How Orthodontic Treatment Can Fix a Gummy Smile

Excessive gingival display, which is doctor speak for a gummy smile, is when too much gum tissue shows when you smile. It can make you feel self-conscious and patients sometimes hide their smiles because of it. The good news is, gummy smile correction is possible! At Sturgill Orthodontics, we offer a customized approach to care and once Dr. Sturgill determines the underlying cause of your gummy smile, he can create a treatment plan that will bring about outstanding results. Here are the basics of excessive gingival display and some of the ways we’re able to fix it.

What is a Gummy Smile?

A gummy smile is one of those things you know when you see, which is why it might come as a surprise that there isn’t a set definition for it and it is really subjective. There are studies that have been conducted to find out what people consider to be a gummy smile. Typically, the smiles that subjects rated as the most attractive had two millimeters or less of gum tissue showing. While the exact number varies by study, in the vast majority of research, when three to four millimeters of gum tissue was exposed, subjects perceived it as a gummy smile and rated it less attractive. Gummy smiles seem to affect women more than men with doctors estimating 14 percent of women and 7 percent of men having excess gum tissue when smiling. You don’t have to break out a ruler and it’s really more about how you feel about your own smile. If you’re worried about having a gummy smile, your orthodontist can evaluate your teeth, gums and lips and present you with options for correcting it.

What Causes a Gummy Smile?

There are a number of causes of a gummy smile and many of them are genetic. Here are a few reasons why people have a gummy smile:

  • 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 as well. Teeth can be short because they didn’t erupt correctly and are still covered by a bit of gum tissue or they can just be small in comparison 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 it sticks out too far, it can make the gums appear more prominent or even bulging.
  • Some people have a condition known has gingival hypertrophy, which is an overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth.

Options for Gummy Smile Correction

  • Braces or Invisalign – If the positioning of the teeth and jaw are making your gums stick out and look more prominent, such as in the case of an overbite, braces or Invisalign can be helpful. By bringing your teeth and jaw into alignment, we can help reduce the amount of gums showing when smiling.
  • Laser Treatment – Diode laser treatment for a gummy smile is precise, fast and completely painless. It’s quickly replacing some of the more invasive options you’ll see on this list. Dr. Sturgill numbs your gum tissue with a topical anesthetic and uses the 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. The only thing you’ll feel during the procedure is the movement of the laser tip and there aren’t even 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. A gingivectomy used to be a surgical procedure but these days, we can often do it with the laser.
  • Botox – Gummy smile Botox treatment involves injecting the muscles of the upper lip with onabotulinumtoxinA. The botulinum toxin temporarily paralyzes the muscle so that it can’t contract and lift up as far when you smile. Less gum shows and it has proven to be effective when the upper lip is the cause of a gummy smile. However, the results only last for about three to four months.
  • Veneers or Crowns – If your gummy smile is due to really 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 – For a gummy smile that is the result of a short or overactive upper lip, surgery can be performed where the “elevator” muscles of the lip are severed so that it can’t lift as high when you smile. However, this can be pretty costly and there is downtime and discomfort associated with it, which is why a less invasive option could be a better choice depending on the underlying cause. However, in severe cases that are due to the upper lip, the surgery combined with orthodontic treatment can be helpful.
  • Crown Lengthening – 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 – Jaw surgery, technically called orthognathic surgery, is only reserved for extreme cases when the jaw is overdeveloped or there’s severe jaw protrusion. An oral and maxillofacial surgeon recontours the upper jaw so that it’s 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 in conjunction with the jaw surgery, we refer to it as surgical orthodontics. Dr. Sturgill coordinates with your oral surgeon. You’ll wear braces or Invisalign before your surgery and then again afterwards to lock in your bite. The entire process can take several years to complete and has a lengthy recovery time. However, if your jaw discrepancies are severe it could be your best bet and give you permanent, dramatic results.

As you can see, having a beautiful smile involves creating 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 a treatment plan, Dr. Sturgill always keep each component in mind so that when he moves your teeth, everything falls into place and looks proportionate, including your gums. To find out if you’re a candidate for gummy smile correction in Johnson City, TN, book a free consultation at Sturgill Orthodontics today!