I have a gummy smile.

Characteristics & what to look for

A “gummy smile” is caused by thick gums that cover too much of the tooth, giving the appearance of short teeth, or show too much gum when smiling. Thick gums (thick gingival phenotype) typically appear flat versus having a high scallop (thin gingival phenotype) at the gum-line.

Causes of thick gums include

Genetics: Genetics can play a large role in the size of your jaw bone, lip musculature, how you grow, and your gum thickness, which all can affect how much gum you show when you smile.

Tooth position: A tooth that is in a forward position (toward your lip) will likely have thinner gums while a tooth that is pushed back (toward your tongue) will likely have gums that are thicker in appearance. Occasionally teeth that have been treated with orthodontic therapy (braces) may develop gums that are too thin or a gum recession. You can find more about thin gums here.

Gingivitis: The gum can become inflamed and swollen as a result of the gum infection gingivitis.

Periodontal disease: Similar to gingivitis, periodontal disease can also cause gum swelling.

Medications: Medications that can cause thick gums include some blood pressure medications and anti-rejection medications used after organ transplantation.

What you can do at home to help ease the symptom

If you show too much gum, they look thick, or your teeth appear too short, you may need to be evaluated by a dentist or periodontist.

If you feel like your thick gums are the result of gingivitis, then you can follow the recommendations on our red and bleeding gums page.

Treatment and how we can help

The first step in the treatment of a gummy smile is to determine the underlying cause. Thick gums that are from genetics will typically require recontouring by a periodontist. Extra gum is removed and reshaped through a process called esthetic crown lengthening. This results in a more natural gum contour and shape.

If the cause of your thick gums is related to tooth position, then it may be necessary to consult with an orthodontist. Through the process of orthodontics, the tooth that has thick gum may be moved, which can have an influence on the gum position. Once your orthodontic therapy is completed it still may be necessary to see a periodontist if your gums are still thick or uneven.

Thick gums from gingivitis or periodontal disease require diagnosis and treatment by a dentist or periodontist. Information on the treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis can be found here.

A consultation with your medical doctor may be needed to evaluate whether a medication switch is appropriate in your situation. Changes to you gums caused by medication may resolve or their own once the offending medication is stopped, while occasionally the change is permanent and the gums will need reshaping by a periodontist.

Long term effects if left untreated and negative progression

Thick gums from genetics may not require any treatment unless you elect to do so. Thick gums from medications can predispose you to gingivitis and periodontal disease. It may be necessary to have more frequent dental visits to monitor your gum and bone health. However, thick gums from gingivitis or periodontal disease do require treatment in order to prevent progression, more severe disease, infection, tooth loss or even hospitalization.