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Treating a "Gummy" Smile Starts with Finding out the Cause

TreatingaGummySmileStartswithFindingouttheCause

You’re a bit self-conscious about your smile. But not because of your teeth — it’s your upper gums, which seem too prominent when you smile. While “too much” is a matter of perception varying from individual to individual, it’s generally accepted that a smile is “gummy” if four or more millimeters (a bit more than an eighth of an inch) of the gums are visible.

The good news is there are ways to improve the appearance of your gums. Which method we use, though, will depend on the underlying reason why the gums are prominent. The amount of gum tissue, in fact, may not be the problem at all, but could be the size of the crowns (the visible parts of teeth), the upper lip’s range of motion, the upper jaw’s position in relation to the face, or a combination of any of these.

For example, if your teeth didn’t erupt and develop properly, the gums might not have moved back to their proper position and stabilized as they should in your late teens or early twenties. A normal crown (the visible part of a tooth) is about 10 millimeters long, with a ratio of width to length of about 75-85%. Below those measurements the teeth can appear smaller, making even normal gum tissue appear larger. In another scenario, the upper lip may rise too high when you smile (hypermobility), which reveals too much of the gums.

If tooth size is the problem, we may recommend a periodontal surgical procedure called crown lengthening that reveals more of the tooth. A hypermobile lip can be treated with Botox shots to temporarily restrict the movement (it must be repeated every six months) or by surgically repositioning the lip muscles that control movement. Similarly, surgically repositioning an overlong upper jaw to make it appear shorter may be the right course.

That’s why our first step is to determine why your gums are too prominent with a complete dental examination. Knowing exactly why they stand out will help us devise a treatment plan that will greatly enhance your smile.

If you would like more information on improving a gummy smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Gummy Smiles.”

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  • "Dr Dave Brust has been our family’s dentist for 20 years - the best dentist I’ve ever had (and I lived in LA for 10 years, which supposedly has a good selection of dental professionals). Terrific hygienists, friendly, caring clinic staff, beautiful, warm office. HDC puts the P in Professional!"
    Iris E.
  • "1st visit was excellent. They had my records from my out of state dentist and picked up where prior dentist was in the yearly 2x visit per year. Communication was very good."
    Ed V.
  • "I strongly recommend Dr. Brust. He and his assistant do everything to make sure I’m comfortable and I always trust their diagnosis."
    Lynne F.
  • "Fast service, returned easily for filling. On time, friendly and appropriate the care."
    Tom F.
  • "I have been going there 25 plus years and they have always had taken Great care of me and my teeth."
    Tom H.
  • "Amazing staff. Positive environment. Above and beyond perfect."
    Jerzie S.
  • "Professional and family oriented business. The hygienist was very kind and easy to talk to. She understood and listen to my needs and did a thoroughly cleaning of my teeth."
    Mimi D.
  • "Julie has been my hygienist for 40+ years I will miss her, she's been great. Dr. Buck and his father before him have always been so nice, professional and most importantly they make sure your comfortable. Dr. Buck always makes sure you don't feel anything if your getting any work done, which I appreciate. I guess I'm wimpy when it comes to pain in my mouth."
    Kate R.
  • "Where to begin? Dr. Brust has been my dentist for almost 30 years now! Him and his assistant make the best team. Absolutely enjoy my visits to Heritage Dental. I feel as if I were part of the team and not a costumer when I go in. My daughter’s absolutely love going to get their teeth polished as well!! Hygienist Ana and Bobbi do an excellent job taking care of my girls! I don’t think I could ever switch dental offices. Thank you for all you do at Heritage Dental!"
    Cindy S.