Have you got a loose gum flap between teeth and gums, or between two of your teeth?
If you do, you probably want to know both what has caused it, whether or not you should be worried, and what treatment options are available.
Gums are part of the mouth’s soft tissue. They surround and support the teeth and, when healthy, look pink and firm, as opposed to red, swollen, tender or – God forbid – loose.
In other words, if you have a loose gum flap, it is important that you take the issue seriously, and not only because it is visually jarring. A loose gum flap is often a sign of periodontal disease, which should be treated as soon as possible to prevent any further permanent damage to your gums and teeth.
What causes loose gum flaps
In some cases, your unwanted gum flap may simply be the temporary result of gum inflammation. Inflamed and irritated gum tissue can happen if you have been neglecting cleaning your teeth properly for as little as a few days.
In most cases, however, gum flaps are caused by gum disease.
There are two types of gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis. Both types of gum diseases are unfortunately very common among adults in the United States and many other places around the world.
The good news is that early stage gum disease can be stopped or its symptoms lessened with effective oral care.
Gingival disease (Gingivitis)
Gingivitis is the most common form of gum disease and is best described as early-stage gum disease. There is usually only minimal discomfort at this stag, which is one of the reasons why gingival disease can be difficult to detect and treat before it becomes periodontitis.
Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is, thankfully, reversible with a combination of professional treatment and the immediate implementation of an improved oral hygiene routine.
There are numerous factors that may contribute to gingivitis. These include diabetes, smoking, ageing, genetic predisposition, systemic diseases and conditions, stress, inadequate nutrition, puberty, hormonal fluctuations, pregnancy, substance abuse, HIV infection, as well as certain medications.
If left untreated, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line over time. In other words, if left untreated, gingivitis can quickly escalate and become much worse.
Periodontal disease (Periodontitis)
Untreated gingivitis becomes periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease.
This is how The National Institute of Health defines periodontal disease; “inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets. ”
If periodontal disease remains untreated, it can become very serious and can cause teeth to become loose and eventually fall out.
Signs of gum disease that may lead to loose gum flaps
Gum disease can be incredibly sneaky, often causing only mild irritation to begin with. This is why it can be so difficult to spot early on. However, spotting and treating gum disease early on is vital, before it does permanent damage to your gums and teeth.
- Regular bleeding of the gums
- Any signs of gums pulling away from the teeth
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Loose teeth and gums
How dental professionals diagnose gum disease
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of gum disease mentioned above, such as bad breath, bleeding, red and swollen gums, or receding gum tissue, it’s imperative to have a dental professional examine your mouth as soon as possible.
A dentist can usually diagnose periodontitis very quickly simply by observing the signs and symptoms when carrying out a physical examination.
But beyond a visual assessment of your gum tissue, your dental professional may also measure the pocket depth around each of your teeth with a periodontal probe.
The periodontal probe is inserted next to the tooth, under the gum line. The dentist will measure how far it reaches. Provided that the tooth is healthy, the probe will not slide very far below the gum line. But if you have periodontitis, the probe will reach much deeper under the gum line, which is not a good sign.
Using the probe allows the dentist to determine the presence of periodontal disease and how far it has progressed. Your dental professional may probe six different sites around your tooth during a periodontal examination.
An X-ray can allow the dentist to further assess the conditions of the jaw bone and the teeth.
How to get rid of loose gum flaps
There are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for gum flaps caused by periodontitis. Whether surgical or non-surgical treatment is the best option for you depends on how severe and progressed your gum disease is.
Nonsurgical treatments include: Scaling and root planing: The removal of tartar and bacteria from teeth and beneath gums.
Whenever possible, non-surgical treatments are preferable over their more invasive, surgical counterparts. However, you should always go with the treatment option recommended to you by your dentist after a thorough assessment.
Home care for prevention
As always, the best cure is prevention.
Gum disease is usually caused by an extensive buildup of plaque. Plague forms naturally on the teeth and gums – this is perfectly natural and in fact cannot be prevented. Problems only begin to arise when plaque is not removed regularly, as it contains great amounts of bacteria, which excrete toxins that irritate and eventually damage the gums.
Fortunately, however, periodontal disease is very preventable. By keeping up with regular dental visits and a consistent home-care routine, you’re doing everything you can to maintain healthy gums and teeth.
