The part of the tooth that is seen above the gum is called the clinical crown. When not enough of the clinical crown is showing, the gum must be repositioned to expose more teeth. This is called crown lengthening. There are two situations in which crown lengthening is commonly performed: to improve the appearance and to allow a dentist better access to decay.
You have probably seen people with what you would consider short teeth, or a “gummy” smile. While it may appear that their teeth are shorter than normal, it’s often just a case of teeth being hidden behind the gums. By repositioning the gum line, you can improve your smile and the contours of your face.
One of the major advantages of crown lengthening is that it can often be completed in one visit with a local anesthetic. Essentially, the excessive gum tissue that is hiding your teeth is removed to expose the normal length of the tooth.
With crown lengthening, you will benefit from:
teeth that no longer look short or like “baby teeth”
a much more attractive smile
an improved self-image and more self-confidence
a relatively quick healing period with minimal discomfort
visible results in as little as one week after surgery
Aside from the esthetic benefits of crown lengthening, correcting a “gummy” smile can also improve your overall periodontal health. When gum tissue does not recede normally as adult teeth appear, pockets can form in the gums, which can result in advanced periodontal disease. By contouring the gums through crown lengthening, you can not only improve the look and confidence of your smile but also prevent future problems.
A second common use of crown lengthening is to access decay. If your dentist is unable to reach decay that is deep under the gum, the tooth will be lost.
Sometimes after a part of the tooth has broken off or if there has been a lot of decay, the dentist may have to access areas of the tooth that are far below the gum line. When a crown (cap) is placed, there is an area called the margin, which is where the crown meets the tooth. It is important that the dentist have good access to this area. It is not directly up against the bone because it can be a source of irritation.
Crown lengthening, in these instances, is a small surgical procedure where the gum and sometimes the bone are trimmed to expose the area where the dentist needs to work. This will allow a restoration to be placed on solid tooth structures that can be predictably cleaned and maintained for many years.