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Patients Smile at Getting Long in the Tooth

Those whose smiles are more Mister Ed than Miss America have a new hope: the gum lift.

Dentists are raising or whittling away at tissue and/or bone to lengthen teeth and beautify gummy or horsy grins. Also called crown-lengthening, the procedure has been around for decades to treat gum disease; it’s only in the past three to five years that dentists have added it to their aesthetics-enhancing arsenal.

The number of gum lifts has increased as the sophistication of a patient’s discriminating eye has increased. Now people want it all perfect, a smile that’s straight, bright, and white with a minimum of pink. It’s no wonder then that the vast majority (80%-90%) of gum lifts are done in conjunction with porcelain veneers.

Woman at the Dentist

Cost and Recovery

By evening up the gum line, everything looks so much more in harmony, so much more pleasing. The charge is about $300 for one tooth up to $6000 for a full arch (up to 16 teeth). You can whiten and brighten and straighten your teeth, but if your gum line is up and down, it’s almost like wasting your money because you still don’t have the result that you want. This is a one- or two-Advil treatment. Recovery ranges from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how invasive the surgery is; tissue can be lasered away, but a scalpel and/or drill is needed to extract bone.

Some aren’t candidates for crown-lengthening. If you have big teeth, then your teeth will look even bigger. Also, those whose roots are skinny, tapered, or short could, through too much root exposure, compromise the strength of their teeth. But for adults whose gums never completely receded after childhood, the technique can significantly improve a smile.

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