While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.
So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.
Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.
Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.
There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.
If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”