If your smile shows a greater proportion of gums than teeth, you’re not alone. A “gummy smile” is a very common cosmetic complaint. Technically, a gummy smile is defined as a smile with more than three to four millimeters of gum showing. If you’re self-conscious about the look of your smile, there’s a solution called gum contouring that may be right for you.
Also called gum reshaping, tissue sculpting or gingivectomy, gum contouring can even out your gum line for a smile you’ll be proud to put on display. Although this procedure primarily helps patients whose gums are uneven or cover too much of their teeth, similar procedures can also correct cases where gums have receded, exposing more tooth surface than normal.
Read on to learn more about gum contouring and how this procedure can put your smile back in balance.
What Causes a “Gummy” Smile?
A gummy smile can be caused by a number of reasons. For instance, some people have a naturally occurring high lip line, which causes their smile to show more teeth and gum. A gummy smile can also be caused by bacterial infections, side effects to medication, certain medical conditions or poor oral hygiene, causing the gums to abnormally swell and appear larger than usual.
Additionally, a condition called “altered passive eruption” can prevent adult teeth from fully protruding, leaving teeth looking unusually small and partially hidden by excess gum tissue.
Hereditary causes of a gummy smile usually don’t pose serious health problems, beyond being a cosmetic concern to some. Health issues do arise, however, when there is too little gum (or gum recession). Besides causing teeth to look elongated or discolored, receding gums expose the roots of your teeth to harmful bacteria and plaque. A higher risk for gum recession is sometimes caused by genetics, but more often it’s caused by overzealous toothbrushing or periodontal (gum) disease.
Your dental professionals at Excel Dental will examine your teeth and gums to determine the root cause of your concern. From there, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed to address your unique gum issue.
How Gum Contouring Works
Before your procedure to treat an excess gum line, you’ll receive a mild local anesthetic to gently numb your gums. While most patients experience little to no pain during this procedure, you may feel some sensitivity in your gums afterward, which can be remedied with over-the-counter pain relievers.
Once your gums are numbed, a soft tissue laser is used to carefully strip away the excess gum tissue. The laser is used to contour, graft, and then seal the tissue to create a more uniform gum line and prevent excessive bleeding. Careful approximation to bone height and health is very important to this procedure.
Treatment of gum recession is usually a more involved procedure, which requires grafting your own gum tissue from a nearby tooth or part of the palate in order to cover the recessed area. The surgical site from a gum graft typically takes about six weeks to heal. You can avoid most cases of gum recession by practicing good oral hygiene. Remember to clean your gums as well and often as you clean your teeth to prevent the need for this type of corrective gum surgery.
In some cases, your Ozark, MO dentist may also recommend a crown lengthening. In this procedure, part of the gum and some of the underlying bone are removed to change the actual anatomy of your teeth.
What to Expect Afterwards
Once your gummy smile has been reshaped, you can smile brighter knowing that your gums not only look better, but are healthier, too! Reshaped gums are healthier because the pocket depths of spaces between the gums and teeth are now shallower and easier to brush clean.
Recovery time usually takes a few weeks, unless your procedure involved a gum grafting, which can take up to six weeks to fully heal.
You also might experience minor swelling, pain, or teeth sensitivity; however, these symptoms will quickly dissipate as your new gum line heals. During the recovery period, you should work to avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, and using a straw. It’s also important to maintain your normal oral hygiene routines of brushing and flossing. However, use caution in not brushing or flossing too hard, as this type of abrasive action at the gum site can cause bleeding that may lead to infection.
Your Springfield, MO dentist will provide you with personalized instructions following your procedure. Make sure to follow those instructions carefully for a speedy recovery process. With a little patience and due-diligence, you’ll be debuting your new smile in no time!
Get Your Gums in Shape
If unsightly gums are preventing you from the smile you deserve, schedule an appointment today with the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.
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