The Causes of a Gummy Smile, and How to Fix It

What is a “gummy smile,” and can it be treated? Dr. Tim Silegy discusses oral and maxillofacial surgery, what drew him to this particular line of work, and the full-range of procedures he performs which offer his patients long-lasting and life changing results.

Tell us about your background; what drew you to this work and more specifically, the area of oral and maxillofacial surgery? I have always been attracted to surgery. My father volunteered on the ski patrol and I used to go to all of his first-aid courses with him. I found I was naturally quite adept at bandaging people up and decided I wanted to pursue a career in health care. While in dental school I was introduced to oral and maxillofacial surgery by a wonderful mentor, Dr. Morris Clark. I was fortunate to be accepted directly into a four-year hospital based residency program right out of dental school and have been practicing the specialty ever since.

Where does your expertise lie as a practice, and what types of services do you offer? Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is a specialty of dentistry, but the bulk of our specialty training takes place in a hospital. During this time we gain extensive experience in Medicine, Anesthesia and General Surgery. My practice is limited to surgical procedures involving the head, face and mouth. I have an extensive referral network of dentists and physicians who send me patients for procedures ranging from wisdom teeth extraction and full arch  reconstruction with dental implants to reconstructive jaw surgery and facial esthetics.

Give us some insight into “The Gummy Smile.” What types of conditions contribute to this, and how might it be corrected? I frequently see patients who complain that they show too much of their gums when they smile. This can be caused by an overgrowth of their gums, excessive downward growth of their upper jaw or by simply having a short upper lip. Regardless of the cause, I can correct most “gummy smiles” in under an hour in my state-of-the-art office.

You performed Orthognathic surgery on ABC’s hit television program Extreme Makeover.  Tell us about this procedure. Who can benefit from it, and what types of underlying issues might you be looking to correct? Orthognathic surgery, which means “straighten jaws,” is a surgical procedure that I can use to correct overbites, underbites, facial asymmetries, weak chins and gummy smiles.

Men are frequently concerned with the appearance of their chin. Afraid that they may not be viewed as masculine by the opposite sex, many men choose to grow beards to increase the projection of their chin.  For those who don’t wish to grow a beard, an easy in-office procedure called a genioplasty can be used to advance the chin. The operation is completed entirely through the mouth leaving no external scarring.

Men aren’t the only ones to be concerned with chin projection. Woman with weak chins frequently undergo the procedure to restore facial balance and get rid of loose skin in the upper neck and chin, giving them a fresh, youthful appearance.

What do you like most about being an oral and maxillofacial surgeon? The best part of my job, is that I can address very significant problems for patients in an astonishingly short period of time. In just a few hours, I can take someone who has a facial deformity or is a dental cripple and give them the smile that they have only dreamed about. The instant gratification that my patients experience transfers to me when their pain has been relieved, or a long standing esthetic concern has been resolved in just one visit.

To learn more, visit Dr. Tim Silegy Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Tim Silegy, DDS, FACD, FICD
Diplomate, American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

Dr. Silegy maintains a private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery in Long Beach, California.  He graduated from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in 1991 and completed his residency in oral maxillofacial surgery at the King Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California in 1995. 

He was an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Surgical Dentistry at the University of Colorado from 1995 to 1999. The allure of the ocean and sunny weather caused him to return to California in 1999 where he continues to practice the full scope of oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Dr. Silegy was the featured surgeon in ABC’s television program, Extreme Makeover, where he performed reconstructive jaw surgery on three patients.

He has been active politically, serving as President of the Harbor Dental Society and various positions on the Board of the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. 

He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and a Fellow of the American Association or Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists.

Dr. Silegy has been published in multiple peer reviewed journals and lectures nationally and internationally on dental implants.



More Stories