What can a dentist really do for receding gums?

Over the years, many of us have had to deal with receding gums. This can happen for a host of reasons, including periodontal disease, genetics, over-aggressive tooth-brushing, not brushing or flossing enough, changing hormones, smoking or using chewing tobacco,  mouth jewelry like tongue studs, teeth-grinding or clenching, and misaligned teeth. All of them can cause the surrounding gums to recede. “What’s the big deal?” you may ask. Well, the further back the gums recede, the more of your tooth gets displayed…. And that can eventually lead to your root being exposed, which can lead to some very unpleasant feelings when you have something either hot or cold. So… what can your dentist do?

Scaling and Root Planing

This is a deep cleaning where the dentist will carefully remove all the plaque and tartar around the gumline and also give you antibiotics that will kill any harmful bacteria that might be around that area. Usually, the dentist will do this if it’s a mild case of gum recession. That might not always work, though,especially in cases of really receded gums. Then the dentist will have to start thinking about surgical options to keep any advanced periodontal disease from truly taking hold and wreaking havoc on your gums, teeth and jaw.

Open Flap Surgery and Root Planing

This time, the dentist will open up a flap, clean the surrounding area and then pull the flap over the root of your tooth. This way, there won’t be any more receding gums and you’ll also have healthy gum tissue after the deep cleaning. The only way that this might not be able to happen is if the surrounding area is so ravaged by periodontal disease that even the deep cleaning won’t be able to do anything.


No, this isn’t something that’s right out of a science fiction movie. The dentist won’t point some high-tech item at your jaw and then have bone automatically start growing back. No, he or she will open up your gum, do a really deep cleaning and then put something called a protein matrix in there to help the bone grow back and new tissue to form around the area. Afterwards, your dentist will close up the flap and then monitor the results.

Soft Tissue Graft

This also goes by another name: gum graft. Your dentist will graft on tissue from another area, like the palate or maybe from a different source. He or she may even have access to a tissue bank and use that rather than something from you yourself. This is done pretty much on an outpatient basis – you’re likely to be able to go to work that same day, though you might feel some discomfort for roughly a week. You’ll have to avoid brushing that area for that period of time.

The best way to keep yourself from being in this situation is to regularly brush and floss your teeth, but don’t push hard on your teeth as you brush… that both wears down the bristles of the toothbrush and can push the gumline up. Electric toothbrushes can do a great job if you just let it do the work. In any case, Dr. Robert Trager will be able to help.