A gummy smile is one that shows a large amount of upper gum when the person smiles broadly. There are several ways to correct a gummy smile and a cosmetic dental surgery procedure known as gingivectomy is one of those. Surgery provides a permanent solution as long as it is performed well. For those who would prefer a less invasive procedure, having veneers put on their teeth will reduce the gummy look.
During a gingivectomy the surgeon uses a laser on the gum line to reveal more teeth crown. A local anaesthetic is needed which takes around an hour to complete. The disadvantages with this type of surgery include the pain involved and the risk of causing teeth to loosen over time. In addition, tooth root exposure can cause the teeth to become sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Having an anaesthetic always carries risks of its own.
Porcelain veneers are an alternative to surgery. They are very much like caps in that they fit over a tooth to give the appearance of perfect, straight white teeth. The dentist will lightly file down the sides of the teeth and fit very thin porcelain veneers over them. The veneers are about the thickness of contact lenses and can cover up a good portion of the upper gum line tissue, making teeth look very white at the same time.
A further option is a procedure called hypermobile lip surgery. The dentist will reattach lip tissue closer down to the gum tissue so that less gum line shows when a person smiles. A local anaesthetic is needed. This type of surgery may result in tighter lips or speech impediments, although these side effects are generally rare.
Alison Johnson, senior associate in Penningtons Manches LLP's cosmetic surgery team, said: “Gummy smiles, or smiles that show a disproportionate amount of gum when compared with the teeth, are a poorly understood cosmetic dental problem. Patients who suffer from a gummy smile, however, know all too well what it is and the embarrassment and anxiety that can be caused. It is understandable that they seek help to correct what they see as a cosmetic disability.
"When choosing a surgical procedure, it is important that people consider the expertise of the individual operating, the options available and the relative risks. Hopefully the result will then be a positive one.”