Cosmetic dentistry boasts options to resolve all sorts of smile-related complaints. When it comes to gummy smiles, gingivectomy (a.k.a. gum lift) procedures are an increasingly popular option. Also referred to as gum contouring, the minor surgery can be carried out as a standalone treatment to alter the shape of the gums around the teeth and change the appearance of the gum line. But it is often combined with other cosmetic procedures (think: veneers and even lip fillers) as part of a larger smile makeover.
The procedure can be carried out on both the top and bottom teeth, though it usually only involves the teeth that are visible when a patient smiles. Here, we’ve gathered everything you need to know about gum lift surgery and speak to two patients about what it’s like to undergo the procedure.
How Does a Gum Lift Work?
There are a couple of options when it comes to getting a gum lift. The first (and more popular) option is surgical removal. Alternatively, a laser gum lift can achieve similar results. In either case, your dentist will usually begin by taking photos of the patient’s teeth and smile from a number of different angles. They will also collect measurements of the teeth as they are, before working out the best approach to remove some of the gum and create a more balanced smile. These steps are usually carried out during an initial consultation, which is also the time to discuss your goals for the procedure and ask any questions you may have.
On procedure day, you will likely receive local anesthesia that does not impact the lips. To do so, your dentist will usually numb the roof of your mouth, which will enable you to smile throughout the procedure — allowing the provider to check the results as they go. While the procedure itself will be painless, there may be mild discomfort as the anesthesia wears off. Results from gum contouring are permanent, which makes it a great choice when considering investing in your smile.
What Procedures Are Performed With a Gum Lift?
A gum lift can be combined with a number of other treatments, depending on a patient’s aesthetic goals and concerns. For those who have smaller teeth or staining and discoloration, veneers can be applied in tandem with gum contouring. They offer the ability to completely transform your smile and can even close up small gaps without the need for orthodontics.
People who have successfully finished orthodontic treatment either with traditional braces or Invisalign® are also often good candidates for gum contouring as a complementary procedure. Once teeth are aligned correctly, patients can often still feel that they would like a bigger smile, and a gum lift is a one way to achieve it.
Teeth whitening options, such as Zoom® professional whitening, are also excellent options if your smile needs brightening after having a gum lift. It’s best to discuss your options with your dentist and avoid using any at-home teeth whitening products until you have the go-ahead from your provider to avoid any sensitivity or damage during the healing process.
What Does Recovery From a Gum Lift Entail?
Generally speaking, patients are encouraged to eat soft foods and be careful brushing their teeth for the first seven to 10 days following a gum contouring procedure. Cool compresses and pain medication can be used as needed to control discomfort and swelling, while rinsing rinse the mouth with diluted salt water or a prescribed mouthwash will keep the area clean as it heals. Complete healing of the gums can take up to three months.
Now that you understand what the procedure entails, it is time to hear from patients about their experience with gum lift surgery.
Lydia, New York, NY
Lydia had a gum lift after a successful Invisalign® treatment for overcrowding. She had hoped the braces alone would be enough to get her the smile she’d always dreamed of, but this add-on procedure delivered the final result she was looking for.
The AEDITION: What did you dislike about your smile before the procedure?
Lydia: I had crowded teeth since I was a kid, but I did not have braces as a teenager for a few reasons. Eventually, I was in a position where I was financially stable enough to afford braces and went ahead with that thinking it would save me from all my smile woes. I ended up finishing the treatment and being pleased with where my teeth were, but I still wasn’t happy with how my actual teeth looked. I spoke to my orthodontist about options and explained that I didn’t want veneers at such a young age. He suggested I look into gum contouring. His colleague was able to talk me through the process and gave me a clear idea of how my smile could look after the procedure, so I decided to go ahead.
The AEDITION: How was the experience of the procedure for you?
Lydia: It was so straightforward. It was no more painful than having a filling. Once the gums were numbed, I felt nothing except for a little bit of pressure. I had some pain in the evening, but it honestly was nothing, I didn’t even take a Tylenol for it. I certainly wouldn’t say that pain should be something that puts anyone off having the procedure at all.
The AEDITION: How was your recovery?
Lydia: I had to be careful with what I ate for the first couple of days. I avoided anything particularly sharp or hard — basically, the same diet as after changing trays with my braces to avoid any discomfort. My dentist gave me a special mouthwash to use on top of my usual products. Other than that, I was just told what to look out for in case there was any sign of an infection or healing not going quite as planned. Fortunately, everything went well and it healed beautifully.
Ezra, Chicago, IL
After spending years feeling self-conscious about his asymmetric gum line, Ezra turned to gum contouring to resolve the issue. After consulting a couple of dentists, he chose a practitioner who used a laser to perform the procedure.
The AEDITION: Why did you decide to get a gum lift?
Ezra: I had an uneven gum line for as long as I could remember. It had always bothered me, but I didn’t realize there was anything that could be done about it. I’d had braces as a teen and thought that might make my smile look more even, but they didn’t really achieve what I’d wanted on that front. Eventually, I mentioned my issue with my gums during a routine checkup with my dentist, and she told me about gum contouring as a treatment option. It wasn’t something she specialized in, so she gave me a couple of contacts to try instead. I went for a few different consultations and found a dentist I got on well with and whose plan sounded like it would provide me with results that would resolve this issue I’d had for all these years. I was apprehensive about putting my faith in this, frankly, very simple-sounding procedure. But I took my time to research results, asked to see some of this dentist’s past work, and decided to go ahead with the procedure.
The AEDITION: How was your experience with the procedure?
Ezra: It was pretty similar to having any other dental procedure. Once I was numbed, there wasn’t any sensation of any kind. I had glasses on because of the laser, and there was an unpleasant smell while they were lasering the tissue. Other than that, I felt no pain or discomfort at all during the procedure. I was given painkillers to take when I got home, and I decided to take the day after off from work. In hindsight, I’m glad I did. I’d been pretty stressed in the run up to having the procedure, and I had some pain and anxiety the night after the procedure. The painkillers sorted the pain out though.
The AEDITION: Do you have any advice for patients considering the same procedure?
Ezra: I’d certainly advise taking a day off after the procedure. Like anything that causes stress, there’s a level of tiredness that comes once the event has passed, so it was nice not to have the pressure of needing to go into work feeling like that. I also think it allowed me a bit of time to listen to my body and pay attention to what I ate. I made sure I was gentle with my mouth when brushing my teeth. As with any medical procedure, make sure to find the right practitioner for you. Look for someone you trust and whose results fall in line with the result you are trying to achieve.
For patients looking for a bigger, brighter smile, a gum lift can refine the contour of the gums. The minor surgery is an outpatient procedure that delivers permanent results and can be coupled with a variety of other cosmetic dentistry treatments for a most customized outcome.
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