We occasionally get questions from people with what we call “black triangles” between their teeth. If a person has serious chronic gum disease, one of two things can happen that can cause large black triangles. The treatment for the gum disease can surgically remove some of the gum in order to make the teeth easier to clean, thus saving the teeth. Or, even in the absence of surgery, once the gums are brought into a healthier state, the inflammation decreases and the swelling goes down, leaving the spaces between the teeth.
If this is an esthetic problem, an answer can be what we call a gingival mask prosthesis, a picture of which we have displayed on the right. It is made out of silicone, so it is flexible, and tags of the material are made to fit between the teeth and lock it in place.
It needs to be cared for carefully so that it will last as long as possible. It may only last a few months and then need to be replaced, or it could last a couple of years. And it would be advisable to remove it during any rough activities such as contact sports, skiing, or any other activity that could dislodge the appliance as it could pose a choking risk.
Always remove it when you sleep.
A Gingival Mask is not a permanent appliance. How long a mask will last will depend on several factors:
- Keeping it clean is important. But be careful how you clean it. Don’t use a toothbrush, anything abrasive at all, or even denture cleaners. Mild hand soap works well. Antibacterial soaps can have chemicals that will shorten the lifespan of the mask.
- Be careful not to scratch the mask with your nails or any other object.
- Smoking or alcohol consumption will reduce its lifespan.
- Store it in a secure container such as an orthodontic retainer case when not in use. At night, store it in water. Distilled water is recommended by the laboratory, or soft contact lens solution. Soft contact lens solution has the added benefit of containing a mild antibacterial agent. But be sure to rinse off the mask before placing it in your mouth.
- The cleanliness of the mask and your mouth is very important. Other factors like lifestyle, medications, smoking, and drinking will also help determine how well a Gingival Mask will work for you, and how long it will last. These are all subjects you need to discuss with your dentist.