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Close-up of Hamilton dentist examining patient's inflamed gums

What Is Gum Grafting?

posted April 20, 2022

When you hear your dentist mention gum graft surgery, you may feel a bit intimidated. Anything followed by “surgery” at the end can immediately make people panic, especially if they already fear going to the dentist. But that’s why we’re here to reassure you – gum graft surgery is not considered a “major dental surgery”. In fact, it’s largely beneficial and can improve your oral health and overall wellbeing.

There are a few reasons why your dentist may speak to you about the gum graft procedure. We’ll outline some of those reasons below.

The Purpose of A Gum Graft

The gum grafting procedure can assist with issues regarding receding gums. When you have receding gum tissue and there’s an exposed tooth root, this can lead to tooth loss and leave more room for bacteria to build up. Ultimately, an exposed root should be taken care of as soon as an issue is detected.

If you’ve experienced tooth loss and have been discussing dental implants with your dentist, you may need to undergo a gum graft first as healthy gum tissue is needed in order for your dental implants to succeed.

What Is A Dental Implant?

An implant, a titanium screw, will be surgically attached to your jawbone to replace your tooth’s root. Once healed, a dental crown will be attached and act as your new tooth. Dental implants are permanent tooth replacement options that look and feel completely natural, however, you’ll need to have optimal bone and gum health in order for the implants to succeed.

Inflamed gums requiring bone & gum grafting treatment

The Gum Grafting Healing Process

If a gum tissue graft is required first, this will need to heal completely before the implant placement procedure. Every patient heals differently, but you can expect to heal in approximately two weeks. Most patients can also return to work as normal the day after the procedure.

During the healing process, your teeth may feel more sensitive than usual. If gum tissue has been taken from the roof of your mouth, you may feel a slight burning sensation for a few days. Your dentist may prescribe you pain and anti-inflammatory medication. You’ll also want to stick to a soft diet while you heal.

The Main Cause of Tooth Loss

Did you know that the leading cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease?

It will begin as mild gingivitis which, when caught early enough, can be reversed. Once it progresses, it turns into gum disease; a serious gum infection that, when not dealt with in a timely manner, can cause damage to your supporting bone and gum tissue. This can be caused by a number of things:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Plaque buildup
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications
  • Crooked teeth
  • Hormonal changes in females (particularly during pregnancy)

Practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent gingivitis from progressing, for example, brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing once a day, and rinsing with mouthwash once a day. You should also use toothpaste that has fluoride as this can prevent tooth decay.

4 Types of Gum Grafts

Gum grafting surgeries are used in order to promote the growth of new tissue and to prevent further gum recession. There are 4 main kinds of gum grafts used by oral surgeons:

1. Connective Tissue Graft

This is the most common type of gum graft. It will involve creating a small flap on the roof of the mouth so a piece of tissue from the roof can be placed in a small pouch formed in the existing gum tissue. The flap on the roof of the mouth will be stitched and the tissue will be placed in the pouch where receding is present. The nutrients from the pouch will allow the new tissue to grow.
 

2. Free Soft Tissue Autogenous Grafts

This type of graft is similar to a connective tissue graft except for the fact that the tissue is taken directly from the roof of the mouth. This is typically used for patients who have very thin gums and require thicker tissue. It will also be placed in the pouch of the existing tissue and where it will receive the necessary nutrients to grow.

3. Double Papillae Subepithelial Connective Tissue Grafts

This type of graft is used when there is no gum tissue connecting the mucogingival junction; the tissue surrounding the teeth. This means that, while the surrounding teeth have healthy gums, there is no gum tissue attached to the tooth’s root. Again, a flap will be made on the roof of the mouth and tissue will be taken from it to be placed on either side of the tooth.
 

4. Pedicle Grafts

This procedure is a little bit different than the others. It involves partially detaching the gum tissue below the tooth and pulling it over the exposed roots and stitched in place. These gum grafts are most commonly used when there is still healthy gum tissue surrounding the tooth in order to prevent further recession.

Note: Graft tissue can also come from a donor.
Model of teeth and gums affected by gum disease

Discuss Gum Grafts With Your Dentist Today

Receding gums result in oral complications which is why it should be dealt with in a timely manner. Gum recession can be reversible if caught early enough, but if not, you’ll need to undergo gum surgery.

This is a minor type of oral surgery that will require local anesthesia, but if you need further peace of mind, discuss this procedure with your dentist. In fact, our Hamilton dental office would be more than happy to discuss this procedure with you when you give us a call today. We’ll also explain the many benefits patients can experience from having a gum tissue graft to improve and prevent gum recession.

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