Saturday, February 19, 2011

Flossing Your Roots?

Dr. Chip Tartaroff, our answerman for all your flossing questions, asked to have this posted on the blog:

Dr. T,
I am 45 and recently started daily flossing.  When i floss my front lower teath, I can feel an edge, and assume and I am coming to the end of my enamal , and hitting the root.  It does not hurt, but seems wierd
1)do i floss below that lip (so i would be flossing the root?)
2)do i need to have that gum replaced?

Dear Tom,

Thanks for writing!

First of all, I am not a professional dentist and I do not play one on TV.

However, that won’t stop me from offering some common sense comments
in reply to your question, but nothing I say should stop you from discussing your concerns with a dentist.

From what I understand, recession of gum tissue is a fairly common
event and it roughly correlates with age. Complicating the relatively natural amount of recession, gum disease can hasten the process and cause it to endanger the retention of teeth. In your case it sounds
like you have some gum recession on your front lower teeth. One of the primary issues that draws a person’s attention to their gum’s recession is sensitivity of the roots when they’re exposed. This
doesn’t seem to be a problem for you. 
Should you floss those areas?
I’d say yes, based on the scientific principal: If it hurts, don’t do it – and you mentioned flossing didn’t hurt.

As you may know, the normally exposed parts of teeth are covered with enamel. The surface of roots is referred to as “cementum.” Decay can occur in enamel and cementum, so it’s important to keep these tooth surfaces clean, which means using floss.

The second part of your question – Should you have a gum transplant to cover the exposed roots? – Well, a dentist will have to discuss that.
But here are some considerations that might pay to keep in mind:
What is the likelihood that the new gum tissue will survive where your
original gum tissue has retreated?
Some gum recession is attributed to overbrushing. Overbrushing is
something you can change, but it might be best to wait on a painful
transplant procedure to see if changed brushing permits gum regrowth.

Also keep in mind that gums love vitamin C. One of the first signs of
vitamin C deficiency (aka “scurvy”) is loose teeth. Gum tissue grows
rapidly and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is fundamental for cell growth
and repair. This is a primary reason a shortage of vitamin C shows
itself with bleeding gums and loose teeth. You can’t conclude that all
gum problems and loose teeth are caused by a shortage of vitamin C,
but when these problems occur, a brief period of vitamin C supplements seems reasonable before anything more costly and painful is tried.

By the way, the worst side effect of too much vitamin C is flatulence
(as in “toot-toot”). Sucking on a small amount of vitamin C (30-60 mg)
1 or 2x/day should get your gums all they can use and not cause any
gastric distress. Some cough drops contain vitamin C and make a tasty way of getting a supplement.

Good luck with your gums, Tom!

Floss on!

Dr. T.

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