The Surprising Way Your Gums Are Aging You

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Everyone thinks it's just lines and wrinkles that make you look old. Truth be told, there's so much more—some are "hidden" or "mysterious" causes—that can seriously age your appearance. Take for example, your gums. You wouldn't peg them as an age accelerator, but they totally can be. 

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If you have excessive tissue on your top gums, it can make your teeth look short. According to Washington, D.C., cosmetic dentist Daniel Deutsch, DDS, a gummy smile, which can occur naturally or be a result of aging, shows more of your gums than teeth, which can create a short, worn-down smile. Teeth that appear small and squatty can make you look old because this type of look is typically seen in older people. When your smile takes on a gummy look, it can also affect the proportions of your lips, making them look thinner, which can contribute to an aged appearance as well.

For the most part, excessive gum tissue can be trimmed away in a relatively fast—15 minutes to an hour—procedure (a gingivectomy) to reshape your gum line with minimal pain. Before the procedure, your dentist will remove any bacteria and tartar lingering below your gum line so the area is perfectly clean. Then, a topical numbing gel and local anesthetic are administered to numb the area before a scalpel or laser trims away the excess tissue. “Removing as little as one to two millimeters of tissue makes a big difference so that more teeth show than gum, which makes the smile look more youthful,” says Dr. Deutsch. “If the teeth themselves are more of a severe issue and out of alignment, surgery may be necessary, as well as an orthodontic option like Invisalign treatment or braces.

But, it's not just a gummy smile that's the culprit. It’s a hard habit to break, but constantly clenching and grinding your teeth does nothing positive for your smile or your face. When your jaw muscles are overworked, they can become bulky, giving your lower face a wider, more square appearance that ages it due to a loss of youthful definition. Beverly Hills, CA, cosmetic dentist Kourosh Maddahi, DDS, adds that grinding can also cause your teeth to lose some of their length and look worn down with chipped edges and a loss of enamel. “They become shorter and the lips lose support, which leads to folds in the corners of the lips and lips that look thin. This altogether affects the way the face looks, giving an aged appearance.”

More times than not, your teeth become so worn down by excessive grinding and clenching that they need to be restored with crowns or veneers, which build back up the length of your teeth. It’s also good to wear a night guard when you sleep to protect your teeth. If your bite needs adjusting, orthodontics like braces or Invisalign treatment can reposition it.

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