Gum Contouring 101: What Is It and How Does It Work?

If you’re dealing with gum disease, you’re not alone; close to half of US adults aged 30 or older are in the same boat. What’s more, about 30% of adults in this age range have moderate periodontal disease.

Fortunately, treatments like scaling, root planing, and antibiotics can cure early gum disease. While advanced cases are no longer curable, minor surgery can still treat them.

Gum contouring, in turn, is one of the treatments for advanced gum disease. However, people with a gummy smile (with or without gum disease) can also get this procedure.

So, what exactly does it mean to get your gums contoured? What does the treatment entail, and how can it benefit you?

We’ll cover and answer all those questions in this guide, so be sure to keep reading.

What Is Gum Contouring?

Gum contouring, also known as gum reshaping, is a procedure meant to even out the gumline. In most cases, it involves removing excess gum tissue around the teeth. Conversely, it can entail adding tissue to parts of the mouth where the gums have receded.

Why Is It Done in the First Place?

According to this cosmetic dentist guide, gum contouring can be a cosmetic treatment. In this case, it’s an elective procedure meant to transform the look of the teeth, gums, and smile. You can opt to undergo this procedure if you have a gummy smile, also known as an excessive gingival display.

In many cases, a gummy smile isn’t a medical health concern, but it can affect one’s self-confidence. Moreover, studies show that about 10% of people aged 20 to 30 think their smiles are “too gummy.” So, if you feel the same and it’s making you self-conscious, you might want to consider gum reshaping.

If you have periodontal disease, though, gum contouring can be medically necessary. A perfect example is if your gums have receded, exposing more of your teeth. The more tooth surface exposed, the greater the risk of tooth decay.

Your dentist may also recommend gum reshaping if you have gingival hyperplasia. It’s a condition characterized by an overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth. If left untreated, it can cause pain, teeth misalignment, and even more gum disease.

Please keep in mind that gum disease and dental caries are the leading causes of tooth loss. Tooth loss, in turn, is irreversible, and sadly, about 120 million people in the US are missing at least one tooth. While there are tooth replacement options, you don’t want to lose any of your natural (and free!) teeth.

How Does Gum Contouring Work?

Gum contouring is an in-office procedure that takes about one to two hours. However, it may take longer if you’re undergoing it as part of medical treatment.

Before your dentist starts, you’ll receive local anesthesia to numb the treatment site. The medication will allow you to stay awake yet feel little to no pain.

If you feel very anxious or nervous, though, let your oral healthcare provider know. They may recommend other sedation options to help calm you throughout the procedure.

Once you’re comfortable, your dentist will use a scalpel or a soft tissue laser to remove the excess gums. The doctor will also fix the height and width of your gum tissues. Your gums may need sutures to hold them securely in place.

If the procedure is for recessed gums, your dentist will need to get donor tissues first. These will come from other parts of your mouth or the palate. From there, the dentist will transfer the healthy tissues to the recessed gum area.

Does It Hurt?

The procedure itself usually doesn’t, thanks to the anesthesia dentists administer. However, once the pain medication wears off, you can expect to feel some tenderness. You may also notice some soreness and swelling along the treated gum area.

Don’t worry, though, as your dentist will prescribe or tell you to use a pain reliever after the surgery. If you don’t need prescription drugs, you can go with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Don’t use aspirin, as it can work as a blood thinner, putting your treated gums at risk of bleeding.

You can also use a cold compress or ice pack for a few days after the treatment. The cold can help ease some of the pain and swelling. Applying the compress for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time can do the trick.

How About Complete Recovery?

Gum contouring is a minor surgery, which is why it involves little downtime. It’s even safe for you to return to work right after, so long as you won’t perform strenuous activity. However, it can still take several days to a few weeks for your gums to heal completely.

To help your gums recover faster, your dentist will likely ask you to eat soft foods for the next two to three days. Yogurt, applesauce, Jell-O, and cold soups are some examples of what you can eat.

By contrast, it’s best to avoid chewy, crispy, crunchy, hard, or sticky foods. For starters, eating these require you to move your mouth more, which can then overwork your gums. Moreover, hard bits of food can injure your gums.

Let your dentist know right away if the pain worsens or the swelling doesn’t go away after the surgery. There may be a slight infection that your doctor needs to address immediately. It’s even more crucial to call the doc if you notice a discharge, such as pus, from the treated gums.

Get Your Gums in Shape With Gum Contouring

Always remember that your gums help keep your pearly whites in place. As such, it’s imperative to address any problem you may have when it comes to your gingival tissues.

So, whether you have excessive or recessed gums, visit a dentist as soon as possible. This way, the specialist can determine if gum contouring can help fix your gingival woes.

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