Gum Contouring

If your gums rest too low or too high on your teeth and you are unhappy with your smile, you may be a candidate for gum contouring surgery. Also called gum reshaping or tissue sculpting, this cosmetic dental procedure can even out an uneven gum line and give you a smile you can be proud of.

What Causes Uneven Gums?

A number of things can cause your gums to be too low or too high. Gums that cover a large portion of your teeth can make your teeth look small. This may be the result of genetics, a particular health problem, or taking certain prescription drugs.

Gums that are too high and make your teeth appear long are often caused by gum recession, a condition in which gum tissue pulls back from a tooth and exposes the tooth's root. Not only can gum recession make your teeth look long, it can lead to serious dental problems such as decay and tooth loss. Gum recession may also be a sign of periodontal disease, the deterioration of the supporting structures of the teeth (gums and bone) .

Gum Contouring Surgery: Is It Necessary?

Gum contouring alone is considered a cosmetic procedure. Most of the time it is not medically necessary. Most people have their gums reshaped to improve the appearance of their smile. However, some people undergo gum contouring surgery as part of other necessary periodontal procedures, such as crown lengthening, pocket reduction, and regenerative procedures.

Gum contouring procedures not considered cosmetic include adding gum tissue when recession has occurred and trimming overgrown tissue that has covered part of the tooth crown.

What Type of Doctors Perform Gum Contouring?

Many general dentists and periodontists (gum specialists) can perform the gum contouring procedure. Before having the procedure done, ask your dentist about his or her knowledge and experience with the process.

Gum Contouring: How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of gum contouring depends on the extent of the work being done. Talk to your dentist about the cost based on your individual needs. Dental insurance does not typically cover gum contouring for cosmetic purposes.

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Gum Contouring: What to Expect

Gum contouring surgery is performed in the dentist's office. Currently, dentists use scalpels, lasers, and radiosurgery to perform the gum contouring procedure. Ask your dentist which technique would be the most suitable for your situation.

Before surgery, your doctor should go over what he or she will be doing during the procedure. Often, dentists will use a pen and draw a line to mark the new gum line. That way, you can see exactly how much gum will be removed or how the gum line will be reshaped.

A local anesthetic may be applied to numb the area. Sometimes, bone at the front of the tooth's root must also be removed during gum contouring to get the best long-term results.

Gum Contouring: Recovery

The day of surgery, you should rest and limit your activities. It may take a few days or weeks for your gums to heal completely. Your dentist will give you specific directions about what you need to do to aid the recovery process. Here are some general tips to get you through the recovery period:

  • Ease pain by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Tylenol or Advil, as directed by your dentist. Do not take aspirin, which can cause bleeding.
  • Eat soft, cool foods, such as eggs, pasta, yogurt, cottage cheese, soft vegetables, and ice cream, for the first few days after surgery. Avoid spicy foods and anything with seeds until your gums have healed completely.
  • Follow your dentist's directions on when and how to brush your teeth during the healing process.

If you notice excessive swelling or bleeding, or if you have any concerns following the procedure, call your dentist.

Gum Contouring: The Risks

No surgery is without risks. The risks associated with gum contouring include:

If you are unhappy with the way your teeth and gums look, talk to your dentist to see if gum contouring surgery is right for you. But remember, as with any cosmetic procedure, the end result depends on the skill of the doctor. Do not go to just anyone. Do your homework and make sure you are comfortable with the dentist's abilities. Ask the dentist what additional training he or she has had in cosmetic dentistry. Also, ask to see photos of the work he or she has done, and make sure you like what you see.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on July 31, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Cosmetic Dentistry Guide: "Gum contouring -- for the 'gummy smile.'"

American Academy of Periodontology: "Periodontal Surgery," "Periodontal Plastic Procedures."

American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry: "Dental Procedures -- Gum Lifts."

Hugh Flax, DDS, 2010-2011 president, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.

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