When gums start to recede, it can cause our mouths to look and feel, a whole lot older than they are. Thankfully, there’s an effective dental office fix to this all too common issue. 

As anyone with receding gums knows well,exposed roots of the teeth are a different colour than the body of your tooth and look hideous. (There’s also the issue of looking long in the tooth, which isn’t flattering on anyone.) Vanity isn’t the only cause for concern though–those exposed roots are sensitive and can give shooting pains when you eat anything too hot or cold, and if left untreated could ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Thankfully, there is an effective treatment available. Gum grafting is a technique where tissue from elsewhere is stitched to your gums to patch over areas of exposed root. Traditionally, tissue was taken from the roof of your own mouth, but these days it is much more common for dentists to use packaged donor tissue, such as Alloderm, which makes for a much easier and more comfortable procedure.

“The area where tissue is taken from the roof of your mouth can be a lot more tender than the area where you had the surgery to correct the receding gums,” says Dr Amelia Chan, DDS, owner of Downtown Dentistry in Toronto. “But with the advent of Alloderm and improved keyhole surgical techniques, there is very little post-surgical discomfort and most clients report that they did not even require any pain medication after their gum graft.” 

The Procedure

Typically gum grafting is done in quadrants (ie left top teeth, bottom left, top right, bottom right) or on one side of the mouth at a time. “This allows the client to eat their food on the opposite side during the healing process of the gums,” says Chan. In terms of pain relief, sedation is not usually required unless a client is particularly anxious, says Chan, and then it can be arranged as necessary. “This is a minor surgical procedure and the client is given a long- acting freezing that will keep them comfortable during the procedure and for some hours afterwards,” she says. “Pain medication is prescribed as necessary.” 

Recovery

Dr. Carolyn De Amicis, BSc, DDS, co-owner and dentist at Alliance Dental Truro, in Truro, N.S., says that most people respond well to Alloderm gum grafting. “You’re going to be on a liquid diet for 24 hours afterward, then on a soft diet while things heal. You have to keep the area clean, be on anti-inflammatories for a few days and may require pain medication,” she says, adding that some soreness is usual, but you likely won’t need to take any time off work. 

Costs

As with any procedure, costs will vary from one practice to another. In De Amici's office, costs are around $800 per quadrant (rather than per tooth), and she says that this procedure is covered by some dentail insurance programs. Downtown Dentistry quotes prices between $1300 to $2600 per tooth, but again this may be billable to your insurance company.

Results

Chan says that results from this type of grafting are remarkable in cases where recession is mild to moderate. “There is no demarcation line seen, as your own tissue completely integrates with the Alloderm grafting material, place. Alloderm acts as a temporary scaffolding to guide your own tissue to grow back,” she says. If your gums are severely receded and you can see a lot of exposed root, then you can still predictable, explains Chan.

Gum grafting is considered a permanent fix. “A gum graft should last forever, provided that you look engaging in the same behaviours that made your gums recede in the first need to pay attention to those things going forward."