Options for a Gummy Smile

If the patient isn't happy with their smile, we can help.

If the patient isn't happy with their smile, we can help.

One of the goals of a dentist is to help our patients love their smile, so they’ll smile often. If a person dislikes their smile, they may be uncomfortable enough to smile with their mouth closed. A ‘gummy smile’ is a condition in which the upper gums feature predominantly in a person’s smile.

Generally speaking, a diagnosis of gummy smile is made if a swath of gumline over three mm high presents itself when the patient smiles. It should be noted that a person can have a gummy smile which we find charming and makes us want to smile back. But, if they’re self-conscious about it, a gummy smile can and should be addressed and corrected.

The most common causes include having small teeth, a small lip margin, or an overabundance of gum tissue.  An attractive smile is a balance of tooth length, gum presentation, and facial shape. The treatment for a gummy smile is determined by which of these is the cause, the amount of money a patient wants to spend, the level of discomfort involved, and necessary recovery time.

One of the easiest ways to correct gummy smile is to make the lifter muscles in the face relax, resulting in less visible gums. One way the lifter muscles can be controlled is done by severing the muscles, or, more routinely, by injecting onabotulinumtoxinA into the muscle to make it relax, which makes the upper lip less elevated when the patient smiles. OnabotulinumtoxinA is also known as Botox. The procedure has to be repeated after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Another option is crown lengthening, or surgery on the gums themselves, or to the gums and bone to lengthen the shape of the teeth, a procedure known as a gingivoplasty. Gingivoplasty is a much more expensive option than Botox and may involve some discomfort, but it’s also a permanent solution. 

Yes, this is Jennifer Garner, before and after.

Yes, this is Jennifer Garner, before and after.

Having the upper lip repositioned is another solution to a gummy smile. The lip is cut and repositioned inside the mouth, but it only works if the patient has overactive lifters. Lip repositioning is also a permanent solution.

If the length of the face, itself, is a problem, the surgery required to repair it takes a little longer, and the jaw has to be repositioned; however, even this is a possibility for the determined dentist/patient team.

The best thing about gummy smile is that it’s correctable in one of several ways, regardless of the cause. By talking with their dentist, the patient will learn the cause and different options available to them, and which one might be the best under their circumstances.  With such a wide array of options, a person who suffers from a gummy smile shouldn’t have to suffer for very long.

If you need a gentle, caring dental team in the Phoenix or Glendale area, please call our office at (623) 362-2550. We’ll give you the very best dental care we can!

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