Your Gums – An Important Part Of Your Smile’s Appearance

Posted on Jun 20, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The word “smile” actually sums up the combination of several components. What creates a smile is the lips, teeth, and gum tissues. Certainly, the teeth are an important part of what “makes or breaks” a flattering smile. However, as a Periodontist, I know how significantly the shape of the gums can as well.

A periodontal specialist is uniquely trained in the diagnosis and treatment of all phases of periodontal disease and other problems associated with gum tissues. He or she also has advanced skills in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. To the general public, however, an often unknown skill of the Periodontist is in the “esthetic” contouring of gum tissues.

To understand the intricate involvement a periodontal specialist has in smile enhancement, just look in the mirror and get a close-up view of your smile.

You’ll notice that each tooth is arched by gum tissue. You’ll also see a slight dip of this tissue that seems to separate each individual tooth. What you may not have noticed before is how the gum tissues that border each tooth are in a fairly even line. This is your “smile line.”

In seeing photos of people who have what is deemed as beautiful smiles, the teeth are nicely shaped and the gums are evenly contoured over each. In a smile that has an uneven smile line, it tends to create a jumbled look, even though the teeth may be properly shaped and aligned.

In some situations, people have experienced gum recession. This is when the gums pull away from the base of teeth, which exposes darker, tooth root portions. This not only detracts from a smile’s appearance, it leave the tooth vulnerable to decay. It also causes sensitivity, especially to hot or cold foods and beverages.

In this instance, we often perform a gum graft. This uses a small portion of the patient’s own gum tissue to cover the area of recession. This restores appearance and helps to protect the health of the tooth.

For other people, too much gum tissue may arch the teeth most visible in a smile. This is known as a “gummy smile.” Katie Couric, when she smiles fully, is an example of this. Essentially, a gummy smile is a genetic trait and does not pose a risk to one’s oral health. However, for some people, it causes them to feel self-conscious about their smile’s appearance.

Katie Couric – a famous ‘gummy smile.’

It takes a precision hand and special skills to be able to reshape the gum tissues in order to preserve a natural contour. For example, that “dip” in-between each tooth is an important part of the smile line, as small as it is. This dip is known as a pointed papilla.

One of the reasons we urge people to have an implant placed at the time of tooth removal is to protect the natural contour of the gums, including this slight dip. It takes only days for this small point to begin to flatten. For teeth that are visible in a smile, the lack of this point can detract from the natural appearance in a smile.

In periodontology, we reshape gums through a procedure known as a gingivectomy (gin-geh-vect-om-ee). In this, excess gum tissue is removed. For mild cases, we may be able to reshape the gums without the need for crowning the tooth. In many cases, however, a crown is placed in addition to gum re-contouring. This is known as crown lengthening.

The crown not only enhances the appearance of the tooth involved in treatment, it helps to protect it’s root. If too much gum tissue is removed, sensitive root portions of the tooth can be exposed. This can allow entry of oral bacteria, compromising the health of the tooth and surrounding gum tissues (which can lead to gum disease).

In our office, crown lengthening or gingivectomies are performed with a high level of comfort. Although gum tissues are laden with nerves, we take special measures to minimize anything that would add to one’s discomfort or the amount of time needed for healing. As a specialist in this area, I am trained to help each patient achieve optimal results with treatment that they remember as “no big deal!”

Healthy gums are an important part of your overall health and the foundation for your teeth. The appearance of your gums, however, are an important part of your smile, too. The self-confidence in knowing a smile looks attractive tends to cause people to smile more often. That’s a good reason to ensure your teeth AND gums are in good shape!

If you’ve noticed your smile is less-than-its-best because of uneven or excess gum tissue, call us at 828-274-9440. We will be happy to schedule a consultation appointment. During this time, we’ll make recommendations and I’ll explain the procedure. From there, you can make the decision that is best for your needs and goals.

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