Gum Contouring: What Is It And Why Do You Need It?

Do you have a "gummy" smile? People with gummy smiles have perfectly healthy gums and teeth, but the gum tissue may cover more of the teeth than is preferred. This could be genetic or it could be caused by disease or certain medications. About 14 percent of women and 7 percent of men are considered to have gummy smiles, where the amount of gum that shows below the upper lip in a smile is more than 2-3 millimeters.

Fortunately, there's a way that your cosmetic dentist can sculpt away small portions of the gum line, called gum contouring. Recently, many cosmetic dentists have begun to use lasers to accomplish this quickly and with minimal damage to the remaining tissue.

What happens during the procedure?

The dentist will determine how much gum to remove, and discuss with you what the final results will look like. Then, he or she will administer a numbing agent to your mouth. Using a traditional scalpel or a laser tool, the dentist will carefully remove the gum area and may also do a bit of tooth removal or sculpting along the root to make everything look good.

The surgery is done inside the dentist's office and typically doesn't require any follow-up procedures. It can take several days to recover from the surgery, during which you'll take over-the-counter pain medications and eat soft foods until your mouth is healed.

How much does gum contouring cost?

The cost of gum contouring depends on the skill level of the dentist you go to and what area of the country you live in. There also may be a higher cost if your dentist needs to do any sculpting of the tooth. Estimate that you'll be spending anywhere from $50 per tooth for simple gum removal to $350 per tooth for more advanced work that also involves the tooth.

In most cases, gum contouring is a cosmetic procedure and your regular dental insurance will not cover any costs.

Are there cases where gum contouring wouldn't work?

While most gummy smiles are caused by too much gum tissue, there are some dental health reasons why smiles may not be ideal. These include:

  • Teeth not having erupted far enough.
  • Misaligned bite.
  • Jaw is misaligned or incorrectly formed.
  • Muscle damage or issues with the muscles that control lip movement.

These are considered medical issues rather than cosmetic ones. A cosmetic dentist like Daniel M. Bade, DDS can make a recommendation for treating any of these diagnoses or refer you to a specialist for a more detailed analysis.