How to Solve a Gummy Smile

What Causes a Gummy Smile
01 Feb 2019

How to Solve a Gummy Smile

Ever wonder why the smile on a certain cosmetic model looks so attractive? Is it the perfect white teeth? Take a second look. Only the tips of the gums are seen when she smiles!

Gummy Smile Correction

Check out your smile in the mirror today and do you see your gums when you smile? If you do, that is what is termed as a “gummy smile”.

Is a gummy smile bad?

“Gummy smile” is the condition where excessive gums are seen when a person smiles. It is not an abnormality. One can parallel it to a person having a single eyelid.

It’s perfectly fine to have single eyelids, but some individuals believe that having double eyelids make them more confident. The same applies to gummy smile; it is normal, but some people prefer not to have a gummy smile. That is because if too much gum is exposed when you smile, it can distract from a beautiful set of teeth.

What contributes to a gummy smile and how can it be corrected?

1) Under-eruption of teeth

Gummy smile can be due to more local factors like the “under-eruption” of teeth, resulting in short tooth height and excessive gums showing.

Solution for gummy smile caused by under-eruption of teeth

In order to correct gummy smile due to the above, gum surgery may be needed. This is a minor surgical procedure usually done under local anaesthesia. It involves recontouring of the gums and may involve dental bone removal.

Many patients think excessive gum can be easily resolved by trimming “extra” gum away with electrocautery or laser. This is not always the case. A qualified gum surgeon (Periodontist) will assess the level of the bone under the gum to give you the best and most stable, long term result.

The Anatomy of Human Tooth

Our gum length and contour are affected by the height and shape of the bone under it, and in most cases, you would find that the bone is 2-3 mm below the top of the gum. That is why in gum disease, when you lose bone, the gum also shrinks.

Conversely, if an improper assessment is done and gum is simply trimmed away but the bone is close by, the gum simply regrows again to establish the 2-3mm width between bone and gum level. In cases like this, gum surgery would be needed to recontour both the bone and the gum to give you the smile you hope to achieve.

2) Teeth wear (Attrition)

There are also cases where the tooth height looks short due to:

  • Excessive tooth wear from teeth grinding (nocturnal bruxism) or
  • Erosion from excessive acid in the mouth due to gastric reflux or frequent consumption of acidic food and sports drinks.

The top and bottom teeth erode and form a small gap between them. Thus, the jaw bone and gum will migrate downwards to allow the top and bottom teeth to meet each other again. This causes the gum on top to appear longer.

Solution for gummy smile caused by teeth wear

  1. Gum surgery reshapes the gum
  2. Teeth reconstruction, such as veneers or crowns, restores the worn teeth and redesigns the smile

3) Excessive upper jaw growth

Gummy Smile Treatment

In other cases, it may be due to a jaw developmental issue where the upper jaw had excessive growth and resulted in the appearance of a gummy smile.

Solution for gummy smile caused by execssive upper jaw growth

Treatment in such cases requires Orthodontics (Braces) and more complex jaw surgeries (Orthognathic surgery).

In Summary

As one can see, there is no one-fits-all solution for a gummy smile. That is because a gummy smile can be caused by (1) under-erupted teeth, (2) teeth wear, or (3) excessive upper jaw growth.

A wrong solution might cause more problems or not give you the end result you wish. It is thus important to seek an appointment with our team of dentists to see which is the most appropriate treatment option if that excess gum is hindering you from having that nice sexy smile you wish for!

If you want to learn more about treatment options for your gummy smile, book an appointment with our friendly periodontist (gum specialist) today.

Need help with your gummy smile?

Book an appointment with Dr Tan Wah Ching to check or get treatment for your gummy smile.

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About Author


Dr Tan Wah Ching

Dr Tan is a Specialist Periodontist registered with the Singapore Dental Council; a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore; a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons; a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, a member of the Society of Periodontology (Singapore) and an ITI senior fellow. She currently serves as the ITI Southeast Asia Section Education Delegate.

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