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What to Do About That Gummy Smile

When you picture Ben Affleck, Miley Cyrus, and Gwen Stefani, they don’t appear to have much in common. However, all three celebrities have a ‘gummy smile’ (or had one before they had cosmetic procedures to fix them). In the dental world, this is called excessive gingival display. It occurs when an above average amount of the gum can be seen when smiling. The generally accepted magic number is 3mm. Anyone with more than 3mm of gum showing when they smile could be labeled as having an excessive gingival display.

The causes of this imperfection range from a hypermobile upper lip, small teeth or just extra gum tissue.

Sometimes the teeth are larger than they appear as they are partially hidden from view under the gums. This can be caused by genetics. It can also be a side effect of prescription medications such as anti-epileptic and blood pressure related drugs. Another surprising source can be orthodontic care, such as braces. During the period a patient wears braces, bacteria growth can occur causing excessive growth of the gum tissue.

In some patients, the top lip may rest too high above the gum line when smiling. Hyperactivity in the muscle that controls the upper lip can be the culprit. Botox is often an excellent treatment for this condition as it temporarily keeps the muscles from pushing the top lip up so high above the teeth. This requires reapplication to maintain the desired results but is an easy fix.

When the top lip is not part of the cause, the teeth often just need to be exposed by uncovering them beneath the gum line. In the past, dentists used scalpels to reshape the gums for a more aesthetically pleasing gum to tooth ratio. This procedure is called gum line contouring. Thanks to advances in the medical field some doctors are now using special soft-tissue lasers to perform the surgery.

Dr. Stefania Caracioni, DDS, originally from Romania and a graduate of the prestigious Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies uses this advanced technology in her practice in Topeka. She says,

“These soft-tissue diode lasers have greatly improved the patient experience. They are so much less invasive than the traditional way of gum contouring, and they have decreased recovery time and healing dramatically. They also allow well-trained specialists even more precision in the art of beautifying the smile of someone affected by excessive gingival display. It’s so gentle it often doesn’t even require stitches after the procedure is complete.”

Straight, uncrowded teeth aren’t the only thing people are looking for in that perfect smile. It usually is the most obvious and first to be fixed, but many overlook the concerns of patients with ‘gummy smiles.’ Fixing the gum line is often not even considered by a patient because people don’t realize that these solutions exist or the causes behind disproportionate gum lines. Caracioni says,

“I think many people assume if your teeth are straight and white you have must no concerns about your smile. But, many people are very self-conscious about the amount of gum that shows when they smile. There’s just not a lot of information out there that lets them know that it’s something very possible and usually easy to fix. After the procedure, many gum lift patients are amazed by the big, beautiful smile that is unveiled.”

With all the advances in modern density, it seems any imperfection or flaw causing self-conscious feelings can be fixed. Non-invasive procedures are growing in popularity, and with the endless possibilities of technical advances in the field of medicine, the future is bright for those seeking the perfect smile.