Pinhole technique lowers gumline

Amy Bekowich has a gum condition that could threaten her teeth and her smile.

"I don't have a gummy smile," she says. "But, I noticed the recession when I look in the mirror, when I'm brushing my teeth."

The condition known as receding gums can be caused by a variety of factors including overzealous teeth brushing.

Dr. Suzie Yang, DDS, of San Francisco says the traditional treatment involved tissue grafting.

"The graft procedure requires gum tissue to be harvested from the pallet of the mouth," says Yang. "And then it's stitched into place, where the recession is."

Instead of a tissue graft, Yang is going to lower Bekowich's gumline with a new procedure known as pinhole gum rejuvenation. After numbing Bekowich with anesthetic, Yang will make two small entry points over the treatment area.

"Again, there's no incision or sutures, just two small entry points the size of the head of a pin," says Yang.

The technique then employs specialized instruments designed to pass through the entry holes to loosen the gum tissue from area above the tooth. After the separation, Yang carefully pulls the gums into place. The final step involves anchoring the gums with strips of collagen, which are used routinely in bone grafting.

But while the procedure is effective, it's not always covered by insurance and can run between $500 to $2,000, depending on the size of the area being treated.

For Bekowich, the prospect of lowering her gumline without traditional surgery was worth it.

"The first priority is saving teeth, but for vanity reasons, I have to say the aesthetic benefit is really what I'm exciting about," she says.

While the procedure is relatively new, a three year study published last fall, found the procedure was as successful in the trial group as traditional gum grafting.

Written and produced by Tim Didion

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