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Does the gum in my mouth grow back? - Periodontal Disease simply explained

Updated on April 9, 2013

Will my gums grow back?

An interesting often asked question when a patient has been diagnosed with periodontal disease and gum recession. Many at home as well as professional treatment options are available that will stop the progression of this disease.

The dental professional usually diagnoses a patient with periodontal disease soon after he performs a measurement of each pocket in the mouth and enters the measurements next to each tooth on a chart, the procedure is called "probing", the chart is simply called a "probing chart". Every patient should have a probing chart in their file, and it is repeated regularly during exams to properly gauge the progression of pocket depth. This routine diagnosis procedure should be a standard with every routine examination performed by a good dentist.

What does my doctor mean when he says I have deep pockets?

A healthy pocket depth is between 2 to 3 millimeters in depth, anything over that will require a deeper intervention called periodontal scaling and root planning, generally referred to as "deep cleaning" by a dental professional. Most dental insurances do cover this procedure and there may be an out-of-pocket cost. There are various stages of the disease and those are determined based on the depth of the pockets. Many patients are genetically born with weaker gums putting them at a higher rate of progression.

The first question asked by most patients when they are faced with this diagnosis is, what can we do about it? if we do this, will my gum grow back?.

You see, gum attaches to bone, if those tarter filled pockets are ignored and left untreated, they keep getting bigger and deeper separating the gum from the tooth, causing the bone to retract back, it's almost like the bone is running away from the tarter pockets (shrinking), as the bone retracts "moves down", the gum follows it because it wants to attach to something, thus creating the receding gums. It's like a downward spiral starting at the top, tarter pockets pushing down, bone moving back, and gum following it.

When a deep cleaning is performed by a dentist, the tarter is removed from the pockets leaving them clean, the pockets are treated with direct antibiotics, the gum becomes healthier and more pink in color. Since bone doesn't grow back on its own, gum doesn't grow back either.

The periodontal treatment stops the progression of the disease, but does not reverse the damage caused up to that point. By maintaining regular periodontal maintenance with your dentist along with a good understanding on how to properly brush your teeth, the progression of bone loss should be stable and not progress further.

Although we are limited on how deep we reach with our toothbrush at home, approximately 1mm, it is essential to understand how well you should care of your teeth such as proper brushing techniques and how often to replace your tooth brush. Do not avoid the most important visits to your dentist every 6 months, routine cleaning and exams. Preventive measures such as cleanings and exams can definitely avoid bigger issues and treatments that are much more uncomfortable and costly in the long run.

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