Gum Recession & What You Can Do About It

Good advice can come from unexpected sources.

Recently, on his School of Greatness podcast, Lewis Howes asked Kevin Bacon to identify three lessons or “truths” that he would leave as his legacy (in lieu of cheesy film bits like this one, perhaps?).

“Take care of each other,” said Bacon. “Take care of the planet. And floss.” According to Howes, this was the second time in more than a thousand interviews he’s done in which someone mentioned flossing. What made Bacon mention it?

“They just say that it’s very important for health,” Bacon explained. “I guess it’s actually just kind of a metaphor for taking care of your own self.”

What Can Happen When You Brush Your Teeth Too Hard

But Bacon is hardly the only celebrity offering dental tips these days. Over on Instagram, Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, cautioned her followers against brushing their teeth too aggressively – a longtime habit that had caused her gums to recede.

Healing after gum grafts – the most common procedure to correct gum recession – can be difficult for some. For many, the discomfort is minimal, especially when things like ozone and platelet rich fibrin (PRF) are incorporated into the procedure. And just as aggressive brushing isn’t the only cause of gum recession (other common causes include gum disease, chronic clenching or grinding, oral piercings, and tobacco use), grafts aren’t the only possible treatment.

The Chao Pinhole Surgical Technique can have your smile looking great again in as little as 24 hours, no cutting or stitches required.

Pinhole Surgery Can Help Repair Receding Gums

The Chao Pinhole Surgical Technique involves making a series of very small holes in your gums. These access points are just large enough for the dentist to insert a special instrument to loosen and move gum tissue so it covers any areas of recession.

Small collagen strips are then placed at the sites to stabilize the tissues as they heal.

Patients who have had pinhole gum treatment here in our office report less pain, swelling, and bleeding than you typically see with tissue grafts. They find it more convenient, too, as we can treat multiple sites quickly and comfortably in just one appointment.

The results also appear to last. A 2017 study found that Chao Pinhole surgery “resulted in overall root coverage of 96.7% after 6-month follow-up with minimal complications” and excellent aesthetics.

Importantly, while the procedure – like gum grafting – can definitely improve the appearance of your smile, the effects are more than just cosmetic. Recession exposes the roots of your teeth, which aren’t covered by enamel but a softer tissue called cementum.

As the cementum wears down, an even softer tissue below it, dentin, becomes exposed. Dentin contains nerve endings, which is why your teeth may become sensitive to hot, cold, and sweet the further your teeth erode. And all that exposed tissue means that harmful bacteria have a very easy path into the tooth’s pulp.

Once infection reaches this living tissue, you’re usually left with just two options. One is a root canal, which biological dentists don’t recommend. (Learn why.) The other option is to extract the tooth.

Preventing Gum Recession

Of course, the best option is to keep your gums from receding in the first place. That starts with eating right and practicing good oral hygiene. That means using a light touch with a soft bristled brush. If you use a power toothbrush, all the better! Simply hold the brush and let it do the work as you gradually move it from tooth to tooth, quadrant to quadrant.

You also need to be careful not to floss too aggressively either. If you have this tendency, you may find interdental cleaning to be easier with alternative tools such as interdental brushes or oral irrigators such as Waterpik or Hydrofloss.

In fact, it’s perhaps not a point that’s made often enough: Brushing and flossing matter, of course; but brushing and flossing with the correct technique matter even more. It ensures that all of your tooth surface area gets cleaned, as well as the gumline, with no damage done to the soft tissues of your mouth.

Need a tutorial…a little brush-up, perhaps (pun absolutely intended)? Here’s our very own hygienist Fran to help you out: