While painful surgery used to be the only way to treat receding gums, one dentist is trying another way.

Dr. John Chao has developed a new, nearly painless procedure called the pinhole surgical technique to help those with gum recession.

Gum grafting, the conventional treatment of choice for receding gums, is painful. Dentists cut and remove tissue from the roof of the mouth and then graft it onto the receded gum.

I just didn't see why dentistry has to have a procedure that hurts so much, Dr. Chao said.

Instead of cutting, Dr. Chao uses a needle to make a small hole above the recession and loosen the gums. Then he pulls the receded gums back up into place and reinforces them with collagen.

Joyce Ann Flint was one of the first to have it done.

It was a miracle. An absolute miracle, Flint said.

The pinhole procedure can correct up to 14 teeth at a time, and recovery takes less than a day. Traditional surgery only corrects one to two teeth at a time and recovery takes three weeks.

Dr. Chao is currently the only dentist doing this procedure, but he is beginning to train other dentists around the world.

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