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Gum Contouring

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Ideally, when you smile, you only show a minimal amount of gum tissue, which frames your teeth attractively. People with a gummy smile reveal more gum tissue than is aesthetically desirable. It is a fairly common problem, and gum contouring can successfully treat it.

When is a Smile Considered Gummy?

There are no definitive measurements for a gummy smile, as it largely depends on individual perception. As a guide, teeth should be framed by a couple of millimeters of gum tissue when smiling. If you show three or four millimeters, you may feel this is too much in proportion to the rest of your facial features.

What Causes a Gummy Smile?

Several factors can contribute to a gummy smile, including the following:

  • Differences in how teeth erupt
  • Jawbone Growth
  • Medications
  • Lip shape

Differences in How Teeth Erupt

Sometimes, when teeth erupt, they remain covered by too much gum. This can make it appear as if teeth are too short when they are the right length but merely hidden underneath the gum tissue.

Jawbone Growth

The upper jawbone or maxilla can grow longer than is desirable. This is called vertical maxillary excess.


Certain medications can cause the gums to overgrow. Drugs that can cause this side effect include those used to suppress the immune system, prevent seizures, or address high blood pressure. The problem is called gingival hyperplasia, which can make maintaining good oral hygiene trickier.

Lip Shape

Some people have a slightly shorter upper lip than average. Their upper lip could also be hypermobile, where the facial muscles move it further upward when smiling, exposing more of the gum line.

Treating a Gummy Smile

Various treatments are available for a gummy smile. When you visit our Hackensack dental practice, we can assess your mouth carefully, identify the reason for your gummy smile, and discuss suitable treatment. One of the most common treatments is gum contouring.

What is Gum Contouring?

This procedure is also called a gingivectomy and reshapes the gum around your teeth, creating a more pleasing contour and revealing more of the tooth underneath the gum. One way to perform a gingivectomy is with a dental laser.

Gum Contouring Using Laser Dentistry

Gum Contouring Using Laser DentistryThe traditional way to recontour gums is to use a scalpel to remove the excess gum tissue, and after stitching the incisions closed, leaving the gums to heal. It is a very effective process, but laser cosmetic dentistry is a more modern and more advanced approach.

Why Use a Dental Laser?

A dental laser is a precise way to remove gum tissue, making it more comfortable for patients. Below are some of the advantages of choosing laser dentistry for gum contouring.

  1. The laser beams cut away the excess gum tissue, but as it does so, the laser beam’s energy automatically seals any small blood vessels cut during the process.
  2. Laser dentistry is fast, with less downtime required afterward.
  3. Because the blood vessels are sealed instantly, a process called thermal coagulation, there is minimal bleeding, and the risk of infection is reduced.
  4. Treatment is minimally invasive, and having any local anesthetic may not even be necessary.
  5. Afterward, healing is faster and more comfortable, with fewer side effects like swelling.
  6. There is no need for the gums to be stitched after surgery.

What to Expect After Gum Contouring?

Recovery after gum contouring should be quick and non-eventful. Using advanced technologies like laser dentistry ensures healing is more comfortable. We can give detailed advice on caring for your gums the first few days after treatment and when to begin brushing them again gently. We may also advise avoiding certain foods, such as anything with seeds that could become stuck in the gums.

Follow Up Appointment and Reassessment

After your treatment, we will want to see you again for a follow-up appointment to ensure your gums have healed nicely and assess the results. When performing gum contouring, we believe that less is more and prefer a lighter touch, meaning we only remove a minimal amount of gum tissue to achieve the desired outcome.

Once your gums have healed completely, we can reassess and, if necessary, touch up the treatment to help perfect the results.

Using Gum Contouring for Crown Lengthening

Sometimes, we suggest gum reduction surgery in preparation for restorative dental treatments like crown or veneer placement. This may be appropriate when a tooth is badly damaged and may be broken off near the gum line, leaving too little tooth to restore properly.

Removing some gum tissue exposes more of the tooth so we can place a crown or veneer successfully. Treatment can also help provide a more aesthetic outcome.

Using Gum Contouring to Improve Oral Health

Overgrown gums or an excess of gum tissue can make it harder to clean your teeth thoroughly, increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth holes (cavities). Removing excess tissue and creating nicely shaped gums can make it easier to look after your dental health and maintain better oral hygiene.

When Gum Contouring Isn’t Appropriate

Usually, gum-cutting surgery will address most cases of a gummy smile, but certain conditions may mean other treatments are more appropriate. If an over-mobile upper lip causes your gummy smile, this might be the case. In this case, a small procedure might be needed to release the upper lip, or Botox injections can relax specific facial muscles that would usually move the upper lip so it does not move too far upward.

If the problem is due to the upper jaw growing too large, you may require treatment to reshape this bone.

Will Dental Insurance Cover Gum Contouring?

It all depends on if the reason is purely cosmetic or if there are oral health benefits. If the procedure will improve oral health or is needed for other restorative treatments like placing a dental crown, then your provider might meet some of the costs. Once we have assessed the reason for your gummy smile and whether treatment could help improve dental health, it might be worth contacting your insurance provider to discuss this with them directly.

Cosmetic gum surgery can create a more aesthetically pleasing smile using minimally invasive techniques like laser dentistry. Most people seek this treatment for aesthetic reasons, but it can provide additional benefits for oral health, increasing its value further.

Page Updated on May 17, 2024 by Dr. Victoria Kushensky, DDS (Dentist) of My New Jersey Dentist
Victoria Kushensky D.D.S

My name is Victoria Kushensky. I am a general dentist dedicated to remaining at the forefront of my field. Combining compassionate care with extensive knowledge, I offer cosmetic and general dentistry services as well as advanced root canal treatments.

I earned my Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the esteemed New York University College of Dentistry. Throughout my career, I have honed my skills in various dental procedures, ensuring effective treatment for each patient’s unique needs. I prioritize patient comfort and understanding, taking the time to thoroughly explain procedures and address any questions.

More about Dr. Kushensky

My NJ Dentist: Victoria Kushensky, DDS
385 Prospect Ave Suite 304
Hackensack, NJ 07601
(201) 298-8000