Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
I went into my dentist's office wanting veneers. Instead, I got my gums lasered. No, it wasn't a medical mishap — it was a conscious decision between my dentist and me. I told him my concerns: that my eye teeth (sometimes called canine teeth — either way, think Dracula) were overwhelming my smile. Compared to those, the rest of my teeth were tiny, disproportionate. I longed for a symmetrical, squared-off smile. Turns out, lasering the gums surrounding the chompers next to my eye teeth helped make it happen. The whole ordeal cost me very little, took literally minutes, and had a subtle, pleasing effect on my smile.
So, why am I making a thing out of something that was basically a blip on my radar? I guess I didn't process how bizarre the procedure would seem to the outside world until I saw it written down in black and white in the form of a pitch about crown lengthening to the R29 beauty team. The email chain floated around the department, garnering comments ranging from shock to sheer disbelief. Admittedly, it sounded pretty extreme. So extreme, in fact, that it took me a minute to realize — this is exactly what I'd done. My dentist had never used the term crown lengthening with me (a wise move on his part — it sounds terrifying), but this was what occurred. The same procedure that I'd brushed off as being super minor sounded pretty darn drastic once it hit my inbox.
But, I'm here to guarantee: Crazy as it may sound, getting my gums lasered was actually not a big deal. "Traditionally, crown lengthening has been done surgically. It wasn't complicated, but it was very time consuming — tiny instruments were used to stitch between every tooth," says Dr. Neal Nealis, a Chicago-based dentist. New technology, however, has given way to lasers that do the job far more efficiently — and painlessly — than ever before. "I do this procedure without any anesthetic. Since the lasers operate without generating heat, there's absolutely no bleeding. And, if you look at the tissue remaining after the procedure, it's 100% healed the next day," says Dr. Nealis, who uses the WaterLase iPlus by BIOLASE on his patients.
It's an ideal fix for people like me who are concerned with the lack of proportion of their teeth. Dr. Nealis also suggests it for those who feel they have excessive gums or thin lips. The genius of it all is that the procedure is essentially just revealing what already exists: Teeth naturally extend beyond your gum line, and, by lasering away excess, you expose more of the pearly white underneath. The result is a more symmetrical, proportional look (in my case, in comparison to my eye teeth). The procedure is permanent, and gums are unlikely to grow back. But, Dr. Nealis says, even if they do, the procedure is so quick and painless (even for those with sensitive teeth) that it's no sweat to repeat.
The long (har, har) and short of it? Crown lengthening may sound like a crazy-pants procedure, but it's not that strange in practice. But, that's just my POV — would you let a laser get near your gums? Let me know in the comments below.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!