Occasionally, when an appropriate degree of tooth structure does not exist above the gumline in order to attach a prosthetic device such as a crown, your dentist may suggest a crown lengthening procedure. Contrary to the use of the word “lengthening” in this dental procedure code, there is no actual “stretching” of the tooth's crown to make it longer; rather, the cosmetic result is one that provides the illusion of a “lengthened” crown.
In this surgical procedure, your dentist would make an incision in the gum tissue, creating a “flap” that can be folded downward, exposing the bone that encases your teeth. A portion of that bone would then be shaved down by a few millimeters and the gum flap sutured back into place. Because, after surgery, the bone height would now be lower than it was previously, the gum tissue would rest at a lower height, leaving more of the crown visible when smiling. This would make it appear as though the crown were “longer” – hence, the name.
While crown lengthening can be used to provide greater surface area for the application of a prosthetic device, it can also be used to correct a gummy smile. As with any surgical procedure, there are potential complications and risks, including failure. Because of this, many dentists recommend orthodontic treatment instead (which, over time actually does pull the crown up a few millimeters). This particular orthodontic treatment would not require surgery or the permanent removal of bone tissue, which could cause other difficulties with successful dental implantation.