Unless you were blessed with a perfect smile, something’s usually got to give in order to improve it…even your gums! Dentists call it “crown lengthening”, but if you’re worried this means you’ll walk away with receded gums, it’s not what you think. In certain cases, less gums are actually a GOOD thing – and if your dentist has confirmed you are a candidate for such a procedure, here’s why.
Cosmetic vs. Restorative Crown Lengthening
From an aesthetic standpoint, some may find their smiles to look “too gummy”, and wish for a more balanced look. Treatment varies based on the severity of the problem, but a gum lift, even if it’s just to one or a few teeth suffering from excess gum lining or unevenness, can help the smile appear more symmetrical. In general, this type of procedure usually focuses on the upper front gums, since they are the most visible when you smile.
Beyond appearances alone, there may also be health reasons a dentist would recommend crown lengthening. If, for example, he or she discovers tooth decay below the visible surface of the tooth, gum removal or contouring may be the only way to ensure the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and filled. On a similar note, accidents or injuries that cause a tooth to fracture may require exposing more of the tooth’s surface in order for it to be fully restored.
Regardless of whether you undergo this treatment for cosmetic or restorative purposes, however, crown lengthening can benefit your oral health by exposing more of the tooth’s surface for thorough and easy cleaning.
What to Expect
While crown lengthening is considered a form of oral surgery, and may come at an additional cost above what your insurance covers, it is a relatively short, one-time procedure. Afterwards, there is no special maintenance required other than good at-home hygiene and regular dentist checkups.
During the surgery, little if any pain is felt thanks to anesthesia, but sedation is an option for those who may feel anxious about the work involved with gum removal. The dentist will make small incisions and gradually remove gum tissue, and if necessary, also remove some bone close to the root area of the tooth. Gums are then stitched up, and patients can expect a healing time of 1-2 weeks before stitches are removed. A total healing period of up to three months is normally required before any crowns or fillings are put in place.
Risks of Crown Lengthening
A special mouth rinse is typically prescribed for recovering patients, and a water irrigator may also be recommended to gently remove food particles, but it is still possible to encounter the following risks:
- Infection, if bacteria from food gets stuck and inflames the raw gum area
- Excessive bleeding due to medications or existing health conditions
- Tooth sensitivity, especially if bone was removed close to the root of a tooth
- Loose teeth, if too much gum or bone was removed
If you experience any of the above, contact your dentist and/or periodontist immediately.
Weighing Your Options
As rewarding to your smile as crown lengthening can be, the decision of whether or not to undergo the procedure should not be made lightly. Cost, time and other factors should be carefully considered, and being aware of all the pros and cons is critical. If you are curious about crown lengthening, or if your dentist has recommended it, schedule a consultation with him or her for further information specific to your dental needs and overall health situation.