Crown lengthening is typically done to improve gum tissue health or to prepare the mouth for restorative or cosmetic procedures. Crown lengthening procedures are also often used to correct a “gummy” smile, in which the teeth are partially covered by an excess of gum tissue, which is done by exposing more of the teeth by reshaping bone and gum tissue. This can be performed on a single tooth, multiple teeth, or the entire gum line, to achieve an aesthetically-pleasing smile.

Some of the common reasons for undergoing this procedure include:

    • Restoration of damaged teeth: Severe tooth damage can result from periodontal disease, trauma, or decay. When teeth have broken underneath the gum line, this procedure will be used to prepare the area for restoration to repair the broken teeth.
    • Cosmetic use: Teeth can often look unusually short due to excess gum tissue, which also can increase the risk for infection. Removing the extra tissue can create a healthy appearance and improve the aesthetics of the patient’s smile.
    • Dental crowns: This procedure can increase the space between the jawbone and crown. Once the new crown is in place, this will prevent it from damaging gum tissue and bone.

What does crown lengthening involve?

Local anesthetic is normally used in the crown lengthening procedure. How long the process will take usually depends on how many teeth are involved, whether any small amounts of bone will need to be taken out, and whether or not any soft tissue needs to be removed as well. If there are any existing dental crowns, they will need to be removed before the procedure can take place, but they will be replaced afterwards.

During the procedure, the dentist makes a series of small incisions in the soft tissue to separate the patient’s gums from the teeth. Even if only one tooth is being worked on, adjacent teeth are typically also treated so as to create a more even reshaping. Once the gums are separated, the dentist is provided with access to the roots of the teeth and underlying bone.

The way the procedure will go can vary, sometimes the removal of small amounts of soft tissue is enough to provide the necessary tooth exposure to place the crown. In other cases, a small amount of bone will also need to be removed from around the teeth. Special hand and drill-like rotary instruments are typically used to remove the bone.

When the teeth are adequately exposed, the open wound will be cleaned with sterilized water and the gum tissue will be closed with small sutures. Immediately after surgery the teeth will be noticeably longer thanks to the respositioned gumline.

An intraoral bandage will then be used over the surgical site, in order to prevent infection. The patient may receive prescriptions for pain mediation, as well as a chlorhexidine/antimicrobial mouth wash. It will take about two to three months for the patient to completely heal.

If you have any questions or concerns about crown lengthening, please ask your dentist.