Childhood experiences tend to shape one for life. This is true not just for one’s personality but also for their health and appearance. Gum recession is a common problem in adults, but it is often just the physical manifestation of a problem that began in childhood.
Just because gum recession is visible in adults does not mean it starts in adulthood, explains Marianna Evans, D.M.D. and George Bandelac, D.D.S., the team of board-certified periodontists and orthodontists at Infinity Dental Specialists’ Main Line Health Center office in Newtown Square. Their practice addresses this problem in both adults and children, and because they see the complications it causes in adults, they are able to more comprehensively address it in children.
Both doctors are graduates of University of Pennsylvania. They utilize the latest advances in orthodontics and periodontics to regenerate gums and bone, and correct bites or replace missing teeth with dental implants but more importantly they focus on the prevention of periodontal problems and tooth loss.
What is Gum Recession?
According to studies, 80 percent of the adult population in the United States presents with receding gums, and more than 60 percent of subjects under 29 years old exhibit gingival recession. Moreover, the occurrence of recessions tends to increase with age.
Gum recession is most often characterized by exposed roots of the teeth. The doctors explain that it begins to develop in children, as the permanent teeth are erupting, when the jaw bones are not large enough to accommodate the full set of adult teeth. “Crowded teeth are a direct link to gum recession,” Dr. Evans says, explaining that if the bony support surrounding the teeth is insufficient, the gums—which receive the nourishment they need to remain healthy from the bone structure—can “melt away” over time, even without the presence of active disease. “If you don’t have gums, it is because you don’t have bone. The gum is just the more visible aspect.” Once one has developed gum recession it may be easy to see, but Infinity Dental Specialists has 3-D imaging that allows the doctors to identify those at risk even if they clinically have no gum recession. This technology allows the doctors to evaluate a patient’s skeletal and dental structures in ways that a traditional radiograph does not in order to project the eruption of the permanent teeth and predict those susceptible to the condition.
“Many periodontal problems such as gum recession and, in some situations, even tooth loss commonly found in adults can be prevented with some types of orthodontic treatment in young age,” says Dr. Evans. This preventive early treatment was not available in the past, which is why so many adult patients with a history of orthodontic treatment and regular dental care are presenting today with receding gums and other dental complications.
Diagnosis is important because the condition can lead to painful complications. The root of the tooth is composed of a softer material than the enamel. Because it cannot resist the dietary changes in pH or the friction of brushing and chewing, it is vulnerable to root wear and decay if exposed. Left untreated this condition can lead to cavities, fracture and tooth loss. Dr. Bandelac says that the condition is difficult to treat restoratively because materials do not bond as easily to the root as they do to the enamel. Fortunately there are other options.
“The latest advances in periodontal plastic surgery allow for minimally invasive procedures and greater aesthetic results,” Dr. Bandelac says. Gum recession can now be treated not only surgically through gum and bone regeneration but also with orthodontics or a combination of techniques. Infinity Dental Specialists can provide treatment alternatives based on the severity of the condition and what the 3-D image shows will be most effective.
“We can get regeneration with orthodontic treatment by correcting the bones and regenerate gums without surgery,” Dr. Evans says. “Our practice is one of the only ones to focus on a comprehensive approach to this problem.”
Not only can Infinity Dental Specialists treat existing gum recession, but its doctors believe gum recession is 100 percent preventable. The latest advancements in orthodontic treatment allow patients to grow sufficient bone cover around teeth. The treatments are even less invasive and quicker to heal when initiated in children. Infinity Dental Specialists offers a dual specialty in the treatment of both adults and children.
“We can regenerate the needed tissue in adults but can grow it in children, eliminating the risk entirely,” says Dr. Evans. Expanders can be utilized along with early orthodontic treatment in order to allow the full complement of teeth to come in with adequate bony housing. “The key is to have early screening, before the permanent teeth come in, in order to guide their eruption,” she says.
Drs. Evans and Bandelac warn that there are no symptoms readily evident in children who are at risk; they need a complete evaluation by a specialist before the permanent teeth come in. “Every parent can bring their child in for a comprehensive exam,” says Dr. Evans. “Unfortunately, 80 percent of our patients are referred when it is too late.”
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends the first visit to the orthodontist before the age of 7. “Bones and soft tissue are moldable things at this age,” Dr. Evans adds. “Things that are immobile in adulthood are treatable in children.
“We manage adult complications but prevent them in kids. With an early evaluation, we can project 50 years later.”
The doctors say the name “infinity” has a double meaning, referring to the concern they have about each patient’s future—not just how they look when they leave the practice—as well as the endless possibilities they believe are in store for the future. “We believe tomorrow we will be able to do even more than we can today,” Dr. Bandelac says.
Infinity Dental Specialists
3855 West Chester Pike, Suite 225
Newtown Square, PA 19073