Fixing Gummy Smiles

Fixing Gummy Smiles
Posted on 02/12/2020
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Fixing Gummy SmilesSome people feel self-conscious about smiling because they believe their gums are too prominent. Though we each have our own definition of what makes a smile beautiful — including how much gum is too much — orthodontists define a smile as “gummy” when 4 millimeters (just over 1/8 of an inch) of gum tissue shows. If your smile looks gummy there can be different reasons for this. It is important to understand the various causes of gummy smiles so you and your orthodontist can work together to find the best procedures to adjust and enhance your smile.

Causes of Gummy Smiles

Gummy smiles can be a side effect produced by issues with your gums, teeth, lip, or jaw. Depending on what area of your mouth is causing the gummy smile, your treatment will differ.

  • Gums - If your teeth appear too short in relation to your gums, it could be that they are being covered up by too much gum tissue. This issue can be resolved with a periodontal plastic surgery technique called, “crownn lengthening,” which involves removing and reshaping the excess tissue to expose the full length of teeth.
  • Teeth - Teeth sometimes emerge in the mouth at different heights, some teeth growing in shorter than others. This may add to the gumminess of a smile. To remedy the issue, we recommend a treatment known as “capping or crowning,” which involves making shorter teeth appear longer by covering them with thin porcelain veneers. On the same note, you may have a grinding habit that is causing your teeth to get worn down and become shorter over time. This type of grinding may also cause compensatory eruption, in which teeth actually begin to move (or erupt) very slowly outward from the gum to compensate for the wear and maintain a functional bite. These issues can lead to gummy smiles. Many times orthodontic treatment with a skilled orthodontist will be necessary to move the affected teeth back into the correct position. Afterward, the worn-down teeth can usually be restored with porcelain crowns/veneers.
  • Lip - On average, your upper lip moves 6 to 8 millimeters from its normal resting position to achieve a full smile. If the lip is hypermobile, meaning it rises much farther up, more gum tissue will be revealed—thus producing a gummy smile. In order to alleviate this type of gummy smile, you’ll need to ensure the muscles that control the lip are modified so they don't raise it quite so high. Treatment for this issue can range from Botox shots that temporarily paralyze the muscles for about 6 months to surgery that permanently restricts how high the lip can move. The latter is referred to as a lip stabilization procedure.
  • Jaw - Sometimes the upper jaw (maxilla) is too long for the face, a condition referred to as Vertical Maxillary Excess. If you are experiencing this oral-facial condition, your jaw will need to be repositioned with jaw surgery/orthognathic surgery (“ortho” – straighten; “gnathos” – jaw). Orthognathic surgery can be a complex procedure, however, when performed by your trusted Atchison, Hiawatha, St. Joseph, and Gallatin orthodontist, it can yield amazing results!

Contact Your Local Orthodontist

If you would like more information on how to improve your gummy smile, please contact our Atchison, Hiawatha, St. Joseph, or Gallatin office to schedule your consultation with our skilled and experienced orthodontist! Thank you for your time; we look forward to hearing from you!