When some children smile, they may show excessive gum tissue. This is called a gummy smile and may be due to a few different problems:
- Gum irritation and overgrowth from braces. This is more likely to happen if the teeth appear short before the braces are placed on the teeth. This problem results not from the quality of orthodontic care, but is a result of the pre-treatment gum and bone thickness.
- Altered passive eruption. The gum and bone normally recede as a part of the normal eruption of the teeth. When this normal recession doesn’t occur, the gums cover too much of the teeth and make them appear “too short”. The teeth are usually not “too short”. They are usually of normal size but are stuck under the gum tissue and bone.
Habits such as thumb-sucking or teeth-grinding (bruxism), excessive pressure and tooth wear can alter the appearance of the teeth. The problems might be corrected with orthodontics, surgical procedures or dental restorations such as crowns or veneers.
Skeletal developmental problems affect the growth of the jaws and the teeth. If orthodontic treatment begins between the ages of 7 and 9, jaw growth can often be controlled and the cosmetics improved.
Before treatment, it is critical to properly evaluate the problems and get an accurate diagnosis. Some cosmetic issues can be easily corrected while others, like skeletal problems, can be more difficult.