Taby Rohm has always taken good care of her teeth. But the gum line on her bottom four front teeth was receding, leaving the roots exposed and vulnerable to cavities and decay.
“I had a real bad recession in the very front. When I pulled my lip down, I could see it,” reveals Taby. “Plaque always was building up there, almost like the plaque was drawn to it.”
Receding gums, known as gingival recession, can be the result of crooked teeth, similar to Taby’s front lower teeth. Overly zealous brushing, one of her longtime habits, also can lead to wearing away gum tissue.
“The reason I brushed so hard was that I could always see the plaque building up. I was just making it worse, but didn’t know it,” she continues.
Taby and her dentist, Nicholas G. Rendon, DDS, had discussed that she might one day need gum surgery to protect her teeth. Receding gums can cause sensitivity to hot and cold food and beverages. They also can increase the risk of decay, destruction of bone and, ultimately, tooth loss.
As gaps form between the teeth and gum line, pockets are created where harmful bacteria can build up and set the stage for infections. Untreated infections can then attack the bone structure and tissue that support the teeth.
The traditional method for repairing receded gums is through gum grafts. The procedure to move tissue from one part of the mouth to another can be time-intensive and uncomfortable. A section of donor tissue is surgically removed from the roof of the mouth and sutured onto where the gum line is shrinking. Typically, the patient can expect a two- to three-week recovery period.
Luckily, Dr. Rendon was able to offer Taby a far less invasive procedure called Chao Pinhole® Surgical Technique, or PST™. The gum rejuvenation treatment requires neither cutting nor stitching and transformed Taby’s receding gum line in a single visit.
“Pinhole rejuvenation is a newer technique to cover root surfaces when the gum has receded,” explains Dr. Rendon. “It’s a way to get gum recession taken care of without the pain.”
A significant advantage for patients is that PST results in minimal discomfort, if any, unlike traditional gum grafting.
“Repairing a receded gum line used to require a lot of cutting and a lot of suturing and a whole lot of pain during the recovery process,” notes Dr. Rendon. “Quite frankly, I often delayed recommending it to patients who had gum recession. I didn’t feel the outcome would justify the pain they had to go through.
“Now, because we can actually rejuvenate the gums in an essentially pain-free manner, it doesn’t make sense not to offer patients this kind of treatment. It’s going to benefit them for the rest of their lives.”
This breakthrough treatment doesn’t require gum grafts. Instead, a tiny pinhole is created in the gum above or near the teeth that have exposed roots. A small, specialized dental instrument is inserted into the pinhole and used to gently loosen and move gum tissue.
“Once we’ve released the tissue, we can lift it and cover the receded area. We don’t do anything from the outside of the gum; everything is done underneath the tissue,” educates Dr. Rendon.
After the gum tissue is moved into a normal position, the next step is insertion of small collagen strips through the pinhole. “We use collagen to pump up the tissue and hold the gum tissue in place while it reattaches to the tooth,” explains Dr. Rendon.
The pinhole typically closes by itself within 24 hours; no sutures are required.
The overall goal of pinhole rejuvenation is to increase the amount of keratinized tissue, which is the hard, pinkish gum tissue that covers the top of teeth.
“Once we get keratinized tissue over the receded area, we actually get protection for the underlying bone and the tooth’s root surface,” assures Dr. Rendon.
“Keratinized tissue is protective of bone, and bone is protective of the tooth and supports the tooth. It all goes hand and hand.”
More youthful appearance
In addition to protecting teeth from gum recession, PST adds the benefit of contributing to a more youthful appearance.
“Cosmetically, it’s like having plastic surgery on your gums to make your teeth look nicer,” says Dr. Rendon.
“You’ve heard the saying long in the tooth. It’s an old saying that probably came about because of how the teeth look as people age. Their teeth appear to be longer as their gums recede,” he continues.
The teeth return to looking shorter – and therefore contribute to a younger-looking smile – when the gum line is moved to cover exposed roots.
For Taby, the gum recession on her front lower teeth was the most severe. She also had other places on her lower arch where the gum was shrinking. The PST procedure restored all of them in a single visit. She now has a healthy gum line and covered tooth roots.
“I’m telling you, this surgery is so amazing. I have absolutely zero gum recession in my mouth now,” she enthuses.
Taby admits to having been a little nervous at first about the procedure to rejuvenate her gums. She was able to relax after learning more from Dr. Rendon.
“Dr. Rendon was very informative and I trust him. He showed me the results people were getting with this surgery and how there is no pain, no scalpel, none of that,” she notes.
“I didn’t feel anything during the whole procedure. I followed Dr. Rendon’s advice and took ibuprofen later. But I didn’t need to take any pain medication – none. He was right – there is no pain.”
Taby says the encouragement and care she receives from Dr. Rendon and his staff have made her feel proud of her healthy teeth and gums. Before, she had always felt somewhat self-conscious because her lower front teeth aren’t straight.
“As a matter of fact, I made Dr. Rendon and the girls all sappy because I told them, I’ve never been proud of my mouth, but since I’ve been coming here, I just keep getting prouder.
“The word I would use to describe Dr. Rendon is comfortability. He explains everything to you and he doesn’t push you. He gives you options. I have never met any doctor or dentist that I’ve been as comfortable with.”
Thanks to the success of her PST gum treatment, Taby says she no longer worries about losing any of her front teeth.
“I really think, eventually, I would have lost my front tooth because the gum just kept receding and receding,” she says. “Now, if you saw my before and after pictures, you’d say, Wow! That’s amazing!”