Gum contouring, which is sometimes known as gum reshaping, is a purely cosmetic dental treatment which is used to improve the appearance of a person's teeth. It is most often used in cases where the gums cover too much of the teeth - and especially those at the front. This can be caused by your health, genetics or certain medications and results in a condition known as 'gummy smile' which can leave patients feeling very self conscious.
How Does Gum Contouring Work?
Gum contouring has traditionally been carried out using a scalpel, but with advances in modern technology, lasers are gradually becoming far more commonplace. Not only are they faster, but they can also seal any blood vessels to limit the amount of blood released.
During the contouring process, the area of the gum to be treated is injected with a local anaesthetic. The dentist will then trim away the excessive gum and reshape what remains to create a much more pleasing gum line. Occasionally, the dentist may also need to trim away some bone to create the desired effect, but this is rarely necessary. Patients report very little discomfort and the healing process is relatively quick.
Following the procedure, the dentist may prescribe a mouthwash to be used for a number of days to prevent infection and you may need to take over the counter painkillers. You should initially stick to eating only soft, cool foods and follow the advice your dentist gives you with regards to brushing your teeth.
Pros And Cons Of Contouring
Gum contouring is not considered an especially risky procedure. The main benefits are that is has noticeable impact quite quickly and that the whole process is relatively painless. In addition, contouring is permanent which is generally positive for those who decide to go ahead with the treatment, but it does mean the results are irreversible so you should ask to see a computer mock up of your 'smile design' beforehand to ensure you will be happy with the results.
However, there are some drawbacks to consider. Firstly, for a small number of patients, the contouring alone will not achieve their desired look which means some bone may need to be removed. Additionally, in some cases, too much gum can be taken and this makes it difficult for healing to take place. This can result in significant gum swelling which can only be rectified by further treatment on your gums.
What To Expect
Your dentist can choose to use a scalpel, laser, or radiosurgery to carry out a gum contouring procedure.
Which method they use will depend on your specific situation, and they will assess which is best to help you achieve the desired results during an initial consultation. Prior to your procedure, your oral surgeon will mark out the new gum line using a pen. This will give you an indication of how much will be removed, and how the new gum line will be reshaped and contoured. The area to be treated will be numbed with a local anaesthetic, and if necessary, the root of the tooth will be removed.
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Where in the past, patients would have to rely on a scalpel to have their gums reduced with surgery, there are now a number of different methods available to carry out the procedure.
Laser dentistry utilises a diode laser, for example, which can sculpt the gums in a minimally invasive way. Virtually painless, this procedure is fast and easy to carry out, and offers excellent results. In the main, a local anesthetic will be administered to the area of the mouth to be treated. Your dentist or oral surgeon will then laser away undesired and excess gum tissue to sculpt a more favourable gumline. As these lasers cauterise the wounds as they go, there is minimal bleeding and a dramatically reduced chance of any infection occurring.
As the treatment can be carried out as an outpatient procedure, patients can leave the same day to recover at home following a gum lift.
Following your gum lifting procedure, you may experience swelling and pain in the treated gums for up to a week afterwards.
This discomfort should be minimal, and can be managed with over-the-counter medication. It will not interfere with your everyday routine, and you should be able to eat, drink and speak as normal. However, as your gums heal, you should abstain from consuming solid foods along with food that is spicy or filled with seeds. You will only need to do this for the first few days after the surgery, after which you can gradually begin the process of eating solid foods. Take extra care when brushing and flossing your teeth to prevent any bleeding or further discomfort that could negatively impact the healing process. Your dentist should provide you with post-operative guidelines to help you recover after surgery.
Cost Of Gum Contouring
The cost of contouring will depend on how many teeth you need treated, how experienced your dentist is and which clinic you choose. Prices can range from between £50 and £100 per tooth treated, but remember, most patients only have their front teeth treated as they are the only really visible ones.
Most dentists also offer payment plans where you can spread the cost of your treatment over a few months which can make it more affordable, and some dentists will suggest that you combine the treatment with Botox. This stops the lip lifting so much when you smile and can also hide the effect of excessive gums. If this extra treatment is required it can cost from £150-£250 a time and will need to be repeated every few months.
Gum Contouring On The NHS
As gum contouring is a cosmetic treatment this will not generally be available on the NHS. However, in rare cases where the excessive gum is causing severe mental distress, it may be possible to get NHS funding. However, as this is very rare, it would normally take quite a long time to apply to your local NHS trust to look at your case on an individual basis.