Causes of a Gummy Smile and How to Fix It

A smile that shows much gums can be subjective. Some would say it affects facial aesthetics negatively, while others claim it to be attractive.

A pleasant smile is considered a symbol of beauty and well-being in modern society. A variety of factors including teeth form/position and gingival tissue levels may influence the overall smile aesthetics. In the last decade, a keen interest was focused on periodontal plastic surgery as a reliable tool to enhance aesthetics. Now since we know the perceived value of a smile, what are the causes of a gummy smile?

Women smiling

What causes a Gummy Smile?

One of the most common factors is an abnormal eruption of the teeth. Teeth covered by excessive gum tissue appear short and unevenly shaped even though they may well be the proper length.

Secondly, the muscle that controls the movement of your upper lip could be hyperactive causing your upper lip to rise higher than normal. When this occurs, more of your gum tissue is exposed when you smile.

Furthermore, the manner in which your upper jaw bone has grown and developed could cause the appearance of a gummy smile, or gummy teeth. For example, if there were an excessive bulging protrusion of the upper jaw within the gum tissue, you would experience an obvious gummy appearance when you smile.

Along with gingival recessions (receding gums), the excessive gingival display during smiling is a common condition impairing smile aesthetics. This condition is frequently related to an altered passive eruption (APE) of teeth mostly due to developmental or genetic factors that may lead to the persistence of excessive soft tissue amount over the enamel surface.

In fact, after the completion of active eruption phase, a passive eruption with an apical migration of soft tissue occurs. During this process the epithelial junction apically shifts to the cementoenamel junction (CEJ) level, thus reaching a final position of the gingival margin slightly coronal to the CEJ. This basically means a loss of gum tissue and/or retraction of the gingival margin from the crown of the teeth, which exposes more gum in your smile.

More severe cases may also be associated with the hyperplastic growth of maxillary skeletal base. The prevalence of altered passive eruption (APE) is reported to be approximately 12%. This condition may create aesthetic concerns due to the display of excessive quantity of gingival tissue at upper anterior teeth when smiling (gummy smile).

How to improve the look of a gummy smile?

Regarding gummy smile treatment options, there are a few ways to go about this. Having a cosmetic dentist perform a gummy smile surgery is one option – though not all cases require surgery. Below are a few different ways a gummy smile can be fixed:

1) Lip Lowering – The upper lip is re-positioned to make the gum line less exposed.

2) BOTOX – This treatment option reduces the high pulling effect and lets the upper lip better rest over the gum tissue. Studies have shown that this gummy smile treatment involving the use of botulinum toxin into the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi muscle, is an efficient method with minimum risk of complications, and also results in a very high patient satisfaction outcome.

3) Gum Contouring/Gum Leveling – Removes excess gum tissue around the teeth.

4) Crown Lengthening – Gum tissue is removed, the bone is modified, and the gum line is re-contoured to establish a longer crown appearance.

To find out more about treatment options for a gummy smile, book your FREE consultation at either our Bondi Junction or North Sydney dental clinics.

Bondi Junction(02) 9389 3333
North Sydney(02) 9460 3566


About Dr. Tam

Dr. Michael Tam BDS (NZ) Grad Dip Clin Dent (Oral Implants) (Syd) has over 25 years experience in the dental field and with a special interest in Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry, he obtained a Distinction Award from the NZDA in Continuing Dental Education and has met with dental practices in London, Europe, Asia, America and Canada. With years of experience in cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Tam and his team have performed countless successful gummy smile treatments in Sydney, across Australia and overseas so rest assured your teeth will be well taken care of.