Gum Recession

Gum Recession Treatment from Santa Monica Periodontics & Implant Surgery 

Gingival recession (receding gums) refers to the progressive loss of gum tissue, which can eventually result in tooth root exposure if left untreated.  Gum recession is most common in adults over the age of 40, but the process can begin in the teenage years.

Gum recession can be difficult to self-diagnose in its earlier stages because the changes often occur asymptomatically and gradually.  Regular dental check ups will help to prevent gum recession and assess risk factors.

The following symptoms may be indicative of gum recession:

  • Sensitive teeth – When the gums recede enough to expose the cementum protecting the tooth root, the dentin tubules beneath will become more susceptible to external stimuli.
    Visible roots – This is one of the main characteristics of a more severe case of gum recession.
  • Longer-looking teeth – Individuals experiencing gingival recession often have a “toothy” smile.  The length of the teeth is perfectly normal, but the gum tissue has been lost, making the teeth appear longer.
  • Halitosis, inflammation, and bleeding – These symptoms are characteristic of gingivitis or periodontal disease.  A bacterial infection causes the gums to recede from the teeth and may cause tooth loss if not treated promptly.

 

Causes of Gum Recession

Gum recession is an incredibly widespread problem that dentists diagnose and treat on a daily basis.  It is important to thoroughly examine the affected areas and make an accurate diagnosis of the actual underlying problem.  Once the cause of the gum recession has been determined, surgical and non-surgical procedures can be performed to halt the progress of the recession and prevent it from occurring in the future.

The most common causes of gingival recession are:

  • Overaggressive brushing – Over-brushing can almost be as dangerous to the gums as too little. Brushing too hard or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can erode the tooth enamel at the gum line and irritate/inflame gum tissue.
  • Poor oral hygiene – When brushing and flossing are performed improperly or not at all, a plaque build up can begin to affect the teeth.  The plaque contains various bacterial toxins which can promote infection and erode the underlying jawbone.
  • Chewing tobacco – Any kind of tobacco use has devastating effects on the entire oral cavity, chewing tobacco in particular.  It aggravates the gingival lining of the mouth and causes gum recession when used continuously.
  • Periodontal disease – Periodontal disease can be a result of improper oral hygiene or caused by systemic diseases such as diabetes.  The excess sugars in the mouth and narrowed blood vessels experienced by diabetics create a perfect environment for oral bacteria.  The bacterium causes an infection which progresses deeper and deeper into the gum and bone tissue, eventually resulting in tooth loss.

 

Treatment of Gum Recession

Every case of gum recession is slightly different, therefore many treatments are available. The nature of the problem which caused the recession to begin with needs to be addressed first.

If overly aggressive brushing techniques are eroding the gums, a softer toothbrush and a gentler brushing technique should be used.  If poor oral hygiene is a problem, prophylaxis (professional dental cleaning) may be recommended to rid the gum pockets of debris and bacteria.  In the case of a severe calculus (tartar) build-up, scaling and root planing will be performed to heal gingival inflammation and clean the teeth.

Once the cause of the gingival recession has been addressed, surgery of a more cosmetic or restorative nature might be recommended.  Gum tissue regeneration and gum grafting are two excellent ways to restore natural symmetry to the gums and make the smile look more aesthetically pleasing.

Here are some of the most common types of gum grafting:

  • Free gingival graft – This procedure is often used to thicken gum tissue. A layer of tissue is removed from the palate and relocated to the area affected by gum recession. Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage.

  • Subepithelial connective tissue graft – This procedure is commonly used to cover exposed roots. Tissue is removed fairly painlessly from the outer layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession.

  • Acellular dermal matrix allograft – This procedure uses medically processed, donated human tissue as a tissue source for the graft. The advantage of this is procedure is that there is no need for a donor site from the patient’s palate (and thus, less pain).

 

What does soft tissue grafting treatment involve?

Initially, deep cleaning will be performed both above and below the gum line to clear the teeth and roots of calculus (tartar). The grafting procedure itself will generally be performed under local anesthetic, but this will depend on the size of the areas receiving grafts. A small incision will be made at the recipient site in order to create a small pocket. A split thickness incision is made in this pocket and the donor tissue is placed between the two sections of this area. The donor tissue strip is generally larger than the incision, so some excess will be apparent.

Tissue-stimulating proteins may be added to encourage quicker tissue growth. Finally, the wound site will be sutured to prevent shifting, and surgical material may be placed to protect the sensitive area. Gum uniformity and substantial healing will take place in the first six weeks after the procedure.

 

If you have any questions or concerns about periodontal disease, periodontal treatments, or gum recession, please contact our office.

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