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Gummy smile Dr Sally Beech Reviewed by Dr Sally Beech, Dentist

If you think your gums look too prominent when you smile, this might be a so-called “gummy smile.” Find out causes and possible solutions.

Do you feel like your gums are too prominent or your teeth look too short when you smile? A “gummy smile” is normally an aesthetic issue, but it can sometimes be related to an underlying problem with your teeth or jaws.

If you want to make changes to your smile, talk to a dentist about your options.

What causes a gummy smile?

Your gums can appear more prominent when you smile if:

  • your upper lip rises much higher than your gum line when you smile
  • your gums extend over your teeth
  • your teeth are naturally shorter in size
  • your upper teeth or upper jaw don’t align properly.
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Do I need to fix a gummy smile?

Sometimes, prominent gums may be a symptom of an orthodontic problem that could affect your oral health. If your teeth or jaws don't fit together properly, this could make it hard to eat or to clean your teeth properly. It can also put your teeth at risk of injury, affect your gum health or increase your risk of sleep related breathing disorders. In those cases, a dental professional might recommend services like orthodontic treatment or gum surgery.*

But if a dental professional says there isn’t a health issue, then, no, you don’t need to change your smile. If you decide that you’d prefer to change its appearance, then there may be cosmetic options available, like gum contouring or crown lengthening.

Be cautious toward any person or advertisement that insists it’s necessary or urgent to “correct” your tooth-to-gum ratio for cosmetic reasons.

How can dentists change a gummy smile?

Whether you want to change your smile for cosmetic or functional reasons, usually a dentist will start by examining your mouth and recommending any suitable procedures. They should explain what these procedures involve and any potential risks so you can decide whether a treatment is right for you.

Depending on the treatment you choose, you might receive treatment from your dentist, or they may refer you to an orthodontist or specialist periodontist (gum surgeon)

Gum contouring

Gum contouring or reshaping is the surgical removal of excess gum tissue to show more of the teeth and sculpt a new gum line. Dental professionals might do this with a scalpel or laser.

Crown lengthening

If your teeth are short or have been worn down, your dentist may be able to cover them with dental crowns, creating a longer look. Crowns can be made from porcelain or other tooth-coloured materials for a natural look.

To have adequate retention for a crown in cases of worn or short teeth a procedure called crown lengthening is completed. This involves recontouring of the gum and bone around the tooth to expose more of the tooths surface to affix the crown.

Cosmetic injections

If your upper lip rises higher than normal (hyperactive), your dentist could reduce the lip muscle's function by injecting a substance normally used to treat wrinkles.

This might minimise the amount of visible gum tissue when you smile, but the effect will wear off over time. You'll need repeat treatments at regular intervals if you want to maintain results.

Orthodontics

If your gums are more visible because your teeth protrude or your jaws are misaligned, your dentist or orthodontist might be able to correct this with braces or aligners.

These treatments can take around 18 months or longer to gradually move your teeth and gums into their new positions.

Can a child outgrow a gummy smile?

Maybe. Children’s teeth and jaws are still developing, so their appearance doesn’t always stay the same. Kids should start seeing a dentist around their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. A dental professional can monitor their teeth’s development and talk to you about whether prominent gums may signal a problem.

If there is an issue, they may recommend seeing a specialist orthodontist for further consultation.

Questions? 

Explore more topics on dental appearance, or search for a dental professional near you.

 

*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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The purpose of this article is to promote better understanding of dental health topics. It’s not meant to replace professional advice or diagnosis. Always talk to a dentist, doctor or other qualified healthcare professional if you have a question about dental or medical conditions.

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