By definition, a “graft” is ‘a piece of living tissue that is transplanted surgically’. So, a gum graft is essentially a gum tissue transplant. These can be either connective tissue or autogenous gingival grafts. Connective tissue grafts are used for covering tooth roots and gingival grafts are used for increasing attached tissue.
If a patient requires an autogenous gingival graft, we’ll take tissue from the roof of the patient’s mouth. (It’s important to note that gingival grafts do not cover tooth roots.) If a patient requires a connective tissue graft, we can use tissue from the roof of the patient’s mouth or donor tissue. (The connective tissue treatment does cover tooth roots.)
The type of graft treatment and the source of the tissue will depend on the patient’s specific goals with treatment. Patients may also be a better candidate for pinhole gum rejuvenation—and with this treatment, we use collagen. (Read further to find out what pinhole gum rejuvenation is!)
A gum graft is effective for supplementing receding gum tissue, or adding tissue to areas where there isn’t a sufficient amount of tissue present. Patients who experience gum recession (which can occur for a number of reasons) or those whose teeth roots are excessively exposed may benefit from a gum graft.
The gum grafting procedure can provide a lot of relief for patients, because exposed tooth roots can be rather painful and sensitive. Gum tissue is intended to protect the teeth roots, so when the roots are exposed, they’re more susceptible to damage.
Receding gums are not only a functional concern, but a cosmetic concern for many patients too!
How does the gum graft procedure work?
To begin the gum grafting procedure, the roof of the mouth is numbed and tissue is removed to transplant into the gums. (Otherwise, donor tissue may be used with a connective tissue graft.) The tissue is carefully stitched into the gums, wherever it’s needed, using extremely fine suturing material.
Gum graft healing stages
The gum grafting procedure works with the body’s natural biological processes. As soon as the graft is in place, the body will begin healing itself!
New blood vessels will grow from the patient’s gums into the transplanted graft. Over time, the tissue is seamlessly integrated with the surrounding gum tissue.
As the body is healing, the area will swell a bit. Applying ice to the area will reduce swelling and inflammation.
Patients should avoid any food or drinks that may be uncomfortable. Hot drinks and hard foods should be avoided while the gums are healing.
The total gum graft recovery timeline lasts about 2 weeks. Most patients will be fully healed from the procedure by then. Before the procedure, we explain everything our patients need to know for a successful recovery.
Gum graft alternatives
There are a few alternatives to the gum graft procedure, including pinhole gum rejuvenation. (And, of course, there are always ways to prevent the need for a gum graft!)
During the pinhole gum rejuvenation procedure, we create small holes in the gums to stretch the gum tissue over the exposed tooth root. Through this treatment, we can alleviate tooth sensitivity and reverse gum recession without using a graft.
We will help you determine the best treatment route for your specific condition when you visit us! Depending on the severity of your case and the symptoms you’re experiencing, we may suggest one treatment over another.
Regardless of your situation, the best treatment is always prevention. Maintaining good oral hygiene by flossing every day and brushing your teeth at least twice a day can reduce or completely eliminate the need for a gum graft. Kick bad habits, especially tobacco usage, to prevent gum recession too!
If you have any questions about how a gum graft procedure works, what your treatment options are, or what you can expect during gum graft tissue recovery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Our periodontists are here for you! We want to help you preserve your beautiful smile and maintain strong, healthy gums for a lifetime. We’re always here to give gum health advice or discuss your options with you.
If you haven’t received a regular periodontal cleaning, or you’re experiencing signs that indicate you may require a periodontist, we encourage you to request an appointment with us today.