Have you heard of a gummy smile? Whether you were lucky enough to grow into a perfectly straight smile or utilized the myriad of innovative orthodontic treatment options available to achieve that award-winning grin if you have a gummy smile, you are likely very aware of it. Even the most perfect alignment can lose some aesthetic points when your gum-to-tooth ratio is unbalanced. So, what causes a gummy smile, and can it be fixed?
At Backus Orthodontics, we are proud to offer many different treatment options so you can get straighter teeth and a nicer-looking smile you can be proud to show off! Understanding the difference between treatment options is important to ensure your goal and your comfort during your treatment are aligned from the beginning. Let’s take a closer look at what causes a gummy smile and what our experienced team in Hoover, AL, can do to alleviate it.
What is a “Gummy” smile?
The technical term for a gummy smile is ‘excessive gingival display,’ which basically means more gums are showing above your upper teeth, either across a few teeth or the whole upper smile, than is common in most healthy adults. This imbalance is typically harmless, but it can make your upper teeth or lip appear too small, making some people feel self-conscious. For other patients, a gummy smile can indicate a deeper problem concerning their oral health. Dr. Backus and his caring team believe that if you love your gummy smile, there is no reason to change your appearance. However, if your gums cause you to smile less than you’d like or you are concerned you may have something else going on with your smile, schedule some “chair time” with Dr. Backus to get a plan together and get smiling again!
What Causes a Gummy Smile?
There are many causes for excessive gingival display, which makes calling it a “gummy smile” a bit deceptive. Your gums, teeth, lips, and jaw are all contributing factors to how much of your gums show when you smile. Studies also show that women are twice as likely to have a gummy smile than men. Most of the credit for your gum appearance can be given to your genetics for each of those elements but sometimes, how we take care of our teeth can lead to an improper bite, inflammation, and wear, which can all lead to your mouth compensating with excess gums.
For patients who seem to have a good balance between tooth size and gum amounts, your gummy smile is most likely caused by a hyperactive upper lip. This over-activity happens when the muscles in the upper lip and under the nose are stronger and more reactive than they should be. The repeated overuse can make the gummy smile more and more noticeable over time.
The most common cause of a gummy smile is simply too much gum tissue. When your teeth erupt from the jawline, the gums are stimulated to allow for growth and to create stability for the tooth. In some cases, the gum tissue can overgrow past the necessary point creating an unfavorable look that doesn’t affect the functionality of your teeth or jaws. With all of these possibilities for ending up with a gummy smile, what can be done to fix it?
Can a gummy smile be fixed?
In order to fix your gummy smile, Dr. Backus and his skilled team will need first to determine the underlying cause of your excessive gum or their exposure. The most common treatment options for a gummy smile are:
Scaling & Root Planing
For patients whose gum excess is caused by infected and inflamed gums, the best course of treatment is to start with a professional deep cleaning or scaling and root planing. This advanced process allows our ortho team to reach the deep pockets in the gums that are harboring bacteria to clear out the infection and help your gums heal. Once healed, the inflammation will also recede to reveal your appropriate tooth appearance.
Gum Lift or Crown Lengthening
If your excess gums are just that- excess gum tissue covering the teeth, a basic gum lift and contouring can give you the best results for your smile. During this procedure, some of the gum tissue is removed, and the remaining tissue is restructured for the desired gum shape at the new gum line. This procedure is commonly performed with crown lengthening when there is an abundance of gum tissue due to the tooth not erupting fully. With crown lengthening, the bone at the base of the tooth is also altered to make the tooth appear longer.
Lip-Lowering Surgery or Botox
Ever had your ears lowered? Just as deceptive as referring to a haircut as ear-lowering, lip-lowering doesn’t actually involve lowering your lip. Instead, in lip-lowering surgery, a small portion of gum tissue under the upper lip is removed, and the top and bottom of this spot are stitched together to make the lip appear shorter. This “shorter” lip will not rise as high as it used to and will cover the gums more.
In comparison, some patients have found that a precise amount of Botox placed in the right spots in the gums of the upper lip can create the same effect without a permanent removal of the tissue.
If your gummy smile is caused by a bad bite, such as an overbite that causes your top front teeth to protrude, resulting in excessive gums, orthodontic appliances like Invisalign clear aligners or even metal or clear braces can help. When your teeth are correctly aligned, the gums will appear more balanced during functioning, like smiling, laughing, and talking.
Let Backus Orthodontics fix your gummy smile so you can really smile!
We know you might feel self-conscious about other parts of your appearance, but a gummy smile is not something you have to get used to! Schedule your free, no-pressure consultation so Dr. Jeff Backus can go over your options so that together we can make the right decision for you and your mouth!
Dr. Backus and his expert team at Backus Orthodontics in Hoover, AL, have a decades-long reputation across northern Alabama for our friendly and fun practice that produces beautiful and healthy smiles. We can’t wait to add you to Hoover’s Best Smiles list!