Did you know that your gums can affect the aesthetics of your smile just as much as your teeth do? While many people tend to focus solely on making changes to their teeth in order to improve the appearance of their smile, sometimes simply altering your gums is enough to make a dramatic change.
This is especially true in cases where a gummy smile is present. Gummy smile is a term used to describe an overgrowth of the gingival tissue, usually seen in the upper arch. More formally, gummy smiles are also known as gingival hyperplasia, gingival overgrowth, gum enlargement, hypertrophy, or hypertrophic gingivitis. The overgrowth of gum tissue associated with gummy smiles ultimately makes the teeth look smaller than usual because they are covered in excess gum tissue.
Most cases of gummy smiles can be attributed to a hyperactive upper lip muscle, the way the jaw developed, or the abnormal eruption of teeth. However, some cases of gummy smiles can be the result of poor oral care, bacterial infections, or a side effect of certain medications. In rare cases, gummy smiles can also be caused by hereditary gingival fibromatosis (HGF), which is a medical condition that causes the gums to produce excess collagen and overgrow.
When it comes to correcting a gummy smile, there are a few different things you can do. For starters, you will want to visit your dentist and discuss your current medications and medical history to determine if either of those factors are responsible for your gummy smile. They may also recommend dental cleanings and better dental hygiene practices, especially if it appears your gummy smile is due to poor oral hygiene.
If, however, your gummy smile has a structural cause, your dentist may recommend one of the following procedures:
Also, known as gum contouring surgery, a gingivectomy uses a dental laser or scalpel to remove excess gum tissue. The remaining tissue will then be reshaped to improve the contour of your gums. Gingivectomies are performed in-office with local anesthetics to keep you comfortable.
During a labial frenectomy, the connective tissue underneath your upper lip is cut to prevent your upper lip from being lifted too high. Labial frenectomies are generally recommended in cases where a gummy smile is being caused by too much connective tissue pulling on the upper lip. They are also performed in-office with local anesthetics to keep you comfortable.
In some cases, Botox can be injected into the upper lip to paralyze and relax the elevator muscles responsible for the appearance of a gummy smile. Botox works well in cases where the look of a gummy smile is exaggerated due to an upper lip that is pulled too far up. However, Botox is not permanent like other treatments and will need to be repeated about every 3-4 months in order to maintain results.
Veneers or Dental Crowns
Veneers are thin, porcelain shells that are adhered to the front side of visible teeth and dental crowns are tooth-shaped caps that fit over the tooth. Both types of restorations can be used to slightly change the size and shape of your teeth to make your teeth appear larger and more balanced with your gum line.
Ultimately, your cosmetic dentist will need to perform an oral examination of your teeth and gums to help you determine which treatment would work best for your individual case. While the cause of your gummy smile affects the type of treatment used, there are other factors such as personal preference, cost, and the severity of a gummy smile that can also affect your decision. Therefore it is best to schedule a consultation with an experienced dentist who can point you in the right direction.