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When Is It Too Late for Gum Grafting?

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a dentist screens a senuir woman for periodontal disease

Periodontal disease, or simply gum disease as it’s commonly called, is a common cause of receding gums. Fortunately, gum disease is treatable, and gum grafting can be used to restore your gums to their healthy state. There isn’t a fast-and-hard rule on when it’s too late to undergo gum grafting. But extensive damage to your gums and teeth from gum disease could make grafting less viable.

Your dentist will likely diagnose gum disease during one of your recommended dental exams. If your gum disease is in early stages, you can begin treatment, potentially avoiding the need for gum grafting in the first place. But if your dentist determines that gum grafting is the recommended treatment, they can walk you through it in more detail so you can make an informed decision. 

What Is Gum Recession?

Gum recession, or receding gums, is a form of gum disease that affects your gum tissue. Its primary characteristic is where the gums pull away from or recede from your teeth, which exposes the roots and makes your teeth more susceptible to cavities.

Untreated periodontal disease is a significant risk factor in developing receding gums, but other risk factors include:

  • Aggressive brushing
  • Plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth
  • Injury or trauma to your gums
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Lip or tongue piercings.

Symptoms of Receding Gums

The most obvious sign of receding gums is typically the visible recession of them or noticing the tooth’s root being exposed. But other symptoms of receding gums can include:

  • Pain or discomfort near your gum line
  • Sensitivities to temperature or sweet snacks
  • Sensitivity while brushing or flossing
  • Sensitivity during a dental exam or cleaning

Should You Be Worried About Receding Gums?

There are steps you can take to help lessen your risk of developing receding gums, like proper brushing and flossing, using an antimicrobial mouthwash, or using a soft-bristled toothbrush.

That being said, receding gums are not always 100% preventable, especially if you’re predisposed to thin gum tissue. So, this highlights the importance of a good oral hygiene routine and seeing your dentist every 6 months for an exam and cleaning as recommended by the Canadian Dental Association.

A male dentist is doing a gum grafting on a female patient in a dental chair with the help of a dentist's assistant.

What Is Gum Grafting?

Your dentist may try treating your receding gums with antibiotics before recommending a surgical treatment like gum grafting, depending on the severity or stage of the gum disease.

During gum grafting, your dentist removes the required tissue from elsewhere in your mouth—commonly the roof—and moves it to the treatment area where your gums are receding. There are other grafting materials that can be used if taking your tissue isn’t an option.

The tissue or grafting material is typically stitched in place to prevent it from moving or falling away. 

When Is It Too Late for Gum Grafting?

There isn’t a one-size answer to when it’s too late for gum grafting—the answer will vary in each situation. For example, if there are extensive damage and bone structure issues caused by gum disease, then your dentist may not be able to recommend gum grafting as a solution for your gum recession.

What Happens If It’s Too Late for Gum Grafting?

Again, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer because each situation is unique. But your dentist may recommend tooth extraction if you’re dealing with extensive damage to the gum tissue and the tooth’s root structure.

Extracting the tooth won’t fix the gum disease or stop the gum recession in and of itself. But pulling the tooth may be an effective way to get to the root of the problem and deal with the infection causing the gum disease.

Gum Grafting Alternatives

Gum grafting isn’t necessarily the first thing your dentist will recommend if you develop receding gums. There are less invasive treatments that may be an option in some cases. A couple of examples of alternative treatments are topical antibiotics or dental bonding.

Dental bonding won’t fix gum disease or receding gums. But it can be used to cover the exposed tooth root, which can help with sensitivity issues and prevent further damage to the structure of the tooth. This can be an effective treatment alongside stopping the gum disease’s progression.

Discuss Your Oral Health with Your Dentist

There may not be a surefire way to prevent gum disease or receding gums 100% of the time. But there are often effective treatments available. Most of which will be most effective the earlier a problem is diagnosed.

The Canadian Dental Association recommends 2 visits to your dentist a year, but this is a general guideline. Your dentist takes your overall dental health and personal and family history into account when making their recommendation, and they may recommend more frequent visits—especially if they notice something like gum recession beginning.

Give us a call at Arch Dental Centres to schedule an appointment if it’s time for a dental exam or if you’ve noticed any of the symptoms we discussed today. 

Written by Arch Dental

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