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What Causes a Gummy Smile and How Can You Fix it? 

added on: September 21, 2020
Joseph Majka, DDS

When you smile, do you see more of your gums than your teeth? If so, you may have what’s often called a gummy smile. However, opinions about gummy smiles vary from person to person, and your dentist in Valparaiso believes that if you love your smile, there’s nothing you should change about its appearance. On the other hand, if you’re someone who is bothered by a gummy smile you may be searching for solutions or perhaps wonder what caused it in the first place. You’re in luck, we’re here to help. 

3 Things That Can Cause a Gummy Smile

There are any number of things that can cause a gummy smile. Some are ingrained into our genetics, and there’s not much we can do to prevent those from affecting our smiles, but others are a result of how we care for our teeth, and there are certainly some things we can do to keep that from happening. Let’s take a look at the three most common causes of a gummy smile.  

  • A Bad Bite

One of those pesky heredity things that can cause a gummy smile can be a bad bite. When your top jaw doesn’t align properly with your bottom jaw, you have what your dentist in Valparaiso calls a bad bite. A bad bite can cause a whole host of problems from jaw pain to crooked teeth as well as a gummy smile. Most often, a bad bite that causes the upper jaw to protrude out farther than it should result in a gummy look.

  • Hyperactive Upper Lip

Another cause of gummy smiles that we can thank genetics for is something called a hyperactive upper lip. A hyperactive lip occurs when the muscles in the upper lip and under the nose are, well, hyperactive. This repeated overuse of those muscles can cause the top lip to raise and expose gum tissue.  

  • Too Much Gum Tissue 

Perhaps the most common cause of a gummy smile is simply having too much gum tissue. During the eruption of permanent teeth, sometimes there’s an overgrowth of gum tissue that covers too much of the teeth. This will result in a gummy appearance. However, infection of the gums can make it appear as if there is too much gum tissue when in fact the infection caused inflammation and the swelling covers too much of the teeth. This cause of a gummy smile is preventable by practicing good brushing and flossing habits and seeing your dentist in Valparaiso twice a year for professional cleanings. 

Fixing a Gummy Smile

The best way to fix a gummy smile depends on what caused it in the first place. Treatment is highly dependent on the root cause but can include any of the following common procedures. 

  • Scaling & Root Planing

When a gummy smile is caused by inflamed and infected gums, often the best way to treat it is to start with a deep professional dental cleaning called scaling and root planing. This advanced cleaning reaches deep into the gum pockets around each tooth to remove bacteria and help the infection heal. Once the infection is gone, inflammation tends to subside as does the gummy appearance. 

  • Gum Lift or Crown Lengthening

If the cause of a gummy smile is simply too much gum tissue covering the teeth, a gum lift or a crown lengthening may be the best treatment option. A gum lift procedure essentially removes some of the gum tissue around the teeth and restructures the gum line to be higher, showing off more pearly whites. In cases where there’s an abundance of gum tissue your dentist may recommend crown lengthening treatment, which not only changes the structure of the gums but also involves changing the bone around the teeth as well.

  • Lip Lowering

The name of this treatment is somewhat misleading… as your dentist won’t actually lower your lip. Instead, a small section of the gum tissue under the upper lip is removed and the top and bottom are stitched together, creating a shorter looking lip. This shorter lip will make it impossible for the upper lip to rise as high as it used to, thus covering the gums and reducing the appearance of a gummy smile. 

  • Orthodontics

Orthodontics can also be used to treat a gummy smile, especially if it’s caused by a bad bite. Braces and even clear aligners such as Invisalign or ClearCorrect can help adjust a bite into its ideal position and reduce the amount of gum tissue that shows when smiling, laughing, or talking. Also, using orthodontics to fix a bad bite can alleviate other dental problems such as jaw pain.

If you’re bothered by your gummy smile and want to start exploring ways to reduce the appearance of your gum tissue, start by calling your dentist in Valparaiso to schedule a consultation. Together, you and your dental team will determine the best treatment option for you and your smile.