Crown lengthening is something of a misnomer. We don’t actually add anything to, or build up your tooth.
What is crown lengthening, then?
It is an extremely common surgical procedure where we remove gum tissue and/or bone in order to expose more of a tooth, thereby making it look “longer.” In other words, we expose more of the tooth’s structure, making it stick out further past the gum line.
Crown lengthening can be done on an isolated tooth to even out the gum line, or done to several teeth to expose a more natural, broader smile. If there is not enough tooth exposed because it has broken down to the gum line, then crown lengthening allows for more stability to eventually support a prosthetic crown. Not only will it be a better fitting crown, but you will have improved access to control plaque around it.
The other major reason that crown lengthening may be clinically necessary is for patients who just naturally have a lot of tissue around their teeth, aka the dreaded “gummy smile.”
Crown lengthening is done using local anesthesia. The length of time it takes depends on how many teeth are involved, but it’s typically no longer than an hour. Even if one tooth requires lengthening, the procedure may include neighboring teeth, which allows for the tissue to be gradually reshaped.
A series of small incisions is made in the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth which enables it to be moved away from the root, providing access to reshape the tooth as well as any adjacent ones. Occasionally, a small amount of bone may need to be removed from around the teeth and this is done using a combination of hand instruments and rotary instruments.
When sufficient exposure has been achieved, the area is flushed with sterile water, and a couple of sutures are placed in the gum tissue. Things will look visibly different immediately because the gum has been repositioned.
A periodontal ‘bandage’ is placed to protect the area, and you will leave your appointment with an antimicrobial mouth rinse and a prescription if needed. The healing process takes about two to three months, at which point you can return to the office to have the tooth prepped for the placement of a crown.
As with most dental procedures, crown lengthening sounds much worse than it is!
If you have any questions about crown lengthening or would like to set up an appointment with Dr. Drews or Dr. Lake, give us a call at (207) 782-5308.