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There can be a wide variety of reasons that you may not be happy with your smile, often related to the appearance of your teeth. This could be that they’re too small, chipped, crooked, yellow, or have gaps between them.

Another common concern occurs outside the teeth. If you feel like you show too much gum when you smile, chances are you may have a condition known as ‘gummy smile’. This can occur for several reasons, and can also be treated in several ways, both temporarily and permanently.

Find out more about this condition below, and your options for creating the smile you’ve always wanted!

What is a gummy smile?

A gummy smile (Excessive Gingival Display) occurs when a larger than proportionate amount of gum tissue shows above the upper teeth when smiling. The perception of a gummy smile can be determined visually but has also been described as occurring when there are more than 4 millimeters of gum tissue is exposed.

If you believe you have a gummy smile, it’s best to visit your dentist who can take x-rays and do a few tests to determine the cause of your gummy smile before deciding which type of treatment will be most suitable.

Orthodontic treatment

If a gummy smile has been caused by tooth issues as mentioned above where teeth have erupted too far, braces can be used to push the teeth back to their correct position into the gums. Once the teeth and gums have moved up to the optimal placement, cosmetic dental treatments such as veneers or crowns can then be added to restore the tooth structure so the bite still matches between the top and bottom teeth.

Gingivectomy/Gum lift

If the cause of the gummy smile is overgrown gums, a gingivectomy can be the best treatment option. This is a type of periodontal surgery also known as a ‘gum lift’. A gingivectomy can be completed in the dental chair as quickly as one appointment with your dentist or periodontist and can involve using a laser to reshape and remove the excess gum tissue. This will effectively shorten the height of the gums and can create more symmetry to the gum line while revealing more of the tooth to improve the appearance of your smile.

Professional teeth cleaning

Gums can also swell due to gum disease or particular medications. Swelling can be treated by professionally cleaning the teeth and root surfaces. You should also consult your doctor to find out if there are alternative medication options that don’t produce this side effect.

Jaw surgery

In certain cases where the jaw is severely too large (usually more than 7mm of gum exposed), a bone shortening procedure known as Orthognathic surgery may be performed by a specialist orthodontist and oral surgeon. This involves surgically moving the entire jaw upwards.

Lip surgery

A hyperactive or hypermobile lip can be successfully treated with permanent surgery by an oral or plastic surgeon to restrict the motion of the upper lip.

If the lip is too short, another surgical procedure can be performed to lengthen the lip. This is more complicated than restricting the lip with surgery, due to the movement of scar tissue and smiling which can counteract the lengthening.

Muscle relaxant injections for a gummy smile

Muscle relaxants (anti-wrinkle injections) are the simplest gummy smile treatment option when the issue is related to overactive muscles surrounding the lips. When injected into the right area, they temporarily paralyze the muscle which lifts the lip too high, with the results lasting approximately 6 months.

What are muscle relaxant injections?

Although several brands of muscle relaxant injections exist, they each contain the same active ingredient, Botulinum Toxin A. They contain sterile proteins that inhibit muscle contraction, reducing its strength. The more of the product used, the more it relaxes the muscle and reduces the contractions. Muscle relaxants are eliminated from the body over time, eventually regaining their normal function, so the treatment needs to be eventually repeated.

The bottom line

A gummy smile shows more of your gumline than you’d prefer. It’s also known as an excessive gingival display.

A gummy smile can be caused by:

  • the way your teeth grow in
  • the length of your upper lip
  • the way your lips move when you smile

If a gummy smile is affecting your self-esteem or you’re concerned about the health of your gums, you have several options for correcting it.

Some treatment options are more invasive and expensive than others. Talk to your doctor or dentist about which treatments are best for you.

Whether you decide to alter your gums or not, know this: The world is a brighter place when your smile lights it up, no matter what it looks like.