When you look in the mirror, can you see some of the roots of your teeth? Your gums may be receding. The potential problems of gum recession aren’t just cosmetic; they can also impact your oral health.
In a healthy mouth, the tooth roots are not exposed. If the roots are exposed, it’s usually a sign of one of these problems:
Gingivitis or periodontitis: Gum disease causes the gum tissue to pull away from the tooth, and the breakdown of the bone and tissue can expose the roots.
Brushing too hard: Aggressive tooth brushing can cause the gums to recede over time. Dentists recommend soft-bristled tooth brushes for this reason. Soft tooth brushes like power toothbrushes minimize the trauma to the tissue and bone.
Foreign object in the mouth: Anything that rubs against the gum – such as poorly-fitting dentures, tongue studs, chewing tobacco, even your fingernails – can cause recession.
Tooth developed outside the jaw bone: In this case, one surface of the root has an area that is not covered by bone, but only by soft tissue. This soft tissue can recede or break down and expose the roots of the tooth. Orthodontic therapy such as braces can lead to moving the tooth outside the bone and soft tissue, so make sure you ask your orthodontist about this.
If you have an exposed tooth root, it may be sensitive to temperature. Also, if the gum tissue is breaking down on the outside of the tooth, the side facing the cheek, then an infection could develop and cause the remaining bone to break down too. That causes the tooth to loosen and eventually fall out or need to be extracted.
Treating Gum Recession with Gingival Grafting
If you have exposed tooth roots, it’s important to see a dentist. After a thorough examination and assessment, the periodontist may recommend you see a periodontist for a soft tissue graft called gingival graft. The periodontist will remove tissue from one part of your mouth and transplant it to cover the exposed tooth root. The tissue replacement procedure typically takes about an hour to perform, and are generally pain-free under local anesthesia.
The procedure has a very high success rate. You should experience very little discomfort after the surgery, even if the tissue was removed from the roof of your mouth. Your body’s natural recovery process will help integrate the graft into the surrounding tissue. Your periodontist may recommend a soft diet and an antibiotic for a few days afterwards, but otherwise, your normal activities will not be limited.
Best of all, a successful graft can reduce or eliminate problems like tooth sensitivity and further gum recession, as well as improve the appearance of your smile.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy
Following a gum graft, it’s more important than ever to practice good oral hygiene. Your routine should include proper brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, daily flossing, a healthy diet, and regular dental and periodontal check-ups. This will help prevent future gum problems and help preserve your smile for years to come!
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