Most people love the idea of showing off their shiny, white smile. But there's more to a great grin than excellent teeth — healthy gums are important, too. If your smile is looking toothier than it has in the past, you may be experiencing gum recession. Gum grafting is one solution you may have heard of to address this particular issue, but there are several gum graft alternatives to explore.
Gum Recession and Gum Grafting
Some of the main causes of gum recession include periodontal disease, smoking, diabetes, genetics and poor oral hygiene. And despite your best intentions to maintain a healthy mouth, overly strenuous brushing or a firm-bristled toothbrush can both lead to receding gums.
Exposed tooth roots are a common result of gum recession, notes the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). Gingival grafting is a surgical procedure that can cover the roots of a tooth after gum tissue has been lost due to recession. During this procedure, a periodontist takes tissue from your palate and applies it to cover the exposed root area.
Grafting can be done on one tooth, multiple teeth or the whole gumline (if needed). This surgery can reduce additional recession and prevent further bone loss. It's possible that tooth sensitivity will be reduced as a result of the procedure, as well.
However, recovery from a gum graft can be painful, and require that you follow specific instructions like leaving a dressing in place, sticking to soft foods and refraining from rinsing your mouth. If gum grafting isn't an avenue you're interested in exploring, there are some gum graft alternatives you can try, instead.
Severe gum recession can result in bone deterioration. The AAP notes that regeneration is a surgical procedure in which the existing gum tissue is peeled back so that a bone graft or other regenerative material can be inserted in the area suffering from bone loss.
The goal is to help regenerate bone and tissue before new gum tissue is secured to the area. You will likely not need to undergo regeneration unless severe periodontal disease or other factors have caused damage deep beneath your gums and bone tissue.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling is a part of the standard cleaning that your dental hygienist performs at a typical checkup appointment. For patients dealing with gum disease, a scaling and root planing procedure that goes deeper than a regular cleaning might be necessary.
The first step is to scale all the plaque, bacteria and tartar from the teeth and root surfaces. This is followed by root planing, the process of going under the gums to smooth over any rough areas on the teeth's root surfaces. Smooth tooth surfaces negate the ability of plaque, bacteria and tartar to regenerate under the gumline. This allows the gums to heal and reattach to the teeth.
Another option is gum contouring. This surgical procedure can improve the overall health of teeth and gums and change the lines of your smile. After administering a local anesthetic, a periodontist or oral surgeon uses a scalpel or laser to forge a newer, more uniform gumline. Once the gum tissue is reshaped, it tends to remain healthier, as the pocket depths between the teeth and gums are shallower and easier to clean by tooth brushing. Cleaner gums have less chance of developing periodontal disease.
No matter which of these gum graft alternatives you think may be right for you, talk to your dentist about all of your options for preventing and treating receding gums. They can help you maintain a beautiful and healthy smile.