to be done.
This one might sound a bit scary, but other than post surgical swelling and some initial tightness, it can be a good solution if your gumminess comes from how high your lip raises when smiling, instead of excessive gingiva.
In this procedure, a small horizontal section of tissue inside your upper lip is removed, then stitched back together in what is effectively a “lower” position. If you can imagine having a cut in your skin where some of the skin tissue in the middle of the cut is lost, and the remaining “ends” of the skin are stitched back together, that is essentially what happens in a lip positioning. Your lip isn’t actually lowered, it’s just that some of the movement of your top lip is restricted so it doesn’t raise too high and show too much gum. Surgery only lasts about 45 minutes, and the results are immediate.
With the word “lengthening” in the name of this procedure, you may think it requires some sort of painful stretching of the tooth’s crown to make it longer. Thankfully, that’s not what happens. Instead, in this surgery a dentist would make an incision in the gum tissue, creating a “flap” that can be folded downward, exposing the bone that encases your teeth. A portion of that bone would then be shaved down few millimeters and the gum flap sutured back into place. At this point, however, because the bone height is lower than it was previously, the gum tissue would rest at a lower height, leaving more of the crown visible when smiling. This would make it appear as though the crown were “longer” and thus the name – “crown lengthening” is given to this procedure. While crown lengthening is a means to correct a gummy smile, many dentists recommend orthodontic treatment, instead (which, over time actually does pull the crown down a few millimeters), because it doesn’t require surgery, or the permanent removal of bone tissue.
Modern dental surgery can really do wonders for our smiles in a multitude of ways. If you’re concerned about how much gum you are flashing each time you smile, or have stopped smiling all together, have a chat with your dentist. You might be surprised at just how quickly we can get you back to smiling widely again!