Did you ever hear the old saying “long in the tooth” used to refer to someone who is getting older? The expression gained popularity in the 1800s when people used to tell the age of horses by looking at their teeth and gums. Horse teeth appear to grow longer as the horse ages, but really it is more a function of the gums receding and the teeth moving around.
The same thing that happens to horse teeth also happens to people, though to a much less dramatic extent. As we age, our gums tend to recede, making our teeth look longer and our smiles look older.
In addition to the cosmetic downsides of being “long in the tooth,” when gum tissue recedes, it exposes more of the tooth, or even the tooth root, making individuals more susceptible to root cavities and bone damage. Gum recession is also a leading cause of sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
Dr. Stuart J. Froum, a board-certified periodontist (gum doctor) with a private practice in Manhattan, who also serves as a clinical professor of periodontics and Implants at the New York University Dental Center, regularly performs periodontal plastic surgery designed to rebuild lost gum tissue.
These procedures are commonly known as gum grafts during which the gum is rebuilt by grafting healthy gum tissue from other areas of the mouth, or from live cell substitutes, onto existing gum tissue. This is done in order to reduce recession and cover exposed, unsightly roots.
How Do Gum Grafts Work?
In the world of surgeries, gum grafting is relatively simple and cause little discomfort. Dr. Froum performs these procedures under local anesthetic so the patient doesn’t feel any pain during the surgery, but is still awake.
For patients with little gum tissue remaining, healthy tissue is obtained from the roof of the mouth and then stitched to the gum tissue that has begun to recede.
If the patient has a lot of gum tissue, but it is not evenly distributed, Dr. Froum is sometimes able to simply reshape the existing tissue into a more functional, and more appealing, shape.
Dr. Froum always uses thin self-dissolving sutures to avoid pain and swelling and to eliminate the need for a follow-up appointment just to have stitches removed.
Why Get A Gum Graft?
From a purely cosmetic perspective, gum grafts can make crowns, laminates or implants look more natural, improving the aesthetics of your smile.
Grafting is also important to people dealing with medical issues. As mentioned above, receding gums can make you more susceptible to root cavities, and can cause sensitivity to hot and cold foods. Some people even end up losing teeth because of gum recession. Rebuilding the gums helps to prevent tooth loss and cavities, and can also reduce temperature sensitivity.
Gum grafting is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words plastic surgery, but having a beautiful smile to match your other features is important. Don’t let your gums prematurely age you, or cause you pain and discomfort by making you more susceptible to root cavities and temperature sensitivity.