What are Gummy Smiles?
A gummy smile is when too much of the gumline shows when a person is smiling. The medical term for a gummy smile is “excessive gingival display.” The ideal smile shows approximately 2 millimeters (mm) of the gumline. A smile is considered a “gummy” when more than 3 to 4 mm of the gum is seen when smiling.
Gummy smile before and after photos (such as the ones used throughout this article) demonstrate the dramatic difference after patients undergo gummy smile correction.
Gummy smiles are more common in women than in men. Experts estimate that about 14% of women and 7% of men have gummy smiles. The condition is most prevalent during the 20s and 30s and tends to decrease with age.
Some celebrities who had a gummy smile toward the beginning of their career before using cosmetic dentistry to fix the issue include Nicole Kidman, Gwen Stefani, Halsey, and Miley Cyrus.
Causes of Gummy Smiles
Gummy smiles can be caused by a variety of factors related to the position and proportion of the teeth, lips, jaws, and gums.
The most common causes of a gummy smile are:
- Genetics and anatomy. Gummy smiles often have genetic components, such as when a patient has a large jaw, small teeth, and a short upper lip. In rare cases, a condition called hereditary gingival fibromatosis (HGF) may result cause this result.
- Altered passive eruption. This occurs when the teeth erupt from the gums improperly during childhood—resulting in most of the teeth being covered by gum tissue.
- Hyperactive upper lip muscle. With this condition, the upper lip looks normal when the face is at rest. However, when smiling, the lip moves too high and reveals too much gum. An upper lip that is too short can also lead to a gummy smile.
- Gingival hyperplasia. This refers to when the gums grow too much around the teeth. This can be caused by certain medications, such as those that prevent seizures (Phenytoin), immunosuppressants (such as Cyclosporin A), or heart disease medications (such as Nifedipine, Verapamil, and Diltiazem). It is critical to treat this condition as it can lead to periodontal disease.
- Overgrowth of the upper jaw. Known as “vertical maxillary excess,” this condition results in bulging gums.
How to Fix a Gummy Smile
Gummy smile correction will depend on the severity of the condition and the underlying causes. In some cases, it must be corrected to prevent additional problems. In other cases, fixing a gummy smile is done purely for cosmetic reasons.
Dr. Mark Phillipe, DDS, will conduct a thorough clinical examination to determine the exact causes of a patient’s gummy smile. He will then discuss possible treatment options based on the patient’s specific needs and situation.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is a two-step deep cleaning dental procedure. In the first part (scaling), one of our registered dental hygienists will remove the tartar and plaque that has built up around the gumline. The second step is root planing, which involves smoothing out the roots to help the gums reattach to the teeth.
This procedure may require multiple office visits, depending on the amount of cleaning that needs to be completed. However, this is a good treatment option for deep cleaning the teeth, changing the gumline, and addressing gum disease.
Porcelain Veneers or Crowns
The use of veneers or crowns can help make teeth look longer and improve the tooth-to-gum ratio. Porcelain veneers (which can be matched to a patient’s natural tooth color) and crowns are non-invasive cosmetic methods of correcting a gummy smile and are appropriate to use when the underlying causes do not cause pain or discomfort.
At Lakefront Family Dentistry, we offer a variety of porcelain crowns and veneers, including CEREC crowns that can be designed, milled, and placed during a single office visit.
Laser Gum Contouring
Our private dental office uses the Solea laser to provide laser gum contouring. During this minimally invasive and pain-free procedure, our dentists can reshape the gum line—helping a patient’s smile appear more symmetrical and proportional. Unlike traditional lasers, the Solea does not create any significant post-operative discomfort.
Other benefits are faster healing time, increased comfort, and predictable results. This treatment option is appropriate when fixing a gummy smile is being done for cosmetic reasons.
Like laser gum contouring, a gingivectomy is a surgical procedure that removes gum tissue from the teeth to create a more natural-looking smile. Most of our patients opt for laser gum contouring over a traditional gingivectomy because of the preciseness, speed, and comfort of the Solea laser system. However, both forms of treatment are available in our dental office.
Gummy Smile Botox
One of the newer treatment options is using Botox for gummy smiles. This treatment is useful when the cause of the gummy smile is a hyperactive upper lip. The procedure involves injecting Botox into the upper lip muscles, which prevents excess movement of the upper lip when smiling.
Although using Botox for gummy smiles is a quick and easy process, the results are temporary—lasting anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Once the injection is given, patients normally see results in just 2 to 3 days.
If the gummy smile is caused by jaw or bite issues, orthodontic treatment (such as braces or Invisalign) can be used to treat the problem. Temporary anchorage devices (TADs) may also be used. TADs are small titanium dental implants that can help pull teeth into a position that will correct a gummy smile.
This is a more invasive procedure but can help if other orthodontic issues need to be addressed. Lakefront Family Dentistry offers Invisalign to our patients.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Mark Phillipe, DDS, by calling during business hours (951) 244-9495 or fill out the form on our website anytime.
Gummy Smile Surgery
A more invasive but permanent solution to fixing a hyperactive upper lip is lip repositioning surgery. This procedure sounds exactly like what it is: the lips are surgically moved downward to hide more of the gums. Performed under local anesthesia by a plastic surgeon, the procedure takes about an hour, and recovery is about a week.
In cases where excessive gingival display is caused by jaw issues, the solution may be orthognathic surgery (jaw correction surgery). This is a complicated, long, and expensive treatment that may take up for several years to complete.
This surgery is never done for cosmetic reasons and would only be recommended if there is a severe protrusion of the jaw.
To find out more about correcting a gummy smile, call Lakefront Family Dentistry at (951) 244-9495 or make an appointment on our website. Patients can rest easy knowing that our practice has more than 600, 5-star reviews and is the leading luxury dental practice in Lake Elsinore and the surrounding areas, including Canyon Lake, Corona, Menifee, Murrieta, Sun City, Temecula, Wildomar, and Riverside County, CA.