If you have a gummy smile, your smile reveals and excessively large amount of gum tissue, giving a disproportionate gum to tooth ratio.

This sort of “smile” is commonly seen in horses when they bare their teeth – lots of gum is on show. A gummy smile is quite common, particularly in young women.

Gummy smile surgery will correct the excessive gumminess of your smile by reducing the amount of gum on show with smiling. This enhances your smile and allows you to smile fully without the fear and embarrassment of excessive gumminess.

Your dentition and bite are assessed prior to surgery, as gummy smile may be caused by several situations. The 3 most common causes are;

  1. Excessive upper lip retraction with smiling. This is corrected with gummy smile surgery.
  2. Disproportionate tooth to gum ratio – i.e. short teeth, relatively normal gum show. This is corrected by gum contouring surgery or by lengthening the teeth with porcelain veneers.
  3. Disproportionate vertically long maxilla/upper jaw bone. This is corrected with orthognathic (jaw) surgery.

The Procedure

Gummy smile surgery is usually performed in the office under local anaesthetic with oral sedative tablets. The procedure can be performed either alone or combined with other procedures in hospital under a light general anaesthetic if desired.

The procedure takes approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours. Incisions are made inside the mouth at the junction of the upper lip and upper gum and a small amount of this tissue is removed. Modifications of the upper lip muscle decrease the ability of the upper lip to retract excessively are made. Dissolving stitches are placed – these gradually dissolve over 7 to 10 days.

There are no bandages or dressings. Washing and showering are encouraged as soon as desired.

Recovery from gummy smile surgery

Gummy smile is an in office or day stay procedure. For the first week it is sensible to avoid excessive mouth movement such as vigorous chewing, talking and smiling. A soft, non-chew diet such as protein smoothies, soups and purees are recommended. Bruising and swelling are minimal and pain is minimal to non-existent. Stitches are dissolving. Most people are back at work after a week. Avoid vigorous mouth movements – such as biting into an apple, or big sudden smiles for 3 to 4 weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Lip lengthening and repositioning for gummy smile can be performed at any age, and is most frequently performed between the ages of 18 to 35.
Gummy smile surgery is done either in our rooms as a standalone procedure with oral sedation and local anaesthetic, or in an accredited hospital or day-stay facility under light general anaesthetic or sedation.
Gummy smile surgery is generally a one-off procedure that does not need to be repeated. Muscle relaxing injections may be used on a regular basis to shape the smile and relax the lip muscles if desired, but are not generally necessary.

Over time those with very hyperactive upper lip muscles may notice some gentle retraction, and it is possible in these cases to perform the procedure again however for the vast majority of people – this is generally not necessary.

The incisions are entirely inside the mouth, so are not visible.
Dr Nettle can refer you to a dentist if combining gummy smile surgery with tooth lengthening (porcelain crowns, veneers), or gum contouring will enhance your smile. Muscle relaxing injections can help with smile shaping and preexisting asymmetric smiles.
There are no Medicare rebates for gummy smile surgery as this is considered a cosmetic procedure.
We generally see you 3 or 4 days after surgery and then 1 month after gummy smile surgery. Further follow-up appointments are made if needed on an individual basis.
You will be given a Plastic Surgery Recovery guide upon booking your surgery. This is a highly valuable document that explains in great detail all of your after care for surgery.

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