It happens when you’re brushing your teeth one day. You glance in the mirror and see more teeth than you normally do. Wait a minute? What’s going on? Weren’t parts of your gums lower than that before? You’re dealing with receding gums. Is this something that you should panic over? Are your gums diseased? Should you immediately go call your dentist?
First of all, take a deep breath. You are far from alone in having a receding gumline. This can happen for many different reasons, like hormones, over-aggressive brushing of your teeth, not brushing enough or not flossing enough. Do you have mouth jewelry, like a tongue stud? Genetics can play a part – perhaps you are predisposed to having this happen. If you are a smoker or use chewing tobacco, then you may be susceptible to receding gums.
This is not something that you should ignore. The more your gums recede, the greater the chance that the root gets exposed. That can lead to very unpleasant feelings when you have a drink that is either hot or cold. It’s best to get that fixed quickly.
Scaling and Root Planing (Deep Cleaning)
Your dentist may either refer to this as “scaling and root planing” or a “deep cleaning.” Either way, they are rather same thing. Your dentist will go below your gumline and remove plaque and tartar. When you typically have a twice-yearly cleaning, they only do above the gumline. This is more, hence “deep cleaning.” They also smooth out the root of the tooth. Chances are quite high that they will give you an antibiotic to fully kill any possible harmful bacteria.
Generally, your dentist will choose this option if you have a mild case of gum recession, since it is still fairly early. But it’s not guaranteed to work and they may need to think about further options, especially if the gums have become very receded. Then things like oral surgery may become necessary to prevent advanced periodontal disease from setting in and swiftly snowballing.
Open Flap Surgery and Root Planing
This is the next step a dentist or periodontist may take in terms of trying to fix the gum recession. They open a flap in your gums, clean the surrounding area and pull the flap back over the root of your tooth. This mostly fixes the dual problem of gum recession and any unhealthy gum tissue. The only obstacle to this being successful is if the periodontal disease becomes so advanced that it can’t be fixed via the deep cleaning.
No, you haven’t suddenly woken up right in the middle of a science-fiction movie or television show. The regeneration is not going to be automatic and instantaneous. That would be nice, though, wouldn’t it? The dentists opens up the gums, does a really deep cleaning and then deposits something called a protein matrix to help the bone and tissue grow back. They close up the flap and then will have you come back periodically so that they can check the results.
Soft Tissue Graft
Your dentist may also refer to this as a gum graft. What happens is that they will take tissue from another area of your mouth, like maybe the palate. It may not even be your tissue – there are tissue banks that dentists may have access to. They graft the tissue onto the receded area and let it merge with the regular tissue. The tooth is now covered.
All of the above are generally done on an outpatient basis and require only a single initial appointment. Your dentist will tell you how often you need to follow up… and also be sure to heed any post-procedure directions to allow for maximum healing.
If you brush your teeth properly twice a day and floss, along with using mouthwash, you can improve your chances of avoiding this situation completely. Use a soft-bristled one… or better yet, an electric one. That way, you won’t wear down your gumline.