According to the orthodontic literature, a gummy smile is defined as showing more than 1-2 millimeters of gum tissue when smiling naturally. Of course, showing slightly more than 2mm of gum is not necessarily a problem, but when people show much more than that, they are often unhappy with the appearance of their smiles.
Interestingly, gummy smiles often have nothing to do with the gums. Instead, they are usually caused by excessive growth of the upper jaw. In orthodontic lingo, we call this “vertical maxillary excess.”
This can be caused by genetics, or sometimes by habits such as chronic mouth breathing or thumb sucking. The issue is not that the gums themselves have over-grown, but rather that the upper jaw itself has grown too far downward, carrying the teeth and gums along with them.
The following brief animation demonstrates how orthodontics can correct a gummy smile. For more videos, please be sure to visit our youtube channel or visit our before and after gallery here to see more examples of smile transformations with orthodontics.
The treatment of gummy smiles depends on the severity of the problem. Mild to moderate gummy smiles can often be treated with braces. We place braces on the teeth, and apply an upward force to the upper incisors. This force does not push the teeth into the gums, but rather it causes the teeth and gums to move upward together, causing the upper jaw bone to remodel. This reduces the gumminess of the smile without shortening the teeth. For severely gummy smiles, we may recommend a combination of braces and jaw surgery. This type of treatment is a bit more involved than conventional braces, but the results can be spectacular, as seen in the video example above.
If you are bothered by a gummy smile, talk to us about your concerns. We can help!