Gum recession is a condition in which your gums pull away from the tooth surface, exposing the root surfaces of your teeth. When gums recede, they sometimes look thin and worn away. The exposed roots of your teeth may be more sensitive to cold, sweets, brushing, or getting your teeth cleaning when you have gum recession. More than being a cosmetic issue, gum recession may also make you more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth loss if left untreated.
If you or your dentist notices gum recession, you may need a gum graft, which is also known as a gingival graft. Gum grafting is a type of periodontal oral surgery that is done to correct the loss of gum due to recession. It is a simple procedure which is performed in the office by a periodontist.
Here is some helpful information about the gum grafting procedure:
GUM GRAFTING PROCEDURE
During the procedure, rest assured that you will be comfortable because we use local anesthetic to ensure that it is a painless process that usually only takes about an hour to complete.
Repair of your gums can happen by having a graft that is done one of three ways:
- Free Gingival Graft – This type of graft is done to thicken gum tissue that has been thinned. To achieve this, a small layer of gum tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and relocated to the area affected by gum recession. This type of graft is less about cosmetic appearance and more about the protection of the tissue.
- Connective Tissue Graft – This type of graft is commonly used to cover exposed tooth roots. The tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and relocated to the site of the gum recession. This type of graft can often reduce the appearance of long or discolored teeth, which can improve cosmetic appearances.
- Allograft (alternative material graft) – This type of graft uses alternative graft material instead of using gum tissue from the roof of your mouth. This means that rather than two sites of the surgery, you only have one, which may reduce discomfort.
You & your periodontist can discuss which type of gum graft is right for you.
RECOVERY AFTER A GUM GRAFT
After the graft is completed, your periodontist and periodontal surgery assistant will provide you with post-op instructions that will help to reduce discomfort and assist in healing.
You will leave with some stitches and something called, periodontal packing in the area.
If you have sutures, they may be dissolvable and may disintegrate within a two-week period. Sometimes, sutures remain in the area until your two-week post-op appointment, the surgical assistant will remove them for you that day.
The periodontal packing is a putty-type material that helps make the surgical area more comfortable and protects it. It may stay on for a few days or last the entire two weeks. If it comes out before two weeks, that is fine. Refrain from touching the packing as that may result in the removal of sutures prematurely and cause discomfort.
Here are some tips to help your recover easily:
First 24 hours:
Expect mild discomfort for the first 24-48 hours.
- Apply ice packs as soon as possible to reduce swelling.
- Do not smoke!
- Take recommended medications such as antibiotics and pain medications.
- Eat a soft diet only (you will get a list of recommended foods).
- Drink plenty of fluids (but avoid rinsing, spitting, or using a straw).
- Rest for the remainder of the day.
- Do not brush the treated area.
Discomfort subsides & healing is happening.
- You may rinse with warm saltwater rinses and prescribed medicated rinses after the first 24 hours.
- Continue with a soft diet for two weeks until your sutures are removed. Avoid hard, crunchy, & spicey foods.
- While you can brush your teeth, continue to avoid the treated area.
- Finish any prescribed antibiotics and mouth rinses.
- Do not use a power toothbrush or water flosser until your post-op appointment.
THE FOLLOW UP
You will return for a follow-up appointment two weeks after your graft surgery. At that time, the surgical assistant will remove any sutures, check the healing, and provide homecare instructions. You may see the periodontist that day or a few weeks later to observe how it has healed.
Once the area has healed, you can resume normal homecare. But always remember to discuss your risk factors for gum recession with your periodontist to avoid future recession.