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Pinhole gum rejuvenation: Receding gums can be restored, now with less pain

Dr. Kelly Blodgett, left, performed pinhole gum rejuvenation on patient Jodi Bolka. (KATU)

Receding gums can lead to pain, tooth decay and tooth loss.

While often more prevalent in older people, gum recession is not uncommon for people age 18 to 45.

The standard procedure involves grafting tissue from inside the mouth and lots of sutures.

A new less invasive procedure can eliminate the stitches and post-operative pain.

Five years after developing a less invasive pinhole gum rejuvenation procedure to treat gum recession, more than 2,000 dentists have been trained by Los Angeles dentist Dr. John Chao.

One of the first was Portland dentist Dr. Kelly Blodgett, who sees patients with gum recession due to over-vigorous brushing, tooth grinding or clenching and after having braces removed.

“Those three things are the primary reasons that we see people having gum recession,” Blodgett said at his dental care office in Southeast Portland. “And that can start at a really early age.”

And if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss.

Before the pinhole surgery was perfected, not a lot of patients signed up for the old way of treating the condition, Dr. Blodgett said.

“People would have to have incisions within their gums,” he said. “The gums were lifted up and then pulled down and then stitch everything back together, which caused quite a bit of trauma to the tissue.”

Blodgett compared the old and new way to knee surgery. Instead of opening up the knee, surgeons can fix the damage with small tools inserted through incisions in the knee.

“This is similar to that, but for gums,” Blodgett explained. “So Dr. Chao developed a technique where through one or two tiny holes you can treat an entire arch of teeth that had gum recession.”

Blodgett then uses a specially designed tool to gently move the gums back over the gums over the tooth and support it with a strip of collagen.

“As it’s being supported by the collagen, that tissue starts to reattach to the bone and the root surfaces,” he said.

Blodgett's patient Jodi Bolka said after seeing her husband suffer through the old procedure, she opted to fix her gum recession with the pinhole method.

“The pinhole procedure seemed much simpler than the whole grafting procedure," she said. “You get bruised and you have swelling. It was very easy. Post-procedure, I didn’t have any pain. The follow-up was super easy.”

A study of 43 patients with gum recession who had the pinhole procedure found the procedure were just as successful as the old way, with virtually no pain and no bleeding.

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