Gingival sculpting (or gum contouring) is a cosmetic dental procedure that improves the smiles of many people every year. In some cases, a patient's gums may grow down over part of the teeth, which makes it look as though they have crooked or oddly shaped teeth, while other patients may need this surgery to correct receding gums. If your dentist has suggested that this procedure can help you, learn more about the causes of these gum problems, and what to expect from gum contouring surgery.
What causes uneven or receding gums?
Uneven gums can spoil an otherwise attractive smile, and the problem can grow worse over time. You may initially notice that your teeth and gums are more sensitive, but you are then more likely to see gingival (gum) material growing down over part of the tooth. In other cases, the teeth will feel uneven at the gum line, and you may start to see part of the root.
Uneven or receding gums generally occur in people over the age of 40, but teenagers are also susceptible. Common causes of the problem include:
- Poor brushing technique
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Grinding teeth
- Periodontal disease
Some prescription medicines can also cause these problems.
Why do people have gum contouring surgery?
For most people, a dentist will only need to carry out this procedure for cosmetic reasons, to help patients feel less conspicuous about their smile. In some cases, people also have this surgery as part of other important dental treatment. For example, if a dentist needs to get rid of dental pockets around the teeth, he or she may use this type of procedure.
According to the National Institutes of Health, a cosmetically acceptable smile will show up to 3mm of gingival tissue (gums). As such, if you show more than this when you smile, you are a strong candidate for this type of surgery.
How does gum contouring surgery work?
Your dentist can normally carry out this surgery, but he or she may also refer you to a periodontist (gum specialist) in severe cases. It was once normal to carry out this surgery with a scalpel, but most dentists now use lasers to carry out the operation.
The dentist will use the laser to remove or reshape gum tissue. Before the surgery, he or she will clearly explain exactly what the surgery will entail, and will show you how much tissue they will remove. The dentist will often draw a line at the gum, so you can see how your smile will look after the procedure.
Gum contouring surgery normally only takes around an hour, and you can go home after the dentist finishes.
Is the procedure painful?
Before the dentist carries out the surgery, he or she will apply a local anesthetic to stop you feeling any pain. The soft tissue laser (or diode laser) trims away, contours and seals the excess gum tissue, without causing any bleeding. What's more, you won't need any stitches.
This makes the process less painful than traditional surgical approaches. You may still feel some pain and discomfort, but you can normally treat this with over-the-counter pain medicine. You will also need to take care when brushing or flossing for a few days or weeks after the surgery. Your dentist may recommend an antiseptic mouthwash to help cut the risk of an infection.
Are any other procedures necessary?
In many cases, patients only need to have one session of gum contouring surgery. For other patients, gingival sculpting can form part of a larger treatment package. For example, a dentist may need to remove some of the bone at the front of the tooth root to stop the gums growing back. To create a perfect smile, you may also need other cosmetic or orthodontic work. You may need gum contouring surgery before a dentist fits porcelain veneers or crowns.
Gum contouring surgery is a relatively common procedure that helps people get back their natural smile. The latest laser technology means that the process is now almost pain-free, so it's a good time to talk to your dentist about treatment options.