What Causes a Gummy Smile and Can It be Fixed?

A gummy smile, also known as “excessive gingival display,” is where too much gum tissue is visible above the top teeth when you smile or open your mouth. We see patients all the time here at Brady Orthodontics who have concerns about their gummy smiles making them feel self-conscious. If this applies to you, don’t worry! A gummy smile can be corrected with a trip to the orthodontist’s office. 

There are a few different causes of gummy smiles, and each one will have a different treatment. Lucky for you, Dr. Brady has what it takes to help you get the smile you deserve! Let’s examine what causes a gummy smile and how to fix it.

What is a gummy smile?

A gummy smile is a dental issue that doesn’t have one specific definition. Since it’s based on others’ perceptions, you’ll likely know a gummy smile when you see it. In most cases, people like smiles that expose two millimeters or less of gum tissue. Any more than that, most people considered a smile “too gummy.” 

What causes a gummy smile?

There are many different causes of a gummy smile, so let’s take a closer look at the more common ones:

  • Teeth that appear short due to premature eruption and remain partially covered by gum tissue
  • Teeth that are small in comparison to the gums due to genetics or wear and tear
  • An overgrowth of the upper jaw, called vertical maxillary excess, makes gums bulge out
  • A hyperactive upper lip that is normal in length when the face is resting but raises too high when smiling
  • Gums that are long or enlarged, known as gingival hypertrophy
  • A short upper lip

All of these are related to the teeth, lips, jaws, or gums, which happen to be the critical components of your smile! A visually pleasing smile is all about proportion, so if one aspect is skewed, it will throw off the balance of your smile. Unfortunately, many factors contributing to gummy smiles are genetic, so they can’t be prevented. With a bit of help from Brady Orthodontics, you can get a more ideal smile in no time!

What Causes a Gummy Smile and Can It be Fixed?

Treatment Options for Gummy Smiles

Your smile line describes the teeth that are showing when you are smiling. This is determined by several factors, including:

  • The shape and size of your teeth 
  • The shape and size of your lips
  • Your facial muscles
  • Your gum tissue

The best smile line will be one that reveals the least amount of gum tissue possible. We want to see the visible gum tissue has balanced and even contours that are in harmony with the upper lip. However, personal aesthetics aren’t always the only thing affected by excess gum tissue. If there are any underlying dental conditions, such as abnormal tooth eruption or jaw development, you may also have a misaligned bite that can impact your overall oral health. Let’s look at some of the treatments available to address the issues associated with a gummy smile!  


If the cause of a gummy smile is a bad bite, orthodontic treatment like braces or clear aligners can help fix it. Treatment will correct the bite and reduce the amount of gum tissue that shows when smiling, laughing, or talking. Aligning your smile can also alleviate symptoms like jaw and neck pain.

Veneers or Crowns

If there aren’t any underlying issues causing a patient’s gummy smile, veneers or crowns can be ideal non-invasive treatment options. These are attached to the teeth to make them appear more proportionate to the gums. 

Scaling and Root Planing

If we’re treating a gummy smile that’s caused by inflamed or infected gums, the best place to start is with a deep professional dental cleaning called “scaling” and “root planing.” This advanced cleaning can reach deep into the gum pockets around each tooth to remove bacteria and help any infection heal. Once the infection is gone, inflammation will normally subside and the gummy appearance of the smile along with it. 

Gum Lift or Crown Lengthening

When too much gum tissue is covering your teeth, a gum lift or crown lengthening may be the best treatment option. A gum lift removes some of the tissue around the teeth and restructures the gum line to be higher. The result is a smile with more teeth than gums. If gum tissue present is abundant, we may recommend crown lengthening treatment. This not only restructures the gums but also changes the bone around the teeth.

Lip Lowering

If this sounds scary, don’t worry. This treatment doesn’t literally lower your lip. A small section of gum tissue under the upper lip is removed before the top and bottom are stitched together. This creates a shorter lip that isn’t able to rise as high as it used to, so it covers more of the gum tissue and reduces the appearance of a gummy smile. Botox can also be helpful for hyperactive upper lips. Injecting Botox into the upper lip will limit its range of movement, reducing the amount of gum tissue shown when the patient smiles. This minimally invasive solution wears off in about 3-6 months.

What Causes a Gummy Smile and Can It be Fixed?

Keep your smile perfect at Brady Orthodontics

If you want orthodontic care with the best technology, there’s no one like Brady Orthodontics in Winnetka. Dr. Brady will create a custom treatment plan just for you and provide you with the right care throughout your smile journey. Since orthodontics is his primary specialty, Dr. Brady has the experience necessary to give you the best in treatment, costs, and efficiency as you align your jaw and smile!

If you still have questions, we would love to chat with you for your FREE consultation to get you started on your treatment journey. There is no pressure or obligation to enter a treatment plan. Only great individualized information to help you decide what is right for you.