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What are Some Causes of a Gummy Smile?
A gummy smile occurs when more of the periodontal tissue is on display than is considered typical when people open their mouths to smile. There are several different factors that cause this. Some develop over time while others are present from birth. Gummy smiles are not harmful and do not affect mouth function. However, occasionally people may not like the way it looks when a smile exposes too much gum tissue.
Young people with gummy smiles often experience teasing or bullying from peers, and adults may also feel that it is not advantageous personally or professionally. Fortunately, there are cosmetic dental treatments available that may reverse the condition. Before seeking out gummy smile treatment, it can be helpful to know what causes it in the first place.
Causes of a gummy smile
Sometimes the condition occurs because of an excessive amount of gum tissue. This may be due to genetic predisposition. Genetics are likely the culprit if the condition runs in families. However, gummy smiles can result from other reasons as well.
1. Neurological changes
Sometimes the gum tissue itself is normal, but the problem appears when the upper lip extends too far up when smiling and exposes more of it. Over time, people occasionally undergo changes to the nerves that control the muscle movement of the face. If the nerve that controls the upper lip is affected, the muscle may contract spontaneously. This can cause it to show more teeth and gums than under normal circumstances.
2. Failed tooth eruption
Occasionally the teeth themselves are the problem. The permanent teeth begin to erupt around the age of 5 or 6, which is when the baby teeth start falling out. The process of permanent teeth eruption can continue well into the teen years. If something happens during that time period to stop the process, portions of the permanent teeth may remain covered by the gum tissue. This gives the appearance of smaller teeth and larger gums.
3. Vertical maxillary excess
This is a condition that causes an overgrowth of the upper jaw, which contributes to a gummy smile in several different ways. It causes thinning of the upper lip, which in turn results in the exposure of more gum tissue. Because the jaw itself becomes overgrown, it looks as though the gums are bulging outwards although it is really the jawbone underneath.
Treatments for a gummy smile
The appropriate treatment may depend on the cause of the condition. Orthodontic treatment may resolve it by bringing the teeth and jaw into a better position. Vertical maxillary impaction is an invasive procedure that changes the position of the entire upper jaw, moving it up. Crown lengthening is the most common approach. It involves exposing more of the natural teeth by reshaping the affected gum tissue and underlying bone.
Gummy smiles can be caused by excess periodontal tissue or abnormalities of the teeth, jaws, or nerves. It is not a harmful condition, but it can affect a person's self-confidence. Depending on the cause, there may be several treatment options available.
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