Cosmetic Gum Surgery Puts a Smile on Teen's Face

Written by dentistry  |  06. July 2005

Not too long ago, 18-year-old Danielle Randone dreaded having her picture taken. The straight-A student, surfer and part-time employee from West Islip was so embarrassed by her "gummy smile" and "chiclet teeth," that even meeting people for the first time made her self-conscious. "Whenever you talk to people, they look at your teeth," she explained. She consulted with two dentists who recommended porcelain veneers to correct the problem. The procedure entails resurfacing the tooth so a thin laminate can be bonded to the part of the tooth that remains. Although extremely unhappy with her teeth, Danielle and her mother were not thrilled with the idea of extensive dental work, including grinding away the surface of her front teeth; the hefty price tag of six veneers; and the need to replace them every 10 or 15 years. In addition, Danielle tends to grind her teeth when she sleeps, so chances are the veneers would have cracked. Then Danielle went to see Dr. Jonathan Richter, who offered a better solution: cosmetic gum surgery. Dr. Richter, a Great Neck dentist who received special training in periodontics and prosthodontics, would remove the excess gum tissue, thereby exposing more of her teeth and making them look longer. The procedure, also known as periodontal plastic surgery or crown lengthening, is much less of an ordeal than standard veneers and much less expensive. When people have a "gummy smile," a significant portion of their gums is exposed when they smile. After wearing braces for three and a half years, Danielle noticed the problem had gotten worse when the braces were removed. "She was unhappy with the way her teeth looked, and we debated what to do for years," says Angela Aliano, Danielle's mother. They made their decision in April, opting for an hour-long procedure in which Dr. Richter would improve Danielle's smile by sculpting her gum tissue and reshaping her teeth. "The gum tissue is like a frame that provides form and shape to the top of the tooth," he explained. "By removing excess gum tissue, sculpting the gum line and making it higher, we made her teeth appear longer. Now, much less gum is exposed when she smiles." She received a local anesthetic during the procedure, which was completed in one visit, and noticed a change immediately. She later had tooth-whitening and now has a dazzling smile. "It's beautiful, I love it," she says. "I didn't expect such an extreme change. I'm so excited. And I feel so much more confident talking to people." Danielle says her mother became teary-eyed when she saw the improvement. "Danielle's confidence has gone from zero to 100," Mrs. Aliano says. "Now she radiates." Dr. Richter says it's a good idea for anyone considering a major cosmetic dental procedure to get a second opinion, and also to check a dentist's credentials and training. "Before any cosmetic treatment is provided, it's important that the patient have a thorough dental exam," Dr. Richter says. "If there's an underlying problem with the teeth or gums, it must be treated before any cosmetic procedure is provided. The dentist should discuss all the alternatives with the patient." While cosmetic dentistry techniques can achieve dramatic improvements for patients, good oral care and regular dental exams are fundamental so teeth not only look good, but stay healthy, Dr. Richter says. ---------- Dr. Jonathan Richter is a practicing dentist in Great Neck, with additional specialty training and certificates in both periodontics and prosthodontics. He belongs to a number of professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Periodontology, the Northeastern Academy of Periodontology and the American Academy of General Dentistry. His phone number is 516-282-0310.

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