Gummy Smiles

fixing a gummy smile with orthodontics

What do Gummy smiles and fine wine have in common?

gummy smile orthodontics

17 November 2022 | By Dr. Eric Meyer

What do Gummy smiles and fine wine have in common?

You’ll know the answer shortly. But first how much gingiva is appropriate to show when smiling? Everyone knows the timeless fable of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Not too little, not too much, but juuuuust right. The same goes for the amount of gums you display when smiling. Too much is considered a ‘gummy smile’. None at all makes for an ‘older’ appearing smile. A little bit of gingival display is natural for a kid or young adult and shows youthfulness.

Many factors go into a person’s smile including lip length, lip mobility, tooth length, tooth position, and age to name a few.

Lip Length

A person with shorter lips and thinner lips is more likely to display more of their gums and teeth. How do we fix it? Although soft tissue surgery can be completed to reposition the lips and the muscles controlling the lips, a more conservative option may be lips fillers, especially in patients with thin lips.

Lip mobility

A person with greater mobility of their lips and facial muscles will reveal more gingiva as they raise their lips and contract facial muscles. How do we fix it? Some patients opt for botox, which temporarily relaxes facial muscles and hides a gummy smile.

Tooth length

As teeth erupt the gums should recede showing more of the crown of tooth. For some patients this does not happen, leading to the appearance of shorter crowns. How do we fix it? Expose the entire crown of the tooth with a soft tissue recontouring (gingivectomy) or boney recontouring (crown lengthening).

Face height

This more so relates to the position of your upper jaw when looking from the front. Some individuals have excessive downward growth of their upper jaw. If the lips and soft tissue do not follow it can lead to a gummy smile. How do we fix it? If severe enough, a patient may need jaw surgery to correct the increased vertical growth of the upper jaw. A conservative approach may include moving the teeth upward if surgery is a no-go.


Ever wonder why most elderly people only show their lower teeth when they talk or smile? In reality, the soft tissue of our face will droop downward—for lack of better words—as we get older. You can’t fight gravity! This is why it’s not all that bad to have a gummy smile as a kid or young adult knowing that it will be better as you get older…like a bottle of fine wine!

Concerned about your gummy smile? Come see the smile doctors at Dubuque Orthodontics 🙂

-Dr. E32