Gummy Smiles: Causes and Treatments


Every person has a unique smile. Some people have what is known as a ‘gummy smile’. A gummy smile is a name used to describe patients who show a large amount of gum tissue on their upper teeth when they smile. In some instances, this may appear to make their upper teeth appear unusually short. Although a gummy smile is often nothing to worry about, some people find that it causes them to be self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth and smile. Here’s what you need to know about why you might develop a gummy smile and what treatments are available. 


What Causes a Gummy Smile?


There are various factors that are believed to contribute to a gummy smile. These include, but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Your teeth may not have erupted fully and could remain partly covered by gum tissue.

  • You may have swollen, inflamed gums as a result of periodontal disease.

  • You may have an overgrowth of the upper jaw – a condition known as vertical maxillary excess, that causes the gums to bulge outwards.

  • Your upper lip may be ‘hyperactive’ and appear normal when resting but lift too high when you smile, which causes a lot of gum to be exposed.

  • Your gummy smile may be genetic, due to physical characteristics you have inherited such as teeth that are small in comparison to the gums, or an upper lip that is too short.


Your dentist may be able to give you an indication as to what they believe is causing your gummy smile, and this may affect which treatment you are recommended.


Treatment for a Gummy Smile


There are various different treatments that can correct a gummy smile, and your dentist will make a personalized recommendation for you based on your individual requirements. The most common treatments for gummy smiles include the following:


Gum contouring. Gum contouring is recommended for patients who have natural excess gum tissue. The process involves the removal of the excess gum and careful reshaping, and this can either be carried out using handheld tools or using cutting edge laser technology. The latter is something known as laser reshaping. 


Veneers or crowns. Veneers and crowns can be used to make the teeth appear longer and improve the tooth to gum ratio. This option is normally suggested to those patients with a genetic predisposition to short teeth, or teeth that have been eroded and are now shorter than they once were. 


Lip repositioning. If your lips are believed to be the main cause of your gummy smile, surgical repositioning may be the best option and they can be adjusted so that less of your gums show when you smile. 


Botox. A minimally-invasive option, Botox can be injected into the area around the upper lip to prevent the muscles from contracting and causing the lip to flip upwards too much, showing excess gum tissue. Instead, the muscle will be relaxed, and the lips will better cover the top part of your teeth. 


Orthodontics. If the underlying reason for your gummy smile is believed to be due to the position of the jaws and teeth, orthodontics may be the best solution. This is where the position of the teeth and jaw are adjusted, and one of the benefits is that it can make the gums less prominent. You may need orthodontic braces, or in some instances, it may be possible for you to use a clear aligner solution such as Invisalign.



For more advice on what to do if you have a gummy smile that you would like to change, please contact our experienced dental team in Dublin, CA.