A gummy smile, or excessive gingival display, is when too much gum tissue shows when you smile. It can make you feel self-conscious, and you may even try to hide your smile. But what causes a gummy smile, and can it be treated? At Coleman Orthodontics, we offer a customized approach to care to find the cause of your gummy smile and create a treatment plan to correct the condition.
Once Dr. Coleman determines the underlying cause of your gummy smile, he will implement a treatment plan that gives you outstanding results. Here are the basics of excessive gingival display and how we can help fix it.
What is a gummy smile?
Studies have been conducted to find out what people consider a gummy smile, but there isn’t a set definition. This is something that you’ll know when you see it! However, the smiles that subjects rated as the most attractive had an average of two millimeters or less of gum tissue.
In most studies, subjects perceived it as a gummy smile when three to four millimeters of gum tissue were exposed and rated it less attractive. Gummy smiles affect women more than men, with doctors estimating that 14% of women and 7% of men have excess gum tissue when smiling.
You don’t have to break out a ruler or get technical, though – it’s more about how you feel about your smile. If you’re worried about having a gummy smile, Dr. Coleman can evaluate your teeth, gums, and lips and present you with options for correcting them.
What causes a gummy smile?
There are various causes of a gummy smile, and many of them are genetic. Here are a few reasons why people have gummy smiles:
- A short upper lip is a common cause of a gummy smile. If the lip doesn’t come down far enough, an excessive amount of gum tissue can show when you smile.
- Small or short teeth can be at the root of the issue. Teeth can be short because they didn’t erupt correctly and are still covered by a bit of gum tissue, or they can be small compared to the gums because of wear or genetics.
- Another common culprit is a hyperactive upper lip. In this instance, your lip is the correct length but the muscles contract too much when you smile, and your lip lifts too high, revealing a lot of gum.
- A gummy smile can be a skeletal issue too. When the upper jaw is too large or sticks out too far, the gums appear more prominent or bulging.
- Some people have a condition known as gingival hypertrophy, which is an overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth
Options to correct your gummy smile
Braces or Invisalign
If the positioning of your teeth and jaw makes your gums stick out and look more prominent, such as an overbite, braces or Invisalign can be helpful. Bringing your teeth and jaw into alignment can help reduce the number of gums showing when smiling.
Diode laser treatment for a gummy smile is precise, fast, and painless. It’s quickly replacing some of the more invasive options on this list. Your orthodontist will numb your gum tissue with a topical anesthetic and use a laser to remove the excess gum tissue around your teeth and then reshape what’s left, creating more balance and helping to fix a gummy smile.
A gingivectomy used to be a surgical procedure, but we can often do it with a laser these days. The only thing you’ll feel during the procedure is the movement of the laser tip, and there aren’t any needles involved. Gum tissue removal with the diode laser is safe and effective for patients of all ages. We usually do it after your braces or Invisalign treatment is complete to put the finishing touches on your new smile.
Veneers or Crowns
If your gummy smile is due to short teeth, cosmetic restorations like crowns and veneers can be used to make teeth look longer and give you a better tooth-to-gum ratio.
Lip Repositioning Surgery
Surgery can be performed for a gummy smile resulting from a short or overactive upper lip where the “elevator” muscles of the lip are severed so that it can’t lift as high when you smile.
However, this can be costly, and there is associated downtime and discomfort, so a less invasive option could be a better choice depending on the underlying cause. Surgery combined with orthodontic treatment can be helpful in severe cases caused by the upper lip.
Crown lengthening surgery involves gum tissue removal and recontouring of gums and, occasionally, bone to let more of the tooth’s surface show. This is often performed if the teeth aren’t fully erupted and are obscured by gum tissue.
Jaw surgery, or orthognathic surgery, is reserved for extreme cases when the jaw is overdeveloped or protrudes. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon recontours the upper jaw proportionate to the lower jaw. They then reposition it so it’s in its proper place. This is done in a hospital under general anesthesia.
Since you’ll also need orthodontic treatment with jaw surgery, we refer to it as surgical orthodontics. Dr. Coleman will coordinate with your oral surgeon to create a treatment plan for your unique smile.
You’ll wear braces or Invisalign before your surgery and then again afterward to lock in your bite. The entire process can take several years to complete and a lengthy recovery time. However, if your jaw issues are severe, it could be your best bet and give you permanent, dramatic results.
Correct your gummy smile with Coleman Orthodontics
A beautiful smile creates the ideal relationship between your gums, teeth, lips, and jaw. When something isn’t right, like you have excess gum tissue or short teeth, it can throw off the entire balance of your smile. When creating your customized treatment plan, Dr. Coleman considers each component so that everything falls into place and looks proportionate when your treatment is complete – including your gums.