In today’s world, there are a million self-improvement books. People stress about their hair, their career, their communication skills, and god knows what else.
Now here’s where it gets interesting, one of the most common things that young adults are self-conscious about is the appearance of a gummy smile. Believe it or not, a gummy smile is the biggest insecurity of about 15-20% of young adults, particularly young women. I found that statistic staggering.
It’s surprising how many unhappy smilers hate their gums. Early in my career when I first started as a gummy smile expert, I thought to myself, 15%-25% of young adults are unhappy with a gummy smile? That seems almost unbelievable. I didn’t even think 20% of the population had gummy smiles, and to top it off, it was their biggest insecurity?
The reality is that people who hate their gummy smile have all the tricks in the book to hide it. They will cover their mouth with their hand, or even try to control how high their lip rises consciously. They utilize these tricks deliberately throughout their entire day. That’s a lot of work to smile with happiness.
So with that said, let’s talk about one of the most common causes of a gummy smile: when the lip rises excessively high. Specifically, we’ll talk about the procedure that fixes, that you may have never heard of. It’s called lip repositioning surgery.
What is Lip Repositioning Surgery
Lip repositioning surgery is a procedure that corrects a gummy smile by reducing the amount the lip rides up when a person smiles.
You may have heard lip repositioning surgery referred to by a few different names. They all mean the same thing. Some other names are lip lowering surgery, reverse vestibuloplasty, or even my personal favorite, a “gummy tuck.” Afterall, abdomen surgery has the cutesy name of tummy tuck, so why shouldn’t the lip have a cute name for the procedure like gummy tuck as well, right?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, how invasive is lip repositioning surgery? The thought of it probably sounds a little scary right? Well, the good news is the procedure is probably much less invasive than you think.
Lip repositioning surgery lowers the lip when you smile by a straightforward technique. A small band of gum tissue is removed from under the lip. Then the gum tissue is sutured into a lower position. When the area heals, there are no scars. There are no changes to the external part of the face when you are not smiling. The only difference that happens is your lip doesn’t pull up as high when you smile. Studies show lip repositioning surgery is a successful alternative for gummy smile treatment.
Who is a Good Candidate For Lip Lowering Surgery?
So here’s the deal with the treatment of gummy smiles, it affects 10% and 25% of all adults, but not all of those people are treated the same way. For some patients, their teeth are covered with excessive gum. Their gummy smile is not a lip issue, it’s that there are too much gums. For those patients, we recommend sculpting the gums in a procedure called a gingivectomy.
But what if your lip is rising too high when you smile? That’s the candidate for lip lowering surgery.
Think of lip repositioning surgery like adjusting a window with a curtain and shade. What if you pulled the window shade up, and it went to the ceiling. It would expose all the mechanical hardware of the curtain rod. The window hardware is something all windows have, but its not ideal to see from the room. Luckily, there’s a simple fix. You adjust the shade so that when it rises up, it allows light from the window without giving you a less than fantastic view under the hood of the window components. Lip lowering surgery adjust the height of the lip like the shade on a window.
If you’re looking at your smile in the mirror and wondering if you have a gummy smile and how you stack up, here’s a guide in millimeters. The measurements are measured from the start of your gums to the bottom of your lip when smiling:
Classifications of Gumline Exposure:
1-2mm gingival display: mild/normal (usually no action needed)
3-6mm gingival display: moderate
7+mm gingival display: severe
How Long Does Lip Repositioning Surgery Take?
A lip repositioning procedure is a simple and predictable surgical technique. The procedure usually takes about 45 minutes to complete, but at my practice, we usually schedule about an hour and half to allow plenty of time to make the patient comfortable before starting and plenty of time to discuss post-op instructions at the end of the procedure.
Lip lowering surgery can be completed with local anesthesia or IV sedation. Most patients are comfortable completing the procedure with local anesthesia, but if a patient has high anxiety, they may opt for IV sedation.
What is Recovery Like
Recovery for lip repositioning surgery is generally 3 to 4 days of rest. During that time, there is typically moderate pain and swelling, which is manageable with pain medications and antibiotics. Patients generally can go back to work or school after 4 days, but will need to avoid strenuous exercise or activity for about 2 weeks. The key for ideal healing is for a patient to avoid smiling or laughing during their healing for 4 weeks. I know, it’s a strange request, but the reasoning does make sense. If you smile too soon during the healing, you will stretch the area of the stitches, and the lip may heal in a slightly higher position than intended.
How Long does Lip Repositioning Surgery Last & Is Lip Lowering Permanent?
After the initial 4 weeks of healing, there will be some minor settling over the first 6 months in which the lip may rise about an additional millimeter when smiling. Generally, after 6 months the results of lip repositioning surgery last permanently.
How Much does it Cost to Fix a Gummy Smile with Lip Repositioning Surgery
The value of your smile, self-esteem, and confidence is invaluable. If you have been self-conscious about your gummy smile for many years, you may be pleased to know that lip lowering cost is not as high as you may have expected.
Often lip repositioning surgery is completed in combination with a gingivectomy, as a ballpark, the overall cost to correct a gummy smile generally is in the range of $1000 to $5000 depending on complexity and treatments needed.
Now keep in mind that, just like any big investment, there are financing options and tools to help make the process easier. Some of the tools available that people consider for gummy smile procedures are using Care Credit, Lending Club, Health Savings Accounts, Flex Spending Accounts, or credit cards.
Who does Lip Repositioning Surgery
Gummy smile treatment is a highly unique treatment in dentistry. There are only a handful of what I would consider gummy smile specialists in the country. My practice, Aesthetic Smile Reconstruction, in the Boston area does possibly the most number of gummy smile procedures in the nation.
Some other doctors who are known for gummy smile treatment are Dr. Farnoosh in the Beverly Hills area of Los Angeles, Dr. Gottesman in New York City, Dr. Moran in Orange County, and Dr. Gallardo in Miami.