If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your gums when you smile, there is a cosmetic procedure that can help. A gingivectomy or "gum lift" can actually move your gum line up or down, depending on your desired results. Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, TX is one dentist who performs laser gum lifts in his practice. We spoke to him to get the details on this increasingly popular procedure.

In the past, gum lifts were an extremely painful surgery which required the gums to be cut and stitched into their desired location and came with an equally painful, weeks-long recovery. But new technology has vastly improved this procedure. Doctors are now able to use lasers to do the same work - effectively eliminating most of the pain associated with gingivectomies. In fact, according to Hill, not only do laser gum lifts not require general anesthesia, healing from a laser gum lift takes only a few days- and can be managed with OTC pain medication.

But while laser gum lifts can greatly improve the appearance of receding gums or even a "gummy smile," the procedure isn’t strictly used for cosmetic purposes. Hill also performs laser lifts to treat periodontitis. Periodontitis literally means "inflammation around the tooth." According to Hill, periodontitis is what happens when gingivitis advances and the gums begin to pull away from the teeth and form pockets which become infected. When your body begins to fight the infection in the pockets, the chemicals your body releases combined with the toxins from the infection begin to eat away at your teeth and the connective tissues that hold your teeth to your jaw. Left untreated, this can cause you to lose your teeth, gums, and in severe cases, portions of your jaw bone. For patients suffering from periodontitis, Hill says the laser can be used to access the pockets between your teeth and gums, and clean out the inflamed tissue around the root of the tooth, which allows the dentist to clean the plaque that has accumulated below the gum line. This is called "root scaling." Your dentist will then smooth out the roots, which discourages periodontitis from recurring – and enables the pockets between your teeth and gums to heal and regenerate.

Whether you are suffering from the painful and dangerous effects of periodontitis, or if the positioning of your gums is cause for insecurity when you smile, speak to a dentist who specializes in laser gum lifts and see if you are a good candidate for this beneficial procedure.