Updated on March 5, 2024
6 min read

Gingivectomy: Cost, Procedure, and When It’s Necessary

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What is a Gingivectomy (Gum Contouring)?

Gingivectomy is the surgical removal of gum tissue. It may be performed to treat gum disease or as a cosmetic procedure to improve smiles.

3D render of gingivectomy surgery with laser

Dentists and periodontists have traditionally used a scalpel to perform gingivectomies. In recent years, however, laser technology has become increasingly popular for making surgery less invasive.

Who is a Candidate for a Gingivectomy?

Some people have a naturally ”gummy smile.” Your gums can also become uneven if you’ve had a crown or implant placed. These issues aren’t likely to cause medical problems, but they can make your teeth appear misshapen or less esthetic.

In these cases, you may choose to get a gingivectomy. It isn’t medically necessary, but adjusting the gingival margin can make your teeth appear more normal in size.

A gingivectomy isn’t always a cosmetic procedure–it’s also a well-established treatment for gum disease. If you have gingival hyperplasia (overgrowth of the gum tissue), your dentist may perform or recommend a gingivectomy to remove diseased gum tissue.

Is a Gingivectomy Ever Medically Necessary?

If you have gingival hyperplasia due to gum disease, a gingivectomy may be a necessary part of your treatment plan. It may also be followed by further periodontal surgery, such as dental crown lengthening. 

However, most people undergo a gingivectomy to improve their appearance. Removing excess gum tissue allows more of a person’s teeth to show, reducing a “gummy smile.”

For this reason, gum reshaping is generally considered cosmetic.

How Much Does a Gingivectomy Cost?

For the area around a single tooth, a gingivectomy can cost anywhere between $250 and $600. Treatment can cost up to $3,000 for all of your front top or bottom teeth.

Dental insurance may cover at least some of the cost if your dentist recommends gum reshaping to improve your gingival health. But you’ll have to pay out of pocket if the procedure isn’t medically necessary.

A gingivectomy is rarely covered in full. It is essential to talk with your dentist or periodontist, as well as your insurance company, to determine the best plan.

What are the Benefits of a Gingivectomy?

Some key benefits of gingivectomy include:

  • Improved periodontal health (if done to treat gum disease)
  • A more esthetic smile
  • A safe and minimally invasive procedure with few or no side effects
  • Results that can last decades, because the removed gingival tissue usually won’t grow back
  • Relatively low cost

Gingivectomy vs. Gingivoplasty

While gingivectomy refers to gum tissue removal, gingivoplasty refers to the reshaping of gum tissue.

Young man before and after gingivoplasty procedure on white background

These procedures may be performed together. If they’re being done for cosmetic reasons, a dentist may refer to them as a gum lift, gum contouring, or gingival sculpting.

How The Procedure Works: Gingivectomy Surgery & Aftercare

Gingivectomy surgery is relatively fast and can be done right in your dentist’s office under local anesthesia. Depending on your chosen treatment, your dentist will use a laser or scalpel to remove gum tissue.

Here’s what you can expect the process to look like:

1. Before Surgery

Before the procedure, your dentist will use a special pen to mark your gums and determine how much tissue will be removed. They will show you what they plan to do before beginning the procedure to ensure you are happy with the results. 

2. Local Anesthetic

After marking your gums, the dentist will apply local anesthesia. This ensures you’re numb and won’t feel any pain, but you’ll still be fully awake during the procedure. Ask your dentist about sedation options if you fear needles or surgery.

3. During Surgery

The local anesthesia will be in full effect after about 5 to 10 minutes. Then, your dentist will remove gingival tissue using a scalpel or laser. The procedure generally takes 30 minutes to two hours to complete. 

4. After Surgery

After the procedure, you will receive detailed instructions on how to care for your gums and teeth. 

Vector illustration of a before and after comparison of Gingivectomy

During the healing process, your dentist or periodontist will want you to do the following:

  • Refrain from hot or spicy foods and drinks
  • Stick to soft foods
  • Stay away from alcohol and tobacco
  • Avoid aspirin, which can cause bleeding

Not following post-op instructions can increase your risk of infection, swelling, and bleeding. 

5. Recovery

The healing process after a gingivectomy can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Your exact recovery time may depend on:

  • How many teeth were treated
  • How severe your condition was before treatment
  • Your genetics
  • Your overall health
  • How well you follow the aftercare instructions from your dentist
  • Whether you opted for scalpel or laser treatment (see below)

Scalpel vs. Laser Gingivectomy

There are advantages and disadvantages to both traditional scalpel and laser gingivectomy. 

Laser technology is newer and more expensive, and dentists must be trained to use it safely. However, it avoids some of the risks of using a scalpel.

Some reasons to consider the traditional method include:

  • It’s less expensive
  • It’s more likely to be available near you (because it doesn’t require as much special equipment or training)
  • Insurance may be somewhat more likely to cover it

On the other hand, laser gingivectomy offers the following benefits:

  • A laser can seal (cauterize) blood vessels as it cuts through the gums, speeding up recovery
  • Lower risk of infection (lasers kill bacteria and can’t be contaminated the way scalpels can)
  • Less pain during recovery

Alternative Treatment Options

You may benefit from other treatments if you are unsure about a gingivectomy for cosmetic purposes.

Dental bonding, veneers, crowns, and teeth whitening can improve the appearance of your teeth and may cost less than gum reshaping surgery.

Summary

Gingivectomy refers to the surgical removal of gingival (gum) tissue. It can be used to treat gum disease, but it’s more commonly performed as a cosmetic procedure. It can reveal more of a person’s teeth, helping to treat a “gummy smile.”

A dentist or periodontist can perform gingivectomies with a scalpel or a dental laser. The latter is more expensive but offers a shorter recovery and a lower risk of infection.

If you have gum disease or want to improve your smile, talk to your dentist or periodontist about your options. Remember that insurance will only cover a gingivectomy if it’s considered medically necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a gingivectomy hurt?

A gingivectomy is a relatively fast and easy procedure. Before the procedure begins, your dentist will administer local anesthesia. This means you won’t feel pain during the surgery.

However, most patients experience some discomfort, tenderness, and numbness after the procedure. These symptoms should subside after a few days. Ibuprofen and other OTC pain relievers can also help reduce pain.

Can gums grow back after surgery?

Gums generally don’t grow back following a gingivectomy. If you’re happy with the results, you typically won’t need to have the procedure performed again.

You can also undergo a gum graft to add tissue. This tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth or another part of your gums.

What are the side effects and risk factors? 

Gum reshaping is a generally safe procedure. Like any medical procedure, however, it comes with minor risks.

There is a very low possibility of severe bleeding and/or swelling. In rare cases, you may develop an infection. Your dentist’s safety protocols and post-surgical instructions are intended to minimize these risks.

Last updated on March 5, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 5, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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