Gum Graft Surgery
Exposed tooth roots are the result of gum recession, a type of periodontal disease. When you have gum recession, you know you have lost attachment around your teeth. This means that some of the soft tissue (gums and ligaments) and hard tissue (bone) that was supporting your teeth have been lost. Every time you lose a millimetre of gum tissue, you lose a millimetre of bone tissue. If enough bone tissue is lost around your teeth, the teeth will become loose.
Gum recession usually does not hurt. You will most likely not know you have a problem with gum recession unless a dental professional informs you. Your periodontist will measure how much recession you have and will also consider how much tooth support you have left in determining if the area needs treatment. Some of the indications for treatment include:
- Aesthetic coverage of exposed root surfaces
- Coverage of sensitive root areas
- To create a zone of gum tissue that will protect the underlying bone
- Pocket elimination
- To eliminate muscle pulls to the gums
- To deepen the vestibule
- To protect the bone in areas where the gum is thin (due to tooth position, thin bone / big teeth, large roots
- To minimize recession during orthodontic tooth movement
- To overcome the trauma of prosthetic or restorative dentistry requiring placement of filling margins
- To control areas of progressive recession
- To correct ridge deformities
- Enhance cleansibility of the soft tissues
Gum recession is treated with “gum grafts”. The most important thing that gum grafts so is to protect the remaining bone around your tooth. They also act to thicken the soft gum tissue (thick tissue is stronger and resilient than thin tissue) or to cover the tooth root (covering sensitive parts of the tooth, improving the look of the tooth). Gum grafts can also be used in areas where you have no teeth to improve defects in the jaw bone and improve the look of your smile. Note: gum recession is NOT treated with fillings on the roots.
Gum graft surgery involves placing donor tissue – either from yourself or “off the shelf” in the area where your gum is deficient. Using your own tissue is the most predictable method used today. Other options are available, such as donated human tissue or pig tissue (and others) but these do have higher complications and can be more expensive. Not all gum grafts will cover the roots of the teeth, however, this is usually not the primary goal. You can discuss with your periodontist which method is best for your situation.
Regenerative procedures are another way to reduce pockets around the teeth but can only be used in certain circumstances. Using different techniques and materials such membranes, bone grafts, gels etc, the tissues can be encouraged to regenerate – the ligament, bone and cementum (part of the tooth) back to its original anatomy. These procedures have varying degrees of success and will be recommended if you are a candidate.
During this procedure, your periodontist folds back the gum tissue and removes the disease-causing bacteria and cleans out any defects. Membranes, bone grafts or tissue-stimulating proteins can be used to encourage your body’s natural ability to regenerate bone and tissue. Eliminating existing bacteria and regenerating bone and tissue helps to reduce pocket depth and repair damage caused by the progression of periodontal disease. With a combination of daily oral hygiene and professional maintenance care, you’ll increase the chances of keeping your natural teeth and decrease the chances of other health problems associated with periodontal disease.