Need a Dental Restoration? Preparing for Gingival Retraction


Restorations like crowns, bridges, partial dentures, and inlays can improve both the function and appearance of your teeth. If you’ve never had a restoration placed before, you may be a little nervous about the procedures involved. Talk with your dentist so that you are fully informed of the involved process.

When taking impressions for a restoration, one step you may undergo is gingival retraction. Read on for more information on what a gingival retraction is and what it entails.

What Is Gingival Retraction?

Before your dentist takes impressions of your teeth, they will wind a gingival retraction cord around the tooth or teeth that need prostheses. Retraction cords look a lot like floss and are made out of polyester or cotton.

Your dentist will need to wind the cord around a tooth so that it loosens up the gingival sulcus. The sulcus is the gum pocket between gingival tissue and the tooth.

As the cord sits in the sulcus, it actually loosens the gum tissue up so that the dentist has more enamel to access for the impression. If a dentist took impressions of your teeth without gingival retraction, then the dental laboratory would be working with an incomplete model of your teeth.

What Are the Basic Steps of the Procedure?

Each dentist office is different, but these are some basic steps you can expect during gingival retraction:

  1. Your dentist will clean and rinse the tooth. They will then dry the area and place cotton rolls around the site to reduce moisture.
  2. Your dentist will cut a piece of retraction cord and use cotton pliers to form a loose loop. If a deeper sulcus is required for your impressions, the dentist may need to use two pieces or cord.
  3. Your dentist will slip the cord loop around your tooth.
  4. Your dentist will use a cord packing instrument to gently pull the cord down into the gum pockets.
  5. The dentist will leave the cord in the gum pocket for a few minutes so that it can expand and deepen the sulcus. During this time, keep your tongue away from the area so that the area stays dry and the cord isn’t affected.
  6. When the gums have sufficiently loosened your dentist will grab the end of the cord, unwind it, and gently pull it out.
  7. The dentist or a dental assistant will use a special instrument to deliver the impression below the gum line and start pouring the needed impression.
  8. After the dentist removes the impression, they will place a temporary tooth.

If you have concerns about any of the steps in this procedure, ask your dentist to explain.

What Is a Vasoconstrictor Solution?

Before the dentist places the retraction cord around your tooth, they may dip it in water or a vasoconstrictor solution. The retraction cord can cause from gingival bleeding, and the vasoconstrictor solution reduces the bleeding. It’s harder for dentists to get an accurate impression if they are dealing with blood.

Although gingival retraction isn’t invasive like surgery, you let your dentist know if you are on anticlotting drugs or blood thinners. Even taking an aspirin can affect your blood’s ability to clot. These medications are good for preventing clots that can cause strokes, but they can increase the risk of bleeding during gingival retraction.

Let your dentist know about current medications so they can make a decision about whether or not they should use the vasoconstrictor solution during the procedure.

Does Gingival Retraction Hurt?

Your gum tissue may bleed a little and be a little swollen or sore, but this process shouldn’t be painful. The gums will heal and cause no long-term damage. But if you have a low pain threshold, you may want to ask about alternative methods since they may be more comfortable.

For instance, some dentists can inject a clay-like paste into the sulcus to loosen the gum tissue. A lot of these pastes contain aluminum chloride, which acts as a vasoconstrictor.

To learn more about gingival retraction or restorations, contact Vincent J. Picone D.D.S. for an appointment today.