Living in a society that is heavily focused on the idea of being ‘perfect’ and looking like the celebrities in magazines, it is hard not to feel self-conscious when it comes to our body image, and in some cases, our smile. It is one of the things that most people notice right away, and while braces, implants, and veneers can solve some problems, it is sometimes our gums that are the ones in need of modification.

That is where gum contouring comes in, also known as tissue sculpting or gum reshaping. Gum contouring is, in most cases, an elective cosmetic procedure focused on improving the client’s smile by modifying uneven gum lines in the form of lengthening or shortening. As it is considered a cosmetic procedure, insurance will not cover the costs unless it is deemed medically necessary by your dentist. Depending how much work is needed to be done, costs will vary so a consultation with your dentist is recommended to get an exact number.

Before we get into that though, it is important to know what causes our gum lines to become uneven. Prescription drugs, certain health problems, and even our genetics can all play a role in the case of gums that sit far too low on the teeth, making them appear smaller than what they are. Most often, these are the cases that are deemed cosmetic.

Shortened gums–gums that sit high up on the teeth–are more often than not caused by a condition called gum recession, which requires immediate attention to avoid tooth decay and even tooth loss. Gum recession can also be a symptom of periodontal disease, a serious condition where the gums and bone supporting the tooth begin to deteriorate. If you suspect that you may be at risk for developing periodontal disease, please make sure to book a consultation with your dental professional as soon as possible.

When considering gum contouring, it is important to find a dental professional who has experience and will take the time to understand your needs and desired outcome, and will create a plan tailored specifically to you. Do not be afraid to ask questions and request before and after photos of previous patients. Your dentist should also go over the risks of the procedure, as every surgery has them. When in doubt, seek a second opinion and explore other options.

Once you have found a dentist that you are comfortable with, you can go ahead with the procedure.

So what all is involved with gum contouring?

There are several techniques that your dentist can use depending on your unique situation. Scalpels, lasers, and even radiosurgery are used to achieve the desired outcome. Your dentist will discuss with you beforehand which technique is the most effective for you and will often use a pen to outline and give an idea of where the gums will sit after the procedure is complete. Gum contouring can be done directly at the dentist’s office using local anaesthesia to freeze the area. Those with dental anxiety may opt for general anaesthesia where available, although individuals who experience allergic reactions to anaesthesia may have to seek other options.

Recovery can take several weeks so it is important to follow the post-procedure instructions carefully to avoid complications and to achieve the best results. Your doctor will have a detailed plan for you to follow before you leave the office, but as a general overview:

  • Take over-the-counter pain medication to minimize the pain you feel, but avoid Asprin as it also acts as a blood thinner and will cause bleeding. Tylonel and Advil are your safest options, but other medications may be prescribed if the pain you experience is severe.
  • Avoid flossing as this will irritate the healing gums. Your dentist will provide you with safe ways to brush your teeth and minimize discomfort.
  • Avoid spicy foods and anything hot. Stick with softer, cool foods for the first few days such as: jello, soft cheeses, ice cream, and yogurt, gradually moving up to more solid foods.
  • Everyone recovers at their own pace so take your time and listen to your body. If you experience excessive swelling or bleeding, contact your dentist as soon as possible.

Dr. Sam Saadat of Newbury Smiles is an experienced dental professional with 10+ years of experience in general and cosmetic dentistry. If you feel like gum contouring might be the right option for you, please contact him and his associates at 805-499-3691 or to set up your free consultation.