Gummy Smile

A gummy smile, clinically known as excessive gingival display, is quite common. It is simply that the gums are visible on smiling, rather than just the upper teeth. What one person perceives as a gummy smile another may regard as completely normal. Unofficially, there is a Gummy Smile when 3mm or more of gum is exposed when smiling.

Key contributors to a gummy smile include:

  • An overactive muscle in the upper lip that causes your lip to rise higher than usual when smiling, thereby exposing more gums than normal. This elevator muscle may also cause flaring of the nostrils.
  • A short upper lip that exposes not only the upper incisor teeth, but also the gums.
  • The gums grow lower on the teeth so that they appear short. We should remember the purely orthodontic issues, where the gummy smile is part of an obviously bigger problem.
  • Prominent upper incisor teeth, due to their size or positioning.
  • Over development of the bones of the upper jaw in relation to the lower jaw.

Treatment is directed at reducing the action of the elevator muscle. Botulinum toxin (Botox) is effective, short term.

There are however excellent surgical options. The elevator muscle of the lip can be detached, along with the element which flares the nostrils, if necessary, and at the same time, the lip physically reattached at a lower level closer to the teeth. We often do this in conjunction with a rhinoplasty, where shortening the nose naturally lengthens the upper lip.

The dental option of gingivectomy or cutting away the gum to reveal more tooth can be added in severe cases.

We should remember that we associate a long, flat lip with old age. We do need to show the teeth, but not the gums, on smiling. The curve of the lip on profile and the prominent white line above the full pink vermilion (red lip) must be maintained.

Related Treatments:


Of course, we use the very latest technology. But our real skill is in knowing how and when to use it to suit each individual patient.


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