Gum recession is a detrimental condition that affects over half of the adult population in the United States. Clinically this is observed as the root of one or more teeth being visible above the gum line. Although gum (gingival) recession affects people to varying degrees it is generally of serious concern to both dentists and patients as it lead to discomfort, an unattractive smile or even tooth loss.
Ideally the teeth are supported by adequate bone and gum tissue in order to protect the dentition from bacterial invasion and forces such as chewing or tooth brushing. There are two types of gum tissue in the mouth. The first type is a thin and pliable tissue that lines the inside of the cheeks and the floor of the mouth. The second type of gum tissue is thicker and firmly attached around the neck of the teeth. This type of firm gum forms a tight collar around the neck of the teeth and protects them from bacteria and bone loss. Gingival recession means there has been a loss of both the protective firm gum and bone around the teeth. This loss of bone and firm gum, if left untreated can cause the teeth to become loose and require extraction.
Gingival recession results in the root of the tooth being exposed to the oral environment. The root of the tooth is made of a rough and porous material that is much softer than the enamel found on the top of the tooth. The root of the tooth is not able to effectively insulate the nerve from hot and cold temperatures and in many cases can lead to sensitivity or discomfort for the patient. In addition to sensitivity, the exposed root is much more prone to cavities and is a common cause of tooth loss. In fact restorative fillings placed in the root of teeth typically fail over time and generally make the gingival recession worse and more difficult to treat. For these reasons it is important for the dentist to identify patients with gingival recession early and refer them to a periodontist for evaluation.
In the past, patients often resisted seeking help from a periodontist for their gingival recession because of a reputation for these procedures to be painful and the results unattractive. The problem with older methods of treatment for gum recession is that they only prevented the recession from getting worse. These outdated procedures did nothing to cover the root and were uncomfortable for the patient for many days afterwards. New cutting edge treatments for gum recession both rebuild firm gum tissue and cover the root. These new procedures are minimally invasive and are capable of completely reversing the gum recession to a state of health for the patient. After the treatment patients can immediately return to normal activity and typically do not require pain medication. Significant advances in the field of Periodontics have made put this area of specialized dentistry on the forefront of cosmetic and disease prevention therapies. A patient inquiring about treatment for gingival recession should expect a referral from their general dentist to a periodontist who is well versed is these minimally invasive regenerative techniques.