Have you ever smiled wide in a picture but felt self-conscious about displaying gum? Often called a ‘gummy grin.’ Many gums are visible when you smile. It is not a medical issue or health concern. It may make some of us uncomfortable, particularly when saying, ‘Cheese!’

First impressions count, and a pleasant, confident grin may make all the difference. Gummy smiles may lower self-esteem, so it’s no surprise. We may grin somewhat or conceal our lips while laughing.

If you’re self-conscious about your gummy smile, know you’re in good company. At Canterbury Family Dental, we’re dedicated to identifying the cause of your gummy smile and offering effective solutions to achieve your dream smile. The great news? There are realistic methods to enhance your confidence in your smile. Keep an eye out as we delve deeper into this topic.

What Causes Gummy Smiles

There’s a range of reasons why some of us show more gum than teeth when we smile. One of the main culprits could be the way your upper jaw developed. If it protrudes more than usual, it could raise your lip and reveal more of your gums. This condition is technically known as ‘vertical maxillary excess,’ but let’s just call it an overgrown upper jaw to keep things simple.

Then there’s the issue of hyperactive lip muscles. Yes, you heard that right. If the muscles controlling your upper lip are more active than usual, they may lift higher when you smile, exposing more of your gums.

Another factor could be the size and shape of your teeth. If they’re smaller or shorter than average, or if they’ve been worn down over time due to habits like grinding, they might appear overshadowed by your gums.

The Role of Genetics, Gum Health, and Teeth Length

Traits like the size and shape of our teeth, the development of our jaw, and even the behaviour of our lip muscles can all be influenced by our genes. So, if gummy smiles run in your family, there’s a good chance genetics played a hand in dealing with this particular card.

Don’t overlook the role of gum health either. Conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis can cause your gums to swell and appear larger. So, maintaining good oral hygiene isn’t just about keeping your teeth healthy. It’s also crucial for managing the appearance of your gums.

As for teeth length, it’s a bit of a Goldilocks situation. If your teeth are too short due to wear and tear or a condition called ‘tooth microdontia,’ your gums could steal the show when you smile. On the flip side, longer teeth can balance out the gum-to-tooth ratio and make your smile appear less gummy.

Canterbury Family Dental - Offering Quality Dental Care
Canterbury Family Dental – Offering Quality Dental Care

Effective Solutions for Gummy Smiles

Now that we understand what causes gummy smiles, let’s explore solutions. The good news is that there are several options, depending on the severity and underlying cause of your gummy smile.

Gum Contouring or Gingivectomy

One of the most common solutions for a gummy smile is gum contouring or gingivectomy. Sounds fancy, right? But really, it’s all about sculpting your gums to achieve a more balanced ratio between your gums and teeth.

During this procedure, your dentist will use a laser or scalpel to trim the excess gum tissue. The goal is to reveal more of your tooth surface, making your teeth appear longer and reducing the prominence of your gums when you smile. It’s usually a quick procedure, often done under local anesthesia.

Crown Lengthening

In a crown lengthening procedure, your dentist removes excess gum tissue and sometimes some of the bone around your teeth. It exposes more of your tooth surface, making your teeth appear longer and your smile less gummy.

Crown lengthening can be performed on a single tooth to even out your gum line or on several teeth to expose a naturally wider smile. While it sounds more intense than gum contouring, it’s typically an outpatient procedure that can often be completed in one visit.

Orthognathic Surgery

Sometimes, if the cause of a gummy smile is skeletal, such as an overgrown upper jaw, orthognathic surgery might be recommended. It is a more comprehensive approach that involves surgically repositioning the jaw.

Orthognathic surgery can sound a bit daunting, and indeed, it’s a more involved procedure than gum contouring or crown lengthening. But when performed by a skilled oral surgeon, it can deliver dramatic results, effectively reducing the appearance of a gummy smile while improving facial proportions and bite function.

Choosing the Right Solution for You

When it comes to choosing the best treatment for your gummy smile, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. What works wonders for one person might not be the best choice for another. To help you navigate this process, here are some key factors you should consider:

Underlying Cause: Remember our chat about the causes of gummy smiles? Well, the underlying cause of your gummy smile will largely determine the best treatment for you. For instance, gum contouring might not be the best solution if it’s due to hyperactive lip muscles. A detailed consultation with your dentist can help identify the root cause and guide the treatment plan.

Budget: Let’s face it, financial considerations are important. Procedures like orthognathic surgery can be costly compared to less invasive options like gum contouring. Discuss costs with your dental professional and consider what you can realistically afford.

Recovery Time: Some procedures require more downtime than others. For example, recovery from orthognathic surgery can take several weeks, while you could be back to your routine in a day or two after gum contouring. Consider your lifestyle and how much recovery time you can accommodate.

Long-Term Results: While some treatments offer quick fixes, others provide more lasting solutions. For instance, orthognathic surgery might offer a more permanent solution than gum contouring if your gummy smile is due to a skeletal issue.

Personal Comfort: Lastly, think about your comfort level with dental procedures. If surgery makes you uneasy, less invasive options might be more appealing.


Living with a gummy smile can be challenging, but many effective solutions are available. Whether it’s gum contouring to sculpt away excess tissue, crown lengthening to reveal more of your teeth, or orthognathic surgery to correct a skeletal issue, there’s a treatment out there that can help transform your smile.

But remember, each person is unique, and what works best will depend on your situation. That’s why it’s so crucial to consult with a dental professional. And let’s not forget about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene. It’s key to keeping your gums healthy. Your smile reflects you; you deserve to feel confident showing it off.