Most of us have heard of crowns, the tooth-shaped caps that fit over a natural tooth. Most of the time, crowns are used to repair teeth that are damaged or badly decayed and can’t be repaired by other methods, such as dental fillings. Crowns are also used in other restorative dental appliances, such as bridges and dental implants, for example. You may already know about crowns, but you may not have heard of crown lengthening. Just as the name implies, this dental procedure often involves use of a crown. But crown lengthening is much more than simply affixing a crown over a damaged tooth. If you’re wondering what is included in the esthetic crown lengthening steps, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll explain who is a candidate for crown lengthening, what’s involved in the procedure, as well as how to prepare for crown lengthening and what to expect during the recovery process.
Who Are Good Candidates for Crown Lengthening?
Although this procedure can be done for oral health reasons, the majority of people choose crown lengthening as a way to improve the appearance of their smiles. Dental patients who have “gummy smiles” – or whose gum tissue extends too far down the surface of their front teeth – are typically good candidates for crown lengthening. Usually the only prerequisites for the procedure are good oral health and good overall health.
There are situations where crown lengthening may be recommended for more than cosmetic reasons. Excess gum tissue can conceal other dental problems, such as damaged or decayed teeth. In these circumstances, crown lengthening may be recommended to resolve those oral health issues.
What is Involved in the Crown Lengthening Procedure?
The crown lengthening procedure is a multi-step process. Although the details and sequence of the procedure may vary somewhat from one dental patient to the next, the process usually begins with the dentist or oral surgeon removing excess gum tissue from the surface of the patient’s teeth. This portion of the treatment used to be somewhat invasive, requiring the dentist or oral surgeon to use a scalpel and to suture the gum tissue afterwards. But thanks to modern dental technology, most oral health care providers now use lasers that are specifically designed to be used in dentistry. Thanks to these lasers, removal of excess gum tissue can be done relatively quickly, with very little bleeding and virtually no pain or discomfort. In addition, because the laser cauterizes the wound, the healing time for the remaining gum tissue is greatly reduced.
The next step in the crown lengthening procedure usually involves the dentist or oral surgeon reshaping the structure of the teeth that are exposed after the gum tissue is removed. This may involve removal or some bone tissue and/or application of crowns or porcelain veneers to the affected teeth. If those teeth are decayed or damaged, the dentist will repair the teeth prior to application of a crown or veneer.
The majority of patients receive both local anesthesia and dental sedation prior to the procedure, which means that the patient feels little to no discomfort whatsoever during the process. During recovery, however, most people do experience some pain. But your dentist will provide you with a full set of instructions on how best to care for your surgery site while recovering at home, so even that discomfort is kept to a minimum.
Preparing for a Crown Lengthening Procedure
Recovering at Home
As you can imagine, it takes some time to fully heal from a crown lengthening procedure. Most patients can expect a recovery time of about three months. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t return to your normal daily activities. In fact, most people go back to work or school within two to three days after surgery. The exception to that would be people whose daily tasks involve some amount of physical exertion or heavy lifting. Those individuals might have to wait longer before returning to their normal daily routine.
Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with a full set of instructions to ensure that you heal as quickly as possible. Either prescription painkillers or over-the-counter pain medication may be recommended for some patients, as well as antibiotics in some cases. For the first 24 hours after the surgery, you should avoid rinsing your mouth out, and you can use either moistened gauze or a moist tea bag to apply slight pressure on the surgical site to decrease bleeding if it should occur. Your dentist will also recommend that you avoid hot foods and drinks for the first 24 hours, since these might increase bleeding. Any dressings should be left on for 7 to 14 days and only removed by your dentist, and you’ll need to be extremely careful when brushing your teeth. Most patients are told to eat only soft foods for a period of time; to avoid drinking alcohol; to avoid smoking; and to be careful not to poke or prod the surgical site.
Although the esthetic crown lengthening steps are somewhat involved and take some time to recover from, the vast majority of patients would agree that the results are well worth the effort. These procedures are becoming increasingly common, and with good reason: crown lengthening dramatically improves the appearance of the patient’s smile! And while that may sound like a “nice-to-have” cosmetic benefit, the fact is that having a more attractive smile significantly improves your overall quality of life, allowing you to feel more self-confident and self-assured. To learn more about the esthetic crown lengthening steps, and to find out if you’re a good candidate for this procedure, schedule an appointment with your dentist today!