Cosmetic Gum SurgeryCrown Lengthening to Fix a Gummy Smile

Not everyone is blessed with a perfect smile.  If you have always been unsatisfied with the way your smile looks, and think that the ratio of gum and teeth that shows when you smile could use some improvement, crown lengthening is a procedure you should look into.

Are Your Gums Aging You?

It’s not just lines and wrinkles that make you look older, and you wouldn’t normally think gums can age you, but they totally can!  A gummy smile can occur with the aging process, so when there is excessive tissue on your top gums, it makes your teeth look short and worn down – typically seen in older people.  It can also make you lips appear thinner, another sign of aging. Removing as little as one to two millimeters of tissue so that more teeth show than gum, makes a big difference, making one’s smile look more youthful.

How Crown Lengthening Works

Crown lengthening is a minor surgical procedure:  Excessive gum tissue can be trimmed away in a relatively fast—15 minutes to an hour—procedure (a gingivectomy) to reshape your gum line with minimal pain.  Specifically targeted to improve their health and appearance are the front upper teeth.  It involves a periodontist (gum specialist) using a scalpel or laser to trim away a small amount of gum tissue at the gum line, exposing more of the crowns. In some cases, small areas of bone are also removed to achieve the desired results.  As suggested by the name, crown lengthening usually involves reducing the amount of gum and increasing the area of teeth that your smile exposes, but it can also be performed to improve symmetry.

While crown lengthening is primarily thought of as an aesthetic procedure designed to improve the way your smile looks, it can also have real health benefits. Exposing more of the roots of your teeth makes it easier to care for them, and it can help you prevent tooth decay by maintaining a thorough regimen of good dental hygiene.

Deciding If Crown Lengthening Is Right For You

Crown lengthening is a highly effective procedure when performed by an experienced surgeon, but it is not the universal solution to an issue with a smile that is too gummy. You have other options to consider, including lip lengthening surgery and Botox treatment (for comparatively minor cases). It’s also possible that you do not have sufficient root length in your teeth for crown lengthening to make a significant difference.

If the problem goes beyond excessive gum tissue to dental alignment problems, or with jaw size or position abnormalities, orthodontic treatments (braces) or orthognathic surgery may be required to correct the problem.  These abnormalities may affect not only your facial appearance but also your bite, speech, and/or chewing.  Braces correct dental abnormalities like crooked teeth and poor bites (malocclusion).  However, irregularities of jaw size or position can only be corrected surgically.

You should consult closely with your dentist or a cosmetic oral surgeon before you pick out any one procedure to resolve a gummy smile. A combination of techniques may actually be the right solution and that combination might or might not include crown lengthening. If you and your dental professional decide that crown lengthening is the way to go, you will be pleased to know that it is typically a very effective and uncomplicated procedure.

What To Expect If You Choose Crown Lengthening

Crown lengthening is performed under local anesthesia. The surgeon will first use small incisions to cut open the gum tissue above your teeth. Tissue will be removed and, if necessary, small portions of jawbone covering the crown. After the gum tissue has been removed, your surgeon will rinse the area with saline and then suture the incisions closed.

Recovering from crown lengthening typically takes one to two weeks. You can expect to be put on a prescription pain reliever and your dentist will advise you to apply ice if the affected tissue swells. You need to exercise care in how you brush your teeth until the stitches come out. Stitches are typically removed in about seven days after the surgery. Sticking to soft foods while you’re in recovery is generally a good idea.

Although a gummy smile is hardly a life-threatening problem, it can be a terribly persistent one. Fortunately, you have a range of viable options, including crown lengthening that can help you deal with the issue. Consult your dentist for further details on this procedure and guidance on deciding whether or not it’s right for you.

If you are interested in cosmetic gum surgery, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.