Gum contouring can be as simple as removing some of the gum tissue to eliminate a “gummy” smile or more complicated, involving removal of both bone and gum tissue. If just a small amount of tissue needs to be removed, a diode laser can be used to remove tissue with anesthesia. This can usually be accomplished is 15 to 30 minutes.
If a larger amount of tissue needs to be removed, then gum and bone surgery is required in a procedure called crown lengthening. This involves 1 to 2 hours, with a required healing period of 4 to 6 weeks.
A “gummy smile,” or excess gingival display, is a condition where too much pink tissue can be seen when a person speaks or smiles. Approximately 7% of men and 14% of women have excess gingival display in full smile. A gummy smile is usually associated with an enlarged upper jaw, a short upper lip, short upper front teeth, or a forward position of the front teeth. This condition may also result from disproportionate lip length or tooth height.
A gummy smile can be corrected by orthodontic treatment, periodontal surgery, jaw surgery, or a combination of these procedures. In general, active treatment time with orthodontic appliances ranges from 1 to 3 years. The actual time depends on the growth of the patient’s mouth and face, the cooperation of the patient, and the severity of the problem. Custom-made appliances are designed by the orthodontist according to the problem being treated. They may be removable or fixed (cemented and/or bonded to the teeth), and made of metal, ceramic or plastic. By placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces can slowly move teeth through their supporting bone to a new desirable position.