Gum recession refers to a common dental problem where the tissue surrounding the teeth gradually pulls away exposing the tooth or its root and causes damage to the supporting bone. Over time, the tooth that is exposed tends to look ugly, causing it to be sensitive. This problem affects between 4% to 12% of adults in America and may even go unnoticed until it results in severe dental pain. There are two major causes of gum recession:
- In some cases, gum recession is preceded by periodontal disease which is a result of inadequate oral hygiene, hormonal changes, genetic makeup, diabetes and other illnesses.
- Gum recession may also be caused by applying extreme force on the teeth from clenching or grinding or unusual forces brought by misaligned teeth.
If not treated in good time, gum recession can result in the loss of teeth. A gum tissue graft may be recommended to repair the damage and prevent the advancement of the problem.
Treatment for Receding Gums
Instances where receding gums are caused as a result of gum diseases and a heavy tartar buildup, the American Dental Association recommends professional cleaning as the first step to stop the recession. This procedure that is also referred to as root planning and scaling will remove all the buildup of tartar and bacterial plaque from the root surfaces and the teeth thus helping the gums in healing and preventing further recession.
Where the recession is extensive, gum graft surgery may be recommended. This will not only repair the area that is wounded but also help in prevention of further infection
Types of Gum Grafts
Gum grafts may be used to develop the gum tissue where it is absent owing to excessive gingival recession or to cover roots. During the surgery, gum tissue is taken from another donor source or your palate to cover the root that is exposed. This may be done for a single tooth or several teeth or the gum line to reduce sensitivity. There are three main forms of gum graft surgeries that may be performed based on the severity of the condition:
Connective Tissue Grafts – During this procedure, a flap of the skin is carefully cut from the roof of the mouth (palate) while the tissue from under the flap, also referred to as sub-epithelial connective tissue, is taken and stitched onto your gum tissue surrounding the root that is exposed. After the connective tissue is removed under the palatal flap, the flap is then taken and stitched back down.
Free Gingival Grafts – Just like the connective tissue graft, this procedure involves the use of tissue that is taken from the roof of the mouth. However, rather than make an overlap and remove tissue beneath the top layer of flesh, a sizeable quantity of tissue is taken from the upper part for attachment to the area that is being treated. This procedure is common in those people with gums that are thin and require additional tissue for enlarging the gums.
Pedicle Grafts – For this gum recession surgery, the tissue is spliced from the gum as opposed to the palate. The flap that is also referred to as the pedicle is moderately cut leaving the edge attached. Thereafter, the gum is pulled down or over the area of the root that is exposed and carefully stitched into place. This surgical procedure is done in those people that have excessive gum disease surrounding their teeth.
Benefits of Gum Grafting Surgery
Gum grafting surgery offers a number of benefits that include the following:
- Reduces further bone loss and recession
- It covers exposed roots, thus protecting them from decay
- Reduces tooth sensitivity and improves esthetics of your smile
- Offers comfort and boosts confidence
Good Oral Care for Prevention
If your teeth frequently experience sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures and some of your teeth are beginning to look longer owing to receding gums exposing the root, you are likely to be suffering from gum recession.
Gum recession can be prevented by practicing good oral care – brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day using a brush with soft bristles as well as the right brushing technique. Flossing daily is advisable as this cleans the bacteria and plaque that is found between your teeth. To enhance your dental protection, consider using an antimicrobial mouthwash that will fight bacteria faster during the course of the day.
Apart from taking preventative measures, you must also visit the dentist regularly because in most cases, only your dentist will be able to diagnose such diseases and provide the necessary treatment in time. So, be sure to update your dental care routine and schedule regular dental visits to keep your teeth protected from dental diseases and disorders!
Shen Chao is part of Dr. Joshua Hong’s Smile Clinic. While working for the Smile Clinic, he’s gained first hand experiences into the questions and concerns that dental patients have. He has been writing to inform people about various dental topics to help his readers improve their oral health. When he’s not working, you can find him on a hiking trail with his dog or having a Sunday cook-out with friends.