Scaling and root planing
Like any other oral health issues, the first thing you should do if you suspect you may have gum disease is to see your dental professional and have your teeth professionally cleaned and assessed.
Professional oral deep cleaning is reffed to as scaling and root planing. The prices consists of the dentist or dental hygienist removing the tartar and plaque buildup which has become embedded in your gum pockets, which gives your gums a chance to tighten again around your teeth.
Scaling and root planing may be the only treatment required in your case. However, in cases where deep pockets in your gums are affected, you may need a more invasive form of treatment.
In addition to scaling and root planing, another nonsurgical treatment is to use topical or oral antibiotics. Antibiotics are very effective at getting bacterial infection under control.
These and other medicines are often used not instead of, but in addition to, scaling and root planing in order to stop the spread of gum infection.
Topical antibiotics come in different forms, including medicated mouthwashes, antibiotic-containing gels, and little fibers placed in gum pockets in order to slowly kill bacteria and help the gums to recover.
If you require more advanced treatment, there are several different types of surgery can remove infection as well as reduce your gum pockets if necessary.
These surgical procedures include flap surgery, soft tissue grafts or bone grafts, and guided tissue regeneration. Let’s take a look at each of the options here.
Periodontal gum line flap surgery
In cases where the disease can’t be controlled and reversed by non-surgical treatments like scaling and root planing, surgical interventions may be your only option. One common surgical method of repairing gums is called periodontal flap surgery.
Flap surgery is today’s leading method for treating and repairing the gum pockets where harmful bacteria has been able to proliferate. These bacteria cause inflammation of the tissues, resulting in sensitivity, bleeding, pain, and eventually a loosening of the gum pockets.
Gum flap surgery removes any unsalvageable gum tissue and replaces it with healthy tissue form elsewhere in the mouth. This type of surgery is typically carried out under local anesthesia, sometimes accompanied by oral anti-anxiety medications.
Soft tissue grafting
Soft tissue grafting is when soft tissue from a different part of the mouth is relocated to the gum line in order to reduce further gum loss, cover exposed roots and improve appearance.
In cases where the underlying bone has become eroded, bone grafting may be required. Bone grafting is when a bit of bone is grafted from one area to another.
Bone grafting is performed when the bone around the tooth root has been destroyed and helps prevent tooth loss by holding the tooth in place. It also promotes bone regrowth.
Guided tissue regeneration
The goal of guided tissue regeneration is the regeneration of periodontal ligament and bone tissue which may have been lost to the disease.
A variety of different techniques might be used to achieve this, including sophisticated types of bone grafting and chemicals referred to as growth factors. The goal of all of these treatments is to help restore the gums to their normal form and function, while at the same time securing the teeth by making sure that they are properly anchored in strong, firm gums.
Frequently asked questions
How do you get rid of a loose gum flap?
In most cases loose gum flaps are a result of gum disease, and can only be treated by treating the underling disease.
Treating periodontal disease typically involves deep cleaning of the gum pockets (scaling and root planing), antibiotic treatment, and sometimes surgery.
What does it mean when a piece of your gum is loose?
If you spot any loose gum tissue in your mouth, it is important that you get examined by a dentist sooner rather than later. Only a dentist will be able to accurately diagnosed the underlying cause, which in most cases is periodontal disease.
Do gum flaps go away?
Once your gums have become permanently damaged by, for example, periodontal disease, it is not possible for them to grow back or to reattach themselves to your teeth naturally. But at least, there are both surgical and non-surgical treatments available that can stop your loose or receding gums from getting any worse.
Gum disease is no joke. From causing bad breath to gum line recession and unsightly loose gum flaps, it is a nuisance all around.
If you already have gum disease and it has caused a flap of diseased tissue to be visible between your teeth, you should go along with whichever treatment option your dentist recommend. In some cases, non-surgical treatment may be sufficient, but if not, then one of the surgical options mentioned in this article is the way to go.
The good news is that it is usually rather easy to prevent gum disease from reoccuring. Just take care of your teeth, starting now. Don’t wait! Brush twice a day for at least 3 minutes each time (about the length of your favorite song) and floss daily. If you’re not sure whether you’re brushing or flossing properly, your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to give you some pointers.
And in the meantime, you can read our article on oral health and hygiene.