Gum Grafting and Gum Surgery
Gum grafting surgery is usually performed to correct gum recession, a process in which the gums slowly pull down off the tooth roots and no longer protect the roots of the tooth from the perils of the oral environment. The enamel that covers the top of the tooth is much more resistant to decay and acid erosion, while the dentin of the roots is more vulnerable to decay.
Gum recession is very common. A customary symptom is tooth sensitivity when eating hot and cold foods or brushing the teeth. However, most people don’t have any symptoms, and the diagnosis is more a visual one made by the patient or the dentist.
This condition can become severe over time, causing damage to the integrity of the teeth and or the bone that supports the teeth. As mentioned above, exposed roots are much more vulnerable to decay. Gum grafting allows Drs. Singer or Tami to take donor tissue or tissue from the patients palate and graft it with sutures onto the areas where the gums have receded. The graft then covers the exposed tooth root, protecting it once again. During gum surgery, Drs. Singer or Tami often treats and/or removes infected tissue so that health is restored to the gums.
There are generally three types of gum grafts:
- Connective tissue grafts, which involve taking gum tissue from the upper palate of the mouth, or donor tissue (alloderm) and grafting it onto the areas of gum recession. In this case, a flap is made on the upper palate, and tissue is taken from underneath that flap.
- Free gingival grafts, which involve removing the top layer of gum tissue from the upper palate of the mouth without creating a flap.
- Pedicle grafts, which involve removing tissue from areas of the gums that are not on the upper palate but instead, near the tooth needing the graft. The tissue is then not fully cut away but remains attached and is only pulled down to cover the exposed tooth root. This technique does not work with patients who have too little gum tissue near the affected teeth.
- Recently there is a strong shift for grafts coming from a tissue bank rather than from the patient.
Recovering From Gum Surgery
The procedure can be done on an outpatient basis in the DC Smiles office with local anesthesia and or sedation if the patient prefers. This means that, with assistance, you can go home the same day. We will give you detailed instructions as to how to clean your teeth during the healing process. Special care must be taken with cleaning, as well as with diet. You will need to eat only soft foods for a week or two and avoid anything spicy, crunchy, or with seeds.
We will provide you with a pain medication prescription or recommendations for over-the-counter medications to manage any post-surgical discomfort. It will take 1-2 weeks for your mouth to fully heal, but most patients can return to work the next day after the procedure.
While it is possible for gum recession to recur, it is rare. Further, Drs. Singer or Tami will provide you with detailed instructions for how to properly care for your teeth and gums, as well as nutritional protocols and whole body health advice. If you refrain from smoking and take good care of your oral and overall health, you should be able to avoid further gum recession.
Much of the time, recession is caused by grinding the teeth or teeth that are not in proper alignment and strike prematurely and off axis. When teeth are overstressed, they tend to flex at the junction just below the gum line. This flexure causes loss of root surface, supporting bone, and the soft tissue gum above it.