What Does Crown Lengthening Entail?

In a perfect world, we’d all be born with dazzling smiles and never get cavities. Nice thought, right? But it’s not reality. Even people who practice the most vigilant at-home dental care and visit their dentist every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup may get cavities or have a dental mishap, like a broken tooth, and need a crown.

Even when they’re teeth are healthy, some people aren’t quite happy with their smiles. Every smile is a little different, but sometimes the smile we’re born with falls short of our expectations and may appear “gummy.” Those smiles are easy to detect, since the person sporting it typically doesn’t smile much or holds their hands in front of their face when they do smile.

The good news for both of these scenarios is that there’s a versatile dental surgical procedure called crown lengthening. Crown lengthening can be used as a cosmetic procedure to enhance a gummy smile. Or it can be a restorative procedure that’s done before placing a crown to expose more of the natural tooth so it can support the crown.

Our skilled dental and periodontal team at Downtown Dental Studio explains what a crown-lengthening procedure is all about. 

What is crown lengthening?

Let’s start unpacking this topic by explaining more about the ultimate goal of the surgical procedure. Regardless of whether this treatment is done for cosmetic or restorative reasons, the end result is the same – to expose more of the natural tooth. 

In the case of a gummy smile, our periodontist, Dr. Fadi Beydoun, uses the newly exposed tooth or teeth to redesign the gum line so that the patient gets a better balance of teeth and gum exposure. 

When using crown lengthening before installing a bridge or crown, the additional tooth exposure will provide proper support so that the crown or bridge has more substantial support, particularly if the tooth has extensive decay or is broken. The crown-lengthening process can be easily broken down in three steps: preprocedure, procedure, and recovery.

Before a crown-lengthening procedure

Prior to performing a crown-lengthening procedure, we meet with you to do a thorough examination. A professional cleaning and X-rays may also be performed. 

The purpose of this stage is not only to discuss your goals, but also your medical history to make sure that you’re a good candidate for the procedure. You’ll need to be in good overall health and need to have strong teeth, gum and surrounding bone. If you’re a candidate for the procedure, we schedule your appointment and provide you with pre-treatment instructions.

During the procedure

In general, a crown-lengthening procedure takes an hour or so depending on how many teeth we’re treating and whether both soft tissue and bone need to be removed. To keep you comfortable during the procedure, we give you a local anesthesia and may combine it with a sedative. 

In order to expose more of the tooth, we make small incisions to cut away a small portion of your gum tissue. Sometimes patients have excessive soft tissue and bone around the teeth. In cases like this some bone may be removed as well.

After we wash and stitch the treatment area, you go home with postop instructions and a special mouth rinse to help the healing and recovery process. We may also prescribe pain medication, if needed.

Recovery after crown lengthening

During the first few days after your procedure, you’ll need to eat soft foods until we remove your sutures. Rinsing your mouth after every meal helps keep the wound clean so that it can heal properly. Your gums will be swollen and sore, but as they heal, the swelling goes down and the pain subsides.

If you had the crown-lengthening procedure done before a bridge or crown, you must heal completely prior to getting your dental crown or bridge placed. If the crown-lengthening procedure was in the back of your mouth, healing could take up to 12 weeks, while front-of-the-mouth work takes 3-6 months to heal.

If you have a gummy smile or need a bridge or dental crown but your tooth has structural issues, contact our office in the Financial District in New York City to find out if crown lengthening is right for you. Book an appointment online or call us today.

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