I need cosmetic gum surgery to correct some areas of my smile where my gums have receded. More of my teeth are exposed than normal, and it looks quite bad. I know that gum surgery can be quite an ordeal, but I’ve heard that a new technique can make the correction possible without the worst parts of the surgery. Can you explain what pinhole gum surgery is?
The pinhole surgical technique or PST can indeed eliminate the need for scalpels, sutures, and the long healing times associated with traditional gum surgery. That said, it is a relatively new method. There hasn’t been time for studies that prove its long-term effectiveness the way the older techniques have been proven. Let’s take a look.
Traditional Gum Grafts
When the gums recede, as has happened in your case, more than just cosmetic considerations are at stake. While the recession may look unsightly, the real problem is that exposed tooth roots can be extra sensitive, and they can be damaged much more easily. The traditional method of covering the exposed teeth was to perform periodontal plastic surgery. In this method, the periodontist takes donor tissue from the patient’s palate to provide a gum graft. This involves cutting the donor tissue from the palate as well as cutting the gums around the exposed teeth and suturing the new tissue in place. As you can imagine, the healing process takes quite awhile, and great care must be taken so infections don’t set in.
Overview of the Pinhole Surgical Technique
The pinhole surgical technique was invented and patented by Dr. John Chao, DDS, MADG, of California. It is a procedure that doesn’t involve scalpels, sutures or grafts. Instead, a small hole is made and specially designed instruments are used to work with the gum tissue that is already present. It is first loosened and then glided to cover the tooth more completely. Most patients experience very few post-operative symptoms like pain, swelling, and bleeding. And unlike the long healing period needed for traditional gum surgery, healing is quick and the results are immediate.
The photos on this page show a patient with recessed gums before and after the use of the pinhole surgical technique. In the before photo, several teeth are exposed by recessed gums, and in the after photo, the gums look as though they have always covered these same teeth naturally.
Finding a Certified PST Practitioner
You may have heard about the PST on any one of a number of national television programs. More than half of the people in the US have some level of gum recession, so there has been a lot of interest among the daily news and doctors’ shows. It’s important to find a periodontist who is certified to provide this type of surgery. Dr. Chao’s original work was published in the International Journal of Periodontics and Restorative Dentistry, one of the most respected journals in dentistry. And only periodontists who take advantage of his training are certified to proved the procedure.
Good luck to you in finding the right periodontist to restore your gums.
This blog is brought to you by Dr. David Pumphrey of Pumphrey Periodontics in Atlanta, Georgia.