What Causes a Gummy Smile and How It Can Be Fixed

A gummy smile, also known as excessive gingival display in the dental community, is when you smile, and too much gum tissue is visible above the top teeth. We see patients all the time here at Busk Family Dentistry who have concerns about their gummy smiles being less attractive and often feel self-conscious. If this sounds relatable to you, we have great news! A gummy smile can be corrected with the proper knowledge and expertise. 

There are a few different causes of gummy smiles, and each one will have a different treatment. Thankfully, Dr. Janie, Dr. Ryan, and Dr. Danielle have what it takes to help you get the smile of your dreams! Keep reading to find out what causes a gummy smile and how our team can fix it.

What is a gummy smile?

A gummy smile is one of those dental issues that doesn’t have one specific definition. Since it is primarily 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 attractive when exposed to two millimeters or less of gum tissue. Any more than that, subjects considered a smile “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 happen to be 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 they can’t be prevented. But with a bit of help from the team at Busk Family Dentistry, you can get a pleasant smile in no time. 

What Causes a Gummy Smile and How It Can Be Fixed

Treatment options for gummy smiles

As we mentioned before, the exact treatment for a gummy smile will be chosen once your dentist determines the underlying cause. Options include: 

  • If the underlying reason for excessive gingival display is mild or due to the jaws or teeth, it can sometimes be fixed with orthodontics alone. Your doctor will use braces or another orthodontic appliance to shift the bite into the correct position and make the gums appear less prominent. When we perform treatment for a gummy smile in our Cashmere or Busk office, we often use braces or Invisalign along with temporary anchorage devices (TADS), which are tiny titanium implants that are 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. 
  • 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. This is done under general anesthesia and requires a hospital stay. Your dentist will work closely with you 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 does have a lengthier recovery time and a higher cost, it will lead to dramatic results!
  • Crowns or veneers can be used to make the teeth appear longer and improve the tooth-to-gum ratio if your teeth are too short.
  • If too much gum tissue is present, we can perform a laser gingivectomy. 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 let the gums retract back 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 It Can Be Fixed

Find the perfect treatment for a gummy smile at Busk Family Dentistry

Receiving a correct diagnosis is the key to correcting a gummy smile. Dr. Janie, Dr. Ryan, and Dr. Danielle have the training and experience necessary to get to the root cause of your gummy smile and will only recommend the treatment that will be the best for your unique needs. As always, success begins with the proper planning and diagnosis to achieve the best final result! We always take a CBCT 3-D scan and digital photos and a digital intraoral scan of the gums and teeth to plan the best outcome.

If you’re concerned about a gummy smile, our team is here for you! Contact our Cashmere or Busk office to schedule an appointment today. We can’t wait to help you get the smile of your dreams!