A gummy smile (GS) occurs when your smile reveals more of your gum line than is common. If you’d like to correct this issue, the good news is that a variety of options are available. Gummy smile correction is often addressed as a part of a broader smile makeover, but it can also be done entirely on its own.
What Is a Gummy Smile?
A gummy smile, sometimes referred to as excessive gingival display, occurs when excess gum tissue is visible above the teeth while smiling.
There are four main types of gummy smiles:
Anterior. Too much visible gum tissue above the front teeth in the upper jaw.
Posterior. Too much visible gum tissue above the back teeth in the upper jaw.
Mixed. Too much visible gum tissue above the front and back teeth in the upper jaw.
Asymmetric. Too much visible gum tissue on one side of the mouth in the upper jaw.
As a general rule, at least 2 millimeters of excessive gum tissue must be visible in order for the condition to constitute excessive gingival display.
What Causes a Gummy Smile?
A gummy smile can have several causes:
Excess gum tissue. This is the most common cause, though it can take on numerous forms. When the permanent teeth erupt, an overgrowth of gum tissue can sometimes occur, resulting in a greater-than-average visibility of gums above the teeth. Overgrowth of the upper jaw is known as maxillary excess. Overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth is known as gingival hyperplasia; this condition can result from the use of certain medications.
Altered passive eruption. This condition occurs when the permanent teeth don’t fully protrude. So even though your smile may otherwise be normal, the gums may appear prominent as a result of having only partially visible teeth.
Genetics. In some cases, you may just have a high lip line or your teeth may naturally be small in comparison to your gums. In cases where the gums are unusually large or prominent, it’s referred to as gingival hypertrophy.
A hyperactive upper lip. Overactive upper lip muscles can cause the upper lip to rise higher than normal when you smile, revealing gum tissue above the teeth.
A misaligned bite. A misaligned bite may also result in a gummy smile, particularly if the bite causes your upper jaw to protrude.
In addition, a gummy smile might result from a bacterial infection or poor oral care, so it’s important to brush at least twice daily and visit your dentist regularly.
Can a Gummy Smile Present Health Concerns?
A gummy smile is usually more of an aesthetic concern than an oral health concern. However, in some cases the issue may be indicative of another underlying problem like a misaligned bite.
If you have a gummy smile combined with periodontal disease, the dentist may recommend a gum contouring procedure to access the underlying plaque and bacteria. This in itself may reduce or eliminate the appearance of a gummy smile.
Your dentist can assess the condition to determine if your prominent gum tissue places you at a greater risk for gum disease or other oral health problems.
But whether your concerns are health-related or strictly cosmetic, there are a number of non- and minimally invasive procedures available to reduce or correct the issue.
What Treatments Are Available for Gummy Smiles?
The following procedures are just some of the options that a dentist or oral surgeon might pursue for a gummy smile. The optimal treatment will depend on the cause and severity of your issue.
Gum contouring is often the best course of action for a gummy smile. Though the healing process can often take up to 6 months, the contouring process itself can usually be completed in a single appointment.
Gum contouring is a surgical procedure that reshapes or repositions the gum line. It usually involves the excision of excess gum tissue around the teeth so that the teeth themselves are more prominent and the gums are less visible. Crown lengthening (which addresses both excess gum tissue and bone) is one example of a type of gum contouring.
The surgeon will generally use a soft tissue laser or scalpel to eliminate the excess tissue and reshape the gumline. In some cases, the gumline may be held in place with sutures. This is a simple outpatient procedure that’s usually completed by a cosmetic dentist or periodontist. Discomfort is usually very minimal with gummy smile surgery.
If you have a gummy smile due to gingival hyperplasia, maxillary excess, or passive eruption, you might be an ideal candidate for this common procedure.
Alternatives to surgical options are also available in certain cases. If your gummy smile is the result of passive eruption or smaller-than-average teeth, you may be able to correct the issue with porcelain veneers.
A veneer is a thin shell that’s placed over the front of the tooth. While it’s commonly used to cover imperfections such as discoloration or misalignment, it can also be used to enlarge the appearance of small teeth, thereby making the gums appear less prominent.
A Beverly Hills porcelain veneers treatment can often be completed within two appointments: one for tooth preparation, and one for the final placement. With proper care, a quality set of porcelain veneers can last 15 to 20 years before replacement is required. Alternatives to porcelain veneers include composite resin veneers and Lumineers, though these types don’t last as long.
If your gummy smile results from a hyperactive upper lip, Botox may be able to help. While some cosmetic dentists like Dr. Glosman are using therapeutic Botox in Beverly Hills to help with TMJ syndrome and bruxism, the active ingredient (botulinum toxin type A) can also have the effect of relaxing the upper lip, thereby preventing it from rising too high.
For a gummy smile treatment, the dentist will inject two or more units of Botox into the area between the nose and upper lip. The treatment is quick and simple, and it can last about 3 months.
Braces or Invisalign
If an overbite or other tooth misalignment is causing your gummy smile, you may be a good candidate for braces or Invisalign. In many cases, realigning the teeth can reduce the prominence of the gumline and create a smoother, more natural-looking smile.
We generally recommend Invisalign aligners as the ideal orthodontic treatment because they’re removable, comfortable to wear, and made from a nearly invisible clear material. They can also straighten teeth in less time than traditional braces.
How Much Does Gummy Smile Correction Cost?
The cost of a gummy smile correction can vary depending on the treatment required as well as the amount of correction.
Sometimes the treatment calls for a set of veneers on the upper incisors and canines. A set of 6 porcelain veneers along the upper teeth can vary in cost from $6,000 to $15,000 based on industry averages.
If you need gum contouring, this can be a bit more cost-effective, often between $1,000 and $3,000. If you need Invisalign clear aligners, industry averages range from $3,000–$7,000.
In some cases, multiple procedures may be required to correct the issue. For instance, a dentist may recommend light gum contouring combined with veneers. In this case, the treatment may be more costly. Flexible payment options are usually available, and if any aspect of the treatment is deemed medically necessary (such as to treat gum disease), a portion of your procedure may be covered by insurance.
Is Gummy Smile Correction Right for You?
You may be an excellent candidate for a gummy smile correction if you’re self-conscious about having a gummy appearance when you smile. And if your line of work values beautiful smiles (such as the entertainment or sales fields), you may feel especially compelled to achieve the best smile you can.
If you feel you would be a good candidate, and your goal is to achieve a brighter and more confident smile, it’s important to know that options are available. The first step is to schedule a consultation with a qualified cosmetic dentist to determine the treatment option for you. Don’t put it off any longer.