Ask the Dentist: Fat gums good, thin ones not so great but there is a procedure to help

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says receding gums can treated with a relatively straightforward surgical procedure

Lucy Stock

I OFTEN compliment my patients on their fatness – the fatness of their gums, that is, because people with fat gums have more collagen fibers in them which hug their teeth tighter. Having fat gums means that gum disease progresses more slowly, gum recedes at a reduced pace and teeth are more comfortable.

Just like practically everything in the human body, your type of gum is on a spectrum. It ranges from the super-thin see-through kind to exceedingly plump gum. And, just like the rest of the body, your gum type is determined by a mixture of factors; like your genes and nutrition when you are a developing foetus and after birth.

Thin gum is similar to having a loose sleeve on your arm – it doesn't hug the tooth tightly, giving bacteria easy access to invade the underlying bone and erode it away. Many times, being blessed with fat gum goes hand in hand with having fat bones – also a bonus when considering how long teeth are going to last. Fat bone and fat gum generally keep the gum in its correct position while thin gum and thin jaw bones can lead to gum recession around teeth.

If your gums are receding then sorry to rain on anyone's parade but no mouthwash, type of brush or nutrient supplement will grow them back. It takes a surgical approach to correct receding gums.

Regeneration dentistry is one of the most exciting areas in dentistry at the moment. Gum from either the roof of your mouth or out of packets is used to cover any exposed roots. Gum grafting converts someone from a thin gum type to a fat gum type. Gum grafting sounds bizarre but its actually a very relaxed procedure to have done and is very predictable.

Gum grafting is also useful in people suffering from gum disease and loose teeth. In certain circumstances bone can be regrown around teeth, regenerating damaged bone with special gels and bone promoting granules. Fattening gum and bone around gum-diseased teeth can firm them up.

Although people choose to have unsightly gum recession treated with a gum graft to give a more youthful smile, the health and function is often more of a motivating factor.

Importantly, gum grafting can also eliminate the sensitivity to cold that goes hand in hand with gum recession and it helps to slow down future gum recession, helpfully prolonging the lifespan of teeth.

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