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What is Gum Contouring?

What is gum contouring?

Gum contouring involves the removal of any excess gum tissue covering a tooth or teeth. Excess gum tissue or black gums can be due to a variety of medical and dental conditions and can even be caused by some commonly prescribed medications. This can make your teeth seem smaller and cause a “gummy smile”.

The gum contouring procedure is performed under local anaesthetic (an injection in the mouth to numb the area being treated – just like before fillings) and does not usually take more than half an hour. Either a scalpel or laser is used to remove excess tissue and reshape the gum. For a few days after the procedure, you may experience some discomfort and your dentist will provide you with specific instructions regarding cleaning the area, as well as how to minimise/alleviate any discomfort.

Whilst usually, there are no issues during or after this type of treatment if your dentist is proficient, sometimes not everything goes to plan when undergoing a cosmetic dental procedure such as gum contouring. You must ensure your dentist is highly skilled in this area to maximise the chances that you get the results you expect. In some cases, if things don’t end up the way you expect, your dental professional may have been negligent.

At the Dental Law Partnership, we will be able to examine the work that was carried out by your dentist and offer expert advice about how to move forward with a compensation claim, if appropriate.

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What can go wrong?


The aesthetic results of gum contouring can be unpredictable and variable. It is highly dependent upon good pre-operative assessment and planning as well as excellent operator skill.


The risk of the excess gum tissue growing back or dark pigmentation (black gums) returning – can be very high, especially if the overgrowth or discolouration is due to long term medication. Your specific risk of relapse should be discussed at the assessment stage.

Longer Healing Times

In some cases, bone is also removed during the contouring process (this is known as crown lengthening). In these cases, and when larger amounts of gum tissue have been removed, healing and recovery may take a little longer than average.

Ongoing Sensitivity

The root of your tooth can become exposed once your gums have healed after the treatment. This can cause ongoing sensitivity, which responds unpredictably to treatment.

What should you ask your dentist before having gum contouring treatment?


Are there alternative treatments?

Your dentist should advise you of alternative treatment options and the advantages/disadvantages of each so that you are able to make an informed decision before agreeing to undergo gum contouring.

The costs of Gum Contouring treatment

You should make sure that your dentist has advised you of the proposed complexity and the exact costs involved. This is not a type of procedure that is usually available via the NHS, only through private dental treatment.

Your dentist should also advise you whether they expect the results to be permanent.

Your dentist’s skill and experience

The aesthetic outcome can be highly dependent on operator skill, so it is important you check that your dentist has the appropriate skill and experience to carry out gum contouring.

Your suitability for Gum Contouring

In cases where the overgrowth or pigmentation is due to your medication, your dentist should consult with your medical doctor for advice on whether gum contouring is right for you and your risk of the overgrowth returning after treatment.

Is Gum Contouring suitable for me?

Your suitability for gum contouring can only be decided after your dentist has assessed multiple factors including;

  • The cause and extent of the excess gum tissue or black gums
  • The condition of your overall medical and dental health
  • Gum contouring is a great option for those with a small amount of gum overgrowth or pigmentation and an otherwise healthy mouth

What can I claim for if something goes wrong with my gum contouring?

If you have undergone a gum contouring procedure but did not get the desired outcome as a result of your treatment, you may have become a victim of dental negligence. There are a variety of complications that can come about as a result of malpractice, such as:

  • The patient did not give consent before the treatment was carried out
  • Poor execution of the treatment when bone is removed
  • Unnecessary removal of gum tissue
  • Persistent pain following the gum contouring procedure, as a result of infection

How much compensation can I get for a Gum Contouring dental negligence claim?

The amount of money that you might be awarded for a successful dental negligence claim if a gum contouring procedure goes wrong will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Once the Dental Law Partnership have been able to thoroughly assess your claim, the team should be able to give you a rough estimate of the amount of compensation that has been awarded for previous gum contouring cases that are similar to yours. If the case goes to trial, the judge will decide on the amount on compensation awarded to a successful claimant.

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