Benign New Gum Treatment Seems to Work Long-Term

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A new treatment for receding gums that uses patients’ own blood to encourage regeneration seems to have “legs” and hold up over the long term, according to a small study by researchers at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.

Receding gums are a common problem among people with diabetes. The disease inflames the periodontal tissue, which eventually shrinks back from teeth, exposing tooth roots to injury and disease.

Until recently, the most common form of  therapy for receding gums has been surgery that replaces lost tissue with tissue taken from the roof a patient’s mouth and grafted onto the affected areas. Drawbacks to the surgery include post-operative pain and stitches in the patient’s mouth.

The Tufts scientists tracked the longevity of an alternative therapy, originally developed at the same university, called guided tissue regeneration. In GTR, dental surgeons draw blood from a patient and retrieve platelets. The platelets contain proteins, called growth factors, that aid in tissue repair. The surgeons soak a collagen membrane in the platelets, then suture it over the receding gum.

Researchers tracked six patients who had had the procedure done among them on 37 teeth. At six months, regenerated tissue was completely covering the roots of two-thirds of the teeth, and after three years, 57 percent of the treated teeth still had complete root coverage.

The results, they say, are comparable to those achieved by conventional graft surgery, but with less pain and no need to remove tissue from another part of the mouth.

Because the study sample was small, researchers are not ready to say that GTR will surpass or replace conventional grafting treatments, but they do expect the therapy to rapidly become better known now that there are some long-term results to study.

Their findings were published in the Journal of Periodontology, July 2009.

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