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You may have asked your periodontist about procedures to improve your smile because your teeth look short. Your teeth may have the correct length, but they are covered with too much gum tissue. To correct this, your periodontist performs a lengthening procedure of the dental crown.

The lengthening of the dental crown involves the removal of gum tissue, bone or both to further expose the structure of a tooth. Why would you need it? You may have broken a tooth in the gum line. Or maybe you only have a decayed tooth. Sometimes, after your dentist removes tooth decay, there is not enough tooth structure left above the gum line to hold a dental crown (or even a filling of a large tooth). Without a sufficient structure to grip, improperly fitting dental crowns can cause chronic inflammation and irritation. Worse yet, tooth decay can enter under the dental crown, creating the need for more dental treatment. You could even lose the tooth completely.

Although it is less common, lengthening the crown can also be used cosmetically to treat what is called a “gummy smile”. When an unusually large amount of gum tissue is shown around the upper teeth, lengthening the crown may help. Your dentist can expose more teeth, then sculpt your gum line to create the look you want.

The lengthening of the dental crown is considered a fairly mild surgery that causes a relatively small pain. Just in case, the periodontist will provide a prescription to control the pain. You will also be given special instructions for mouthwash and dental care to take care of your teeth during recovery. You should continue with your usual routine of oral hygiene, taking care to avoid brushing the gums in the affected area.

About one week after the crown lengthening surgery, your periodontist will remove the stitches. Your gums will need to heal for a while longer before your tooth can be fitted with the final dental crown.

As with all surgeries, elongation of the crown has risks. You may experience bleeding or develop an infection after surgery. Because the root of your tooth is exposed, it may be more sensitive to heat and cold. This will disappear once the dental crown has been put in place. Removing the bone from around a tooth can loosen it. If the tooth is ever lost, it can be difficult to place the dental implants in that area.