What Causes a Gummy Smile and How Can I Fix It?

Much like it sounds, a gummy smile, or (as we like to call it around the office) excessive gingival display, is a condition in which the smile reveals an excess of gum tissue above the teeth. Gummy smiles are a common concern among our patients here at the Germantown Dental Group, and, we’re happy to report, we can help! We understand that a gummy smile can feel like a blow to your self-perception and outlook. Luckily, the treatments for a gummy smile are safe and effective. 

 Dr. John and Dr. Todd are dental professionals with decades of experience treating a whole host of different dental conditions. Among those, gummy smiles are commonly treated with a variety of different methods, all of which are available here at the Germantown Dental Group. Read on to learn more! 

What is a gummy smile?

A gummy smile is one of those dental issues that doesn’t have one specific definition. Since it is mostly based on perception, you’ll likely know a gummy smile when you see it. Studies have even been conducted to determine what people consider excessive gingival display. In most cases, subjects rated smiles as more attractive when they exposed two millimeters or less of gum tissue. Any more than that and a smile was labeled “too gummy.” 

What causes a gummy smile?

There are quite a few causes of a gummy smile, so let’s take a closer look at the most common ones:

  • Teeth that appear short due to premature eruption and remain partially covered by gum tissue
  • Teeth that are small in comparison to the gums due to genetics or wear and tear
  • A short upper lip
  • A hyperactive upper lip that is normal in length when the face is resting but raises too high when smiling
  • Gums that are long or enlarged, known as gingival hypertrophy
  • An overgrowth of the upper jaw, called vertical maxillary excess, makes gums bulge out

Did you notice what all of these causes have in common? They’re all related to the teeth, lips, jaws, or gums, which are the critical components of your smile! An aesthetically pleasing smile is all about proportion, so if one aspect is out of whack, it will throw off the balance of your entire smile. Unfortunately, many factors contributing to gummy smiles are genetic, so we can’t prevent them. But with a bit of help from the team at Germantown Dental Group, you can get a pleasant smile you can’t wait to show off. 

Treatment options for gummy smiles

As we mentioned, we will choose the exact treatment for a gummy smile once your orthodontist determines the underlying cause. Options include: 

Orthodontic treatment

If the underlying reason for excessive gingival display is mild or due to the jaws or teeth, we may fix it with orthodontics alone. Your orthodontist will use braces or another orthodontic appliance to shift the bite into the correct position and make the gums appear less prominent. 

When we treat a gummy smile in our Mechanicsburg office, we often use braces or Invisalign along with temporary anchorage devices (TADS), which are tiny titanium implants anchored into the bone above the teeth to provide a stable point from which to apply force. This might sound scary, but don’t worry! The procedure is straightforward, and the device is only temporary. 

Jaw surgery

Suppose the cause of your gummy smile is moderate to severe jaw protrusion. In that case, the best course of action is typically orthognathic surgery, also known as jaw surgery, combined with orthodontic treatment. An oral surgeon will recontour the upper jaw to be the correct size and then move it upward into its ideal position before securing it with plates and screws. 

Oral surgery is done under general anesthesia and requires a hospital stay. Your orthodontist will work closely with you, your dentist and your oral surgeon to provide a comprehensive approach, typically starting with a round of braces for about a year. 

After the first round of braces, surgery will take place, followed by another year of treatment to solidify your bite. While jaw surgery has a longer recovery time and a higher cost, it will give you dramatic results!

What Causes a Gummy Smile and How Can I Fix It?

Dental Solutions

Crowns or veneers can make the teeth appear longer and improve the tooth-to-gum ratio if your teeth are too short. A laser gingivectomy is an excellent option if too much gum tissue is present. This procedure involves removing the extra gum tissue and reshaping it to expose more of the teeth and improve the appearance of your smile.

Laser crown-lengthening surgery is an option if the teeth aren’t fully erupted. This involves removing gum tissue and bone to expose more tooth surfaces and letting the gums return to their correct position.

Lip repositioning surgery followed by orthodontic treatment can be a viable alternative to jaw surgery if the excessive gingival display results from a short or hyperactive upper lip.

Laser gum contouring is a procedure that can remove extra gum tissue without the need to go under the knife for those with gums that extend too far down, covering their teeth.

What Causes a Gummy Smile and How Can I Fix It?

Schedule Your Smile! 

At Germantown Dental Group, we know your smile is important to you, and we know that you want the best care possible. That’s why we’re happy to say that Dr. Todd and Dr. John have both been recognized in the prestigious Memphis Magazine as two of the top dentists in the city! 

There’s no reason to struggle with anxiety surrounding a gummy smile. Call today for a free consultation, and see why we value service, community, and care above all else. We can’t wait to hear from you!