Are There Any Alternatives To Gum Grafting?

Gum recession can cause sensitivity and pain. Some find it unaesthetic and it can also put you at risk of root decay and periodontal disease. Whilst a gum graft is seen as the gold standard treatment, the procedure is expensive, invasive and not suitable for all patients. 

Therefore, if you need treatment to cover your exposed tooth root(s) you may be wondering if there are any alternatives to gum grafting. 

The good news is, yes, there are alternative treatments available and this post highlights some of them.

Alternatives To Gum Grafting

Why Gum Recession Needs Treating

Gum recession is when the gums shrink back exposing the tooth root. There are many causes, the most common is gum disease and aggressive tooth brushing. Many of those with gum recession report sensitivity and pain and may be concerned about tooth loss and aesthetics. If left untreated root caries (cavities/holes) can develop.

When the area is sensitive you may not want to clean that area of your mouth. This can lead to a build-up of plaque which ultimately results in gum disease, inflammation and further gum recession. 

Covering the tooth roots will improve aesthetics and reduce 

  • Sensitivity and pain
  • The risk of gum disease and further gum recession
  • The risk of caries and tooth loss

Gum grafting, or to use its formal name, gingival grafting is often recommended as the best treatment as it will achieve the most natural look. 

However, the procedure which involves making an incision in the gum with a scalpel, and peeling the tissue back to make flaps is invasive and there can be post-op bleeding, discomfort and complications. During the recovery period what you can eat and drink is restricted to prevent damage to the grafted tissue.

Not all patients are suitable for treatment and in some cases, the grafted tissue can fail, and it falls off. After a few years, the grafted tissue may shrink back if the original cause of receding gums is not identified. 

Gum Grafting Alternatives

Not all patients can afford a gum graft, (find out how much gum grafts cost) and not all are suitable for treatment. Here are some alternatives to gum grafting. 

Monitoring & Prevention

If you have a mild gum recession and it’s not an aesthetic concern you may be able to sit and wait. If you choose this option you should ensure the cause of your gum recession is identified and addressed. 

Scaling and root planing or root surface debridement may be recommended to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line. Disrupting this bacteria treats and controls any gum disease that’s causing bone loss and prevents the gums from receding further.

Ensure you develop and maintain excellent oral hygiene. Brush the teeth twice a day and clean the gum pockets and interdental spaces daily. It’s important to use the correct technique so that you effectively disrupt the bacteria without causing further gum recession.

Beat Gum Disease Now

Desensitizing Agents

If you find that your receding gums are causing sensitivity, and that’s your only complaint, desensitizing agents can be applied to the surface of the exposed root to reduce or eliminate the pain and are an alternative to gum grafting. These agents block small tubes (called dentinal tubules) which pass from the surface of the exposed root to the nerve. The nerve gets stimulated and you feel pain. 

Agents which can block the tubules up include

  • Varnishes
  • Dentine bonding agents
  • Glass ionomer cement 
  • Composite resins
  • Toothpaste – special formulations contain silica and oxalates that block the tubules

These agents reduce sensitivity. You will be able to eat and drink as you wish and more importantly, you will be able to brush the area. 

Composite Fillings

Composite resins are an alternative to gum grafting. They’re often used to fill caries in the back teeth and can be adhered to the surface of the root and tooth. This will reduce sensitivity and prevent decay. Tooth-coloured resin can be used to fix minor gum recessions. If you’re concerned about the way your gums look when you smile, gum-coloured resins can be used to make it look more aesthetically pleasing. 

Pink Porcelain

Dental porcelain or ceramic can be placed over the exposed root. There can be difficulties with this technique. The color doesn’t always match the gum tissue and if the application is not carried out by a skilled dentist, the porcelain can create small ledges that are difficult to clean. Plaque may build up resulting in gum disease and recession. 

Removable Gingival Veneers

If you have severe gum recession in many areas of the mouth following gum disease, you may opt for a gingival veneer which fits over all of your front teeth. This will hide receding gums that have left gaps and black triangles between the teeth. 

These gum prostheses can be made from several materials but silicone is a popular option. Silicone gingival veneers are flexible, comfortable and resistant to fracture. 


If misaligned teeth have caused your gums to recede around the teeth in the lower jaw orthodontic treatment can be used to realign the teeth disguising the recession. In some cases moving the teeth will lead to bone growth and subsequent gum thickening which may correct the gum recession. 

Pinhole Surgery

This novel method of treating gum recession is minimally invasive and offers a quicker recovery than the traditional gum grafting technique. A small pinhole incision is made in healthy gum tissue below the receding gum. The healthy gum is then stretched over the area of recession.   

Which Option is Right For You

This is a decision that only you and your periodontist can make. They will tell you the best options for your unique situation, oral health and lifestyle.  

A gum graft is seen by many as the gold standard treatment but as you will have just read there are many alternatives to gum grafting. The financial impact is sure to be a deciding factor. Whatever your budget, there is a viable way to treat your gum recession. 

Beat Gum Disease Now

Sources – Are There Any Alternatives To Gum Grafting?

Patel, M., Nixon, P. & Chan, MY. Gingival recession: part 1. Aetiology and non-surgical management. Br Dent J 211, 251–254 (2011).

Gareth Edwards image

Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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