Do Small Teeth Cause a Gummy Smile?

Having too much gum show when you smile is called a “gummy smile.” This happens when more of the pink gum tissue at the top shows when someone smiles or laughs. Some people feel bad if they smile and others see a lot of their gums. They may not like how it looks.

What makes some people have a gummy smile and others not? One question is if having small or short teeth makes your gums seem bigger. Are little teeth the reason some smiles look more gummy?

We will explain what a gummy smile means. Then we will talk about what causes gums to seem too big in some smiles. We will look at if small teeth make your gums look bigger or if they are just less teeth and not the source. Finally, we will describe ways for dentists to fix the problem of too much gum when smiling. Read to learn more about connections between tooth size and gumminess, and how modern dental work can change your smile.

What Defines a Gummy Smile?

A “gummy smile” means too much gum shows when someone smiles or laughs. Most doctors say more than 2 millimeters (mm) of top gum is too much. Anything over 3mm usually looks strange and people want to fix it.

A millimeter is a very small measurement. It’s about the size of a few grains of salt next to each other. Gummy smiles are usually not painful, but they can make people feel bad about themselves and embarrassed to smile big. Normally, the top lip covers about 1mm of gum and teeth when smiling a little. Anything over 2-3mm is more than usual.

Causes Behind Gummy Smiles

There are several possible explanations for why some individuals display increased upper gum exposure based on their facial anatomy and dental alignments.

Excessive Gum Growth

Excessive Gum Growth

Gingival hyperplasia is a condition that causes too much gum growth. This results in enlarged gum tissue covering the base of teeth. Gingival hyperplasia can come from genetic predisposition, hormonal changes in the body, or certain blood pressure medications known to excessively boost gum cell growth. The additional gum tissue takes up more visible space in the smile line region between nose and upper lip.

Swollen Gums

Periodontal disease can also inflame gum tissue, making it puffy and enlarged, leading it to hang lower over teeth. So in some cases, swollen diseased gums end up covering too much tooth structure.

Short Vestibule Area

The vestibule refers to the vertical area between the upper teeth and where the upper lip meets the gum when smiling normally. Some patients have naturally shorter vestibule areas, allowing their upper lip muscles to pull higher and show additional gum tissue.

Overactive Lip Muscles

The orbicularis oris muscle circles the mouth and allows flexible upper lip motion. In certain cases this muscle and other lip elevator muscles contract too strongly, retracting the upper lip higher than average. Combined with shorter vestibule length, active upper lip muscles lead to added gum visibility.

Bite Misalignments

Issues with the bite or jaw orientation can also influence the gum exposure zone. An overbite where excessive maxillary (upper) teeth vertically overlap the mandibular (lower) teeth often correlates to a gummy smile. Crossbites and poor tooth rotational alignment can also change the amount of visible gum space between the lips and teeth.

Small or Short Teeth

Having smaller teeth by nature or teeth worn down from bruxism tooth grinding puts more focus on the surrounding gum tissue. Short teeth essentially leave more blank space for gums to show through. The smaller or shorter the clinical crowns, the more pronounced and visible the gums may appear by comparison. Just 1-2mm less tooth size exposes substantially more gum.

Role of Small Teeth

Role of Small Teeth

Small or short teeth are certainly one factor leading the gums to become more visible within the smile zone between the upper lip and nose. However, while small teeth draw focus to the gum tissue, they are not inherently the cause of actual gum overgrowth in most cases. Multiple elements, including factors like dentures causing dry lips, usually combine to cause a gummy smile.

Ways small teeth contribute to gummy appearance include:

  • Less tooth structure for lip and gum tissue to drape over
  • Gums seem to take up more visible surface area by comparison
  • May correlate with bite issues misaligning gum-to-tooth orientation
  • Absence of teeth creates gaps exposing more interior gum space

However, the excessive gum tissue itself tends to originate from inherent genetic gingival hyperplasia, periodontal health issues, or anatomical factors like short vestibule areas.

In reality small teeth mainly call attention to already overgrown or enlarged gums. The smaller teeth mostly just create an optical illusion magnifying the apparent gumminess.

Treatment Options for Gummy Smiles

Treatment Options for Gummy Smiles

Today there are various dental and surgical methods for treating an unattractive gummy smile depending on the individual causes at play:

Non-Surgical Approaches

Botox – Can restrict upper lip elevation Gum contouring – Reshapes gum tissue Teeth lengthening – Products like veneers extend teeth downward

Surgical Procedures

There are different types of procedures to fix gummy smiles:

  • Lip surgery – Changes how much the upper lip goes up to show less gum.
  • Gum surgery – Removes extra gum tissue so less shows when smiling.
  • Jaw surgery – Moves the jaw bone to make the bite look better.
  • Tooth removal/ fake teethTakes out small teeth and replaces them.

Doctors can figure out exactly what causes each person’s gummy smile. Then they use the right procedures to show less gum.

Often small teeth are part of why gums show too much. But fixing just the teeth may not be enough. The full plan needs to fix other problems too, like the jaw or lips. Working on different parts together gets the best result.


How do you fix small teeth and gummy smiles?

Dentists can reshape teeth with bonding or veneers to make them look larger. Gum reshaping procedures reduce excess gum exposure for a better smile.

Why do some people have little teeth with big gums?

Genetics can cause naturally smaller teeth or a short lip line. Other factors like jaw positioning also let more gums show through with smaller teeth.

Is gummy smile attractive?

Many people consider an excessive gummy smile unattractive because it draws unwanted attention to the gums. However, beauty is subjective and some gummy smiles do not bother individuals.

What is considered the prettiest smile?

A smile that shows mostly teeth and just a small amount of gums at the top is usually considered the most aesthetically pleasing. This balances tooth and gum exposure pleasantly.

Is gummy smile unhealthy?

Most gummy smiles are not a medical issue and do not cause pain. However, excessive gum visibility can lead to low self-esteem if the person is self-conscious of their appearance


Do small teeth cause gummy smiles by themselves? Usually not. Small teeth don’t usually cause gummy smiles on their own. But they can make overly large or grown gums look more noticeable. However, small teeth are often one of many things that lead to showing too much gum when smiling. Other things include how the jaw is aligned, gum health, how the lips move with muscles, and genetics that make people naturally smile with more gum showing.

Now there are lots of options to fix gummy smiles so they look better. Doctors can do small dental treatments or bigger jaw surgery. While small teeth may not be the only problem, fixing them could be part of the solution. The best thing is to see a dentist who fixes smiles. They can look at everything about a person’s smile. Then they can come up with a good plan to fix the gummy smile problem.

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