PHOENIX -- It's something you may hear at the dentist even more than "you have a cavity." It's “you have receding gums.”
Receding gums can cause pain, sensitivity and cosmetic problems. But for some patients, the cure was worse than the problem -- until now.
Dr. Erik Svans at SC Dentistry in Scottsdale says it is easy to spot receding gums; you may actually see the root of the tooth or fillings used to hide them.
But the problems can go well beyond looks to extreme sensitivity or something worse.
“As you are losing your gum tissue on the cheek side of the tooth, you are also losing the bone support," Svans said. "And as that recession continues down the side of the tooth, you can lose virtually all of the bone on the cheek side of the tooth.
But as bad as that sounds, the traditional way to treat it might sound worse.
“It involved cutting from the roof of your mouth and suturing that into the place where the recession occurred,” Svans explained.
To top it off, you can only have a few teeth done at once.
“If you had four areas in your mouth that needed it, which is what we typically see, you would be going back in and having your palate cut four times, and having that tissue taken and stitched into those areas in four different appointments," Svans said.
With several areas of gum recession, Ashley Fritz knew she didn't want that.
“I had been experiencing some sensitivity with my gums, specifically hot, cold sensations,” she remembered.
So instead of a graft, Svans used a new technique: Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation.
“We would create a pinhole up in this area,” he showed us, “and pass specialized instruments through that pinhole to go ahead and free up the gum tissue. As we free up that gum tissue, we reposition it down covering the receded gums. Once we have accomplished that, we apply some collagen membrane in through the pinhole, underneath the gum tissue, to help stabilize the gum tissue in its place.“
He said patients see the results almost immediately.
“So the tissue starts to heal almost immediately within 10 minutes that contact is starting to form," he said.
The photos of Fritz show a dramatic before and after change, from the root being exposed to the gum covering all the way to the enamel.
But despite the radical change and the fact that she had the gums around eight teeth done, she said the procedure was not painful.
“I would equate my experience to maybe having a cavity drilled,” she said.
And she said despite some inflammation, the healing process was also relatively painless.
Best of all, she said her teeth look and feel better.
“I am very pleased with it. I would recommend it for anyone who has significant gum recession," she said.
Because receding gums are a periodontal problem, the procedure is covered by many insurance plans. Svans said because they can do multiple teeth at once, Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation is often cheaper than the graft procedure.