What is a Gingival Retraction Cord and What is it Used For?

An Instrument You'll Find in Your Dentist's Office

Gingivitis seen in inflammation of gums from bacteria or disease. Credit: Biophoto Associates/Pri / Getty Images

A gingival retraction cord is a specific tool or instrument that dentists use, typically during the preparation of the teeth during the common dental crown procedure, and also during the similarly common dental bridge procedure.

During the process, the gingival retraction cord is inserted gently below the gumline and into the gingival sulcus, and around the specific tooth that has been prepared for the crown or bridge.

The gingival sulcus is the natural space found between the tooth and the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth. Plaque generally builds up in this area, which in turn can lead to several dental issues.

The main purpose of a gingival retraction cord allows a dentist to get a clear working view of a tooth.

Uses of a Gingival Retraction Cord 

The gingival retraction cord is primarily used to push the gum tissue away from the prepared margins of the tooth, in order to create an accurate impression of the teeth. The gum can get in the way of an impression of a tooth, and this is why gums are typically pushed out of the way. This process allows the dentist to focus directly on preparing the tooth without having to worry about the gums getting in the way.

The use of a gingival retraction cord may cause temporary swelling of and inflammation of the gums, but there are no long-term harm in the use of a gingival retraction cord.

Characteristics of a Gingival Retraction Cord

A gingival retraction cord typically resembles yarn on a stick, or an advanced type of flossing stick. To create the piece that fits around the tooth to be worked on, pieces of cotton or polyester are braided together to create a specific diameter. This diameter is the part that goes around the tooth.

Typically, using a gingival retraction cord is the most effective method for moving and retracting gum tissue in order to provide a clear working view of the tooth. A clear working view of the tooth is crucial so that the dentist can ensure that no mistakes are made. However, the use of a gingival retraction cord sometimes leads to gum bleeding, as the cord pushes against and can irritate the gum. Such gum bleeding can be difficult to control and in turn make impressions extremely difficult to capture clearly.

As a result, some brands of gingival retraction cords are pre-soaked in hemodent, which is a liquid that is used to stop minor bleeding of the gum tissue. Many dentists prefer to soak the gingival retraction cord in hemodent themselves, rather than having the cords come pre-soaked, while other doctors choose not to use hemodent to stop any bleeding from the gingival tissue.

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