We often recommend a gum graft if your gums have started to recede. Once this happens, the recession results in the exposure of the roots of your teeth. A gum graft can prevent the tooth surface of your teeth from decaying. Without this procedure the risk of abrasion and sensitivity increases. Gum grafting is often referred to as gingival grafts. We use this procedure for the correction of receding gums. In some cases, you may be given a referral to a gum specialist or periodontist for this surgical procedure.
During your gum graft, a piece of tissue is removed from healthy and nearby gum tissue or the roof of your mouth. The next step is attaching this tissue in the area where your gums have receded or worn away. In addition to this procedure being fairly quick, you will be able to leave the office once the process is completed. Gum recession happens because the tissues around your teeth have pulled away. This exposes either the root of your tooth or the tooth itself.
Unfortunately, the result is often damage to the bone supporting the tissues. Gum recession is a common issue and often seen by dentists. Between four and 12 percent of all adults are affected and the condition remains unnoticed until it is severe. Since the process is so gradual, you may be unaware your gums have receded. As time passes, you will notice your tooth root has become exposed due to the unpleasant appearance. When you eat hot or cold foods, you will most likely experience tooth sensitivity.
If you do not treat gum recession with gum grafting, eventually you can lose the tooth. The damage can be repaired and further issues prevented with a gum graft. If you notice any tooth sensitivity or it looks like your gums have receded, your best option is to make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Types of Gum Grafts
There are currently three different kinds of gums grafts. One of the following procedures will be recommended according to your specific needs.
Connective Tissue Gum Graft
This type of graft is the most common for the treatment of your exposed roots. During your procedure, a flap of skin is removed from your palate. This is the roof of your mouth. The tissue beneath the flap is referred to as subepithelial connective tissue. This tissue is removed then stitched to your gum tissue around your exposed root. Once the graft or connective tissue is removed from beneath your palatal flap, it needs to be stitched back down.
Free Gingival Gum Grafting
This type of graft has a lot of similarities with a connective tissue gum graft. During this procedure, tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth. The difference is your tissue is directly removed in small amounts from the roof of your mouth prior to being attached to the area of your gum being treated as opposed to removing tissue using a flap beneath the top layer.
We generally recommend this type of gum grafting if your gums are thin to start with and require extra tissue for the enlargement of your gums.
Pedicle Gum Graft
This procedure is different because the tissue is grafted close to the tooth requiring repair or the surrounding tissue as opposed to the roof of your mouth. This flap is referred to as a pedicle. Only part of your tissue is removed to ensure one edge is still attached. Your gum is then pulled down or over your exposed root prior to being stitched into place. You must have a lot of gum tissue close to your exposed tooth for this procedure to be recommended.
You will discuss the best options for your individual needs before receiving a recommendation. Once you make the decision to have gum grafting, you do not need to worry about changing what you eat or fasting the day of or the day prior to your procedure. The only thing you need to do is to come to our office for your appointment. The type of gum graft you are receiving will be confirmed prior to your procedure.
You will need to make arrangements with a friend or family member to drive you to and from the office. This is because you will receive medication for any discomfort or pain making driving yourself unsafe. If necessary, you can use a car or ride-sharing service for transportation.
Prior to the Procedure
One of the best benefits of gum grafting is no extensive preparation is necessary. All you need to do is schedule a consultation to determine the extent of your gum recession. From there, the best gum graft technique will be recommended for your specific needs. There are no medications or dietary changes required before your procedure.
Scheduling a ride is necessary due to the combination of post-op medication, anesthesia and any discomfort after your procedure. Once you arrive at home the healing process begins.
During the Procedure
Once you have arrived at our office, you will be taken to the procedure room. You will receive local anesthesia to make certain the area is numb. If you are feeling anxious regarding your procedure, general anesthesia may be an option. Some patients are unable to relax with local anesthesia. The actual procedure for your gum graft does not require much time.
This is because the area donor tissue will be removed from has already been identified and the grafting area has been mapped. After you have received sutures and we are certain your graft is secure, you will be given an antibacterial mouthwash for rinsing out your mouth. You may be asked to remain in the office for about an hour to make certain you are not experiencing any issues and your gum grafting is successful.
Gum grafting is the same as all dental procedures in the sense your success for the long term is critical during your recovery period. This means you need to follow the instructions you receive post-op to avoid any unnecessary complications. Taking the medications you are prescribed according to the instructions is important for fast healing. Avoid any hot or cold foods capable or irritating or burning your gum graft. The best foods to consume at this time include:
- Soft-boiled or scrambled eggs
- Ice cream
- Vegetables cooked until they become soft
- Cottage cheese
- Your favorite gelatin flavors including Jello
You will not be able to floss or brush the area with the gum graft or you risk disrupting your healing process. If you open the wound, the result can be an infection. Maintaining good oral hygiene is still extremely important. You will receive a recommendation for an antimicrobial mouthwash so plaque buildup can be removed and infections prevented while you are healing. You will be apprised regarding when it is safe to begin brushing your teeth again.
During your post-op two-week checkup, you will be informed when you can resume activities such as exercise. Only one or two weeks are generally necessary to heal from gum grafting. You will need to make an appointment about a week after your procedure to make certain your gum graft is successful and you are healing correctly. In most instances, brushing and flossing can be resumed in roughly two weeks. You may need about a month to heal completely. This is dependent on your oral hygiene and your overall health.
It is rare to have any complications after a gum graft. If you have any unexpected bleeding or oozing near your graft site, you need to come to the office immediately. Although it is rare, in some cases graft tissue does not adapt properly to the graft site. If this occurs, you may need to repeat the gum grafting procedure. If you are not satisfied with the appearance of your graft after completing the healing process, your gum tissue can be reshaped with a gingivoplasty for a more pleasing appearance.
Cost of a Gum Graft
The cost of a gum graft can be as low as a few hundred dollars or several thousand. If you have dental insurance, gum grafting may be completely covered with very little required out-of-pocket. If you have an Affordable Care Act plan including dental insurance, you might be able to have the procedure at no cost.
Will Another Gum Graft Be Necessary?
Gum grafting is an extremely effective procedure to repair your gum recession while helping to prevent additional damage. Unfortunately, it is possible to develop gum issues in the future. You can help prevent this by ensuring you perform good oral hygiene at home and see your dentist for regular checkups. This will help eliminate any serious damaging resulting in surgery. There are ways you can prevent gum disease such as:
- Brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice daily
- Using an antiseptic mouthwash once or twice daily
- Consume a healthy diet
- Floss daily
- Do not smoke
- Have routine checkups and teeth cleanings
If you suspect you have receding gums, contact us as soon as possible to see if gum grafting is an option.