Crown lengthening is one example of how much dental technology has advanced over the past several years. Although typically performed to treat patients with a “gummy smile,” crown lengthening can also be an effective treatment to repair teeth with either damage or decay under the gum line. The exact steps in the treatment vary, but in this article we’ll provide some general information about what to expect during the procedure as well as how to prepare for esthetic crown lengthening recovery.
Although crown lengthening can be used to resolve dental issues such as damaged or decayed teeth, the majority of the time this procedure is done to improve the appearance of the patient’s smile. People with a gummy smile have excess gum tissue that extends too far down the surface of the front teeth. As a result, the patient’s teeth appear to be too short. In reality, their teeth are normal size but are hidden by the excess gum tissue. The first step in a crown lengthening procedure is to remove some portion of the gum tissue in order for the gum line to fall higher on the tooth surface. Years ago, this could only be accomplished by the dentist using a scalpel to carve away the excess gum tissue, then suturing the wounds afterward during the healing process.
Thankfully, modern dental technology offers another option. Today, most dentists use a specially designed laser to remove gum tissue and cauterize the wound at the same time, resulting in less bleeding and a shorter recovery time. But gum contouring is only the first part of the crown lengthening process.
The next step involves the dentist reshaping the surface of the teeth that were concealed under the gums. If decay is present, or if these teeth are damaged in some way, the dentist will repair the teeth using whatever method is appropriate. In some instances, a small amount of bone tissue will be removed in the reshaping process. And frequently, the dentist will complete the procedure by affixing either crowns or porcelain veneers to the affected teeth. Finally, after steps are complete, the patient is sent home to recover.
Recovering from Crown Lengthening
The time it takes to heal after a crown lengthening procedure will vary from one patient to the next, and often depends on the exact steps involved. But most people can expect their recovery times to take around two months and possibly even longer. This sounds like an extensive period of time, but it’s really only the first few days after the procedure when patients need to take extra precautions to ensure that they heal properly.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with a full set of instructions regarding steps you can take to encourage your healing, but usually that will include the following:
- Rest – After oral surgery or any other kind of surgery, one of the most important things you can do is to get plenty of rest. This is essential for your body to recover, and your dentist or oral surgeon will likely remind you how important it is to rest for the first few days after the procedure.
- Avoid chewing and brushing your teeth – Do this for the first two or three days after your surgery. This is important in order to protect the surgical site and avoid disturbing the dressing and causing excessive bleeding.
- Managing pain – Thanks to local anesthesia and dental sedation, most patients feel no pain or discomfort at all during the crown lengthening procedure. But you should expect to feel a certain amount of pain during recovery. To manage this discomfort, your dentist or oral surgeon may prescribe pain medication, or may suggest that you take an over-the-counter, aspirin-free, anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
- Managing bleeding and swelling – It’s normal to experience some amount of bleeding and swelling for the first couple of days following your crown lengthening procedure. There are several ways to manage this. Applying a cool ice pack or a cool, damp cloth to the surgical site will help to reduce both swelling and bleeding. Be sure to avoid eating or drinking hot foods or beverages during this time period, since that may encourage bleeding. And avoid rinsing your mouth out vigorously for the first 48 hours or so after the procedure. If your dentist has applied a dressing over the surgical site, take caution not to disturb it. Typically, dressings should only be changed by your dentist or oral surgeon.
- Dealing with sensitivity – You will likely notice an increase in sensitivity around the surgical site for the first few weeks following your procedure. This is normal and will decrease as you heal. But if you feel more sensitivity, try to avoid extremely hot or cold food or drinks that might increase that sensation.
- Oral hygiene – Keeping your teeth and gums clean is extremely important, even after oral surgery. But you’ll need to exercise extreme caution in doing so. Avoid brushing or flossing directly at the surgical site for as long as your dentist or oral surgeon recommends. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss on your unaffected teeth, and rinse your mouth out twice a day with antiseptic mouthwash when you do return to your normal oral hygiene routine.
- Modify your diet – Throughout your recovery period, you should stick with a diet of soft, easy-to-chew foods that aren’t too acidic or spicy. Avoid any hard or brittle foods, as well as seeds and nuts. Don’t chew food with teeth that have been worked on during your procedure. And avoid drinking alcohol or smoking during the recovery period since both of these habits will slow down the healing process.
There’s no doubt that the crown lengthening procedure is involved and recovery takes time. But the vast majority of patients are extremely happy with the results. After all is said and done, the patient is left with an absolutely beautiful smile and greatly improved oral health! For more information about this procedure and how you can prepare for esthetic crown lengthening recovery, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.