Expert Doctor

Gum Contouring for Gum Line Improvement

What is Gum Contouring?

Gum contouring is the process of improving the shape and appearance of the gum line. The gum line might need alteration due to an uneven gum line, excessive gums which are evident to others by teeth appearing short. A patient might also have an issue where the teeth appear to be different heights and widths due to the shape of the gums. All of these issues can be reconciled with gum contouring.



There are two typical methods which can be used to contour the gums:

1. A soft tissue laser can be used to vaporize a minor amount of tissue at the gum line with no pain or bleeding involved and this is called laser tissue contouring. With this method, the degree of gum contouring is limited to a millimeter and a half or so.

2. If a more significant alteration is needed, surgical contouring may be required. Surgical contouring is when the bone level at the front of the tooth’s root must be altered as well. It is not uncommon to need both laser and surgical contouring at the same time to remedy the shape of the gum line.



Gum contouring can make a significant difference in a person’s smile and can improve the way a person feels about themselves in regards to self-confidence. Improving the smile by repairing the symmetry of the teeth can be very dramatic. When considering either method, one important benefit to remember is that using a surgical approach to contouring typically can be a more permanent solution to gum alteration as opposed to laser contouring alone.


Am I a Good Candidate for Gum Contouring?

Anyone can qualify for gum contouring via laser or surgical means. However, a person who only needs a small amount of contouring, or minor changes, is probably a better candidate for laser contouring. 



When thinking about how the smile and gums are related, it is important to remember that the gum line follows the contour of the bone underneath. There is actually about 3 mm between the tissue and the bone. This is called Biologic Width. With laser contouring alone, the doctor is limited in the changes they can make. If a patient is not willing to have bone contouring, significant changes in soft tissue may cause chronic inflammation. The other option is to limit the amount of changes to soft tissue only staying within proper limits.



When doing laser contouring, a gum specialist will take several measurements to determine the level of bone and its relation to the soft tissue line.  The doctor must maintain proper biologic width when any changes are made. If the physician does not get this measurement right, there can be complications. In addition, the tissue repairs itself very quickly and will try to re-grow along the normal bone contour. Therefore, if not properly handled, laser contouring may not last.

Having surgical contouring on the bone is a minor procedure and is typically completed under local anesthesia. As mentioned above, surgical contouring is a reshaping of the bone underneath so the tissue change is more permanent.



Laser contouring heals very quickly due to the fact that the doctor is only altering soft tissue. A patient can expect recovery within 24-48 hours. Basically, the only restriction is a soft food diet for up to 4 days. It is very rare to experience any discomfort, infections, or complications with laser contouring.

With surgical contouring, the recovery takes about 4 -6 weeks. Again, there is a soft food diet for the first 4 days. After the first few days, a patient will feel pretty normal but will still need a longer healing time due to the bone recontouring.  Porcelain veneers or other cosmetic care can be completed in just a few weeks but some time must pass as the tissue may move a little during the healing period.



Many times, the natural tooth is simply hiding beneath the gum line. All that is needed is a little laser contouring in order to expose the natural tooth. This problem is called delayed passive eruption. Once exposed, the tooth appears normal and no further restoration needs to be done. When a patient is healed from surgical contouring, no further maintenance is needed other than typical brushing, flossing, and regular checkups. 



In the event that a patient wishes to have laser or surgical contouring it is important to choose a doctor and or Periodontist who is skilled and also provides a way of visually demonstrating the expected changes. A digital simulation or intra oral test drive will assist a patient in making a suitable decision concerning the alterations. Many clinicians use a tooth colored material to cover the gum and demonstrate what the changes would look like once the procedure is finished.

Cosmetic Town is the premier online cosmetic surgery news and information resource. We connect patients with the best doctors for cosmetic procedures. Get the answers to all of your questions and find a doctor near you.

Written by Cosmetic Town Editorial Team- SP

Based on an exclusive interview with John F Weston, DDS, FAACD in La Jolla, CA