If you have noticed that one or more of your teeth have lost some of the surrounding pink gum tissue so that part of the root surface is now uncovered, you are experiencing gum recession. It's a very common problem — in fact millions of Americans have some degree of gum recession. Fortunately, there are very effective methods of treating it.
Gum recession can be unsightly, but there are more serious concerns. Tooth root surfaces exposed by gum recession can become sensitive to temperature and pressure changes and can decay or wear away. In very severe cases, teeth can actually be lost. That's because gum or “gingival” tissue as it is medically known is supposed to encircle and firmly attach to the necks of the teeth and the underlying bone. This forms a protective barrier that is resistant to the abrasive action of foods during eating, biting and chewing.
Gum tissue is largely made of a fibrous protein called collagen, covered by a layer of another very resilient protein called keratin (nails and hair are also made of it). Yet it is still possible for this tough tissue to lose its grip on the teeth it protects. Here are some of the ways this can happen:
Treatment will depend in part on whether the recession is stable or progressive. For example, an older person might have a few areas of gum recession but there are still adequate zones of attached protective gum tissue and the exposed tooth root surfaces are healthy. In this case, there may not be reason to do anything but monitor the situation. On the other hand, a teenager with a history of fairly rapid gum recession (over a period of months) usually requires immediate treatment. The dental specialty of periodontics (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) has developed predictable surgical techniques to deal with recession.
Free Gingival Grafting, for example, involves taking a very thin layer of skin from the palate, where the tissue is identical to gum tissue, and transplanting it to the area where gum has been lost. Both sites will heal in a very predictable and uneventful manner. The free gingival graft is so-called because it is “freed” from the donor (original) site completely. It is crucial to make sure individuals with gum recession correct faulty hygiene habits prior to this (or any) treatment so that they will not jeopardize their future results.
If you are concerned about gum recession, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about gum recession and gingival grafting by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Periodontal Plastic Surgery.”
When it comes to dental health, you might say celebrity interior designer and television host Nate Berkus is lucky: Unlike many TV personalities, he didn't need cosmetic dental work to achieve — or maintain — his superstar smile. How did he manage that? Nate credits the preventive dental treatments he received as a youngster.
“I'm grateful for having been given fluoride treatments and sealants as a child. Healthy habits should start at a young age,” he told an interviewer from Dear Doctor magazine. We couldn't have said it better — but let's take a moment and examine exactly what these treatments do.
Fluoride treatment — that is, the topical (surface) application of a concentrated fluoride gel to a child's teeth — is a procedure that's often recommended by pediatric dentists. Although tooth enamel is among the hardest substances in nature, fluoride has been shown to make it more resistant to tooth decay. And that means fewer cavities! Studies show that even if you brush regularly and live in an area with fluoridated water, your child could still benefit from the powerful protection of fluoride treatments given at the dental office.
Another potent defense against cavities is dental sealants. Despite your child's best efforts with the toothbrush, it's still possible for decay bacteria to remain in the “pits and fissures” of the teethâ??those areas of the molars, for example, which have tiny serrated ridges and valleys where it's easy for bacteria to grow. Dental sealants fill in and protect vulnerable areas from bacterial attack, greatly decreasing the risk that future dental treatment will be required.
Why not take a tip from our favorite celebrity interior designer, and ask about cavity-preventing treatments for your children's teeth? If you would like more information about fluoride treatments or dental sealants, please contact us for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Topical Fluoride” and “Sealants for Children.”