What Is a Gummy Smile?

Gum Contouring And Reshaping San Dimas, CA

Individuals concerned with the aesthetics of a gummy smile can visit the dentist to explore corrective options. Many gummy smiles are subjective, so the available procedures may be limited to those who meet certain criteria. There are several causes of a smile that shows an excess of gums, so finding the root of the problem is part of the process of finding a solution. 

What defines a gummy smile? 

Those who are unhappy with the look of a gummy smile have corrective dental options available to make the gums appear less obvious. The definition of a gummy smile can be somewhat subjective but is partially determined by how the patient feels about the look of the smile. Several factors lead to what most dental professionals consider excessive gum exposure when smiling. These factors determine what treatment options are available. 

Gummy smiles due to teeth

The size and shape of the teeth can directly contribute to the appearance of gums during a smile. In many cases, the teeth are actually of a typical size but erupted from the gums in a way that allowed extra gum tissue to cover a portion of the tooth. Some individuals have disproportionately small teeth when compared to the gums and mouth but still have a normal gumline. The distinction between teeth that are naturally small and teeth that are normal-sized but covered partially by gum tissue is important for the development of a treatment plan. 

Gummy smiles due to facial muscles

Some patients have typical teeth and gum tissue but have overactive muscles in the face that cause the lips to draw back from the teeth excessively when smiling. Both the size and the shape of the lips can also affect the amount of gum exposure during a smile. Small, thin lips may not cover the gums, especially if coupled with overactive muscles around the mouth that allow the lips to rise more than the typical amount. Patients in this category often do not need work on the gums and teeth at all since the lips and facial muscles are the primary source of the problem. 

Gummy smiles due to bone structure

In some cases, gummy smiles occur due to the development of the jaw. Some individuals experience a protruding jaw that began when the bones of the face originally developed. The teeth erupted in accordance with the protruding jaw, leading to an excess of gum tissue. Many individuals with a gummy smile that resulted from improper jaw development also have severe alignment issues and need dental work in addition to surgery to correct the issue. Patients in this category typically need the most intervention if a gummy smile is a considerable concern. 


A gummy smile is defined by more than just the way it looks and is determined by the cause behind the excessive gum exposure. Knowing the specific cause can help the dentist form a treatment plan that can help correct the patient's concerns and restore the look of a healthy, beautiful smile. 

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