Gum Grafts: Preparation, Surgery, and Recovery
Healthy teeth require both gum tissue and bone for support and structure. Approximately 50% of people in the United States have some form of periodontal disease.1 If you suffer from severe gingivitis or have recessed gums, your dentist may recommend that you get a gum graft surgery to help repair the damage.
What Is a Gum Graft?
Gum grafting is a surgical procedure that is designed to increase the amount of gum tissue around a single tooth, multiple teeth or dental implants.1,2 A soft-tissue graft can also be used to build up gum tissue that could add to denture support, or build gum tissue in areas of the mouth where there are no teeth (like the cheek or under the tongue).2
There are a few reasons why gum tissue may be compromised, insufficient or inadequate:1,2,3
- Excessive gingivitis
- Forceful or aggressive brushing or flossing over time
- Traumatic injury
- Previous dental surgery
The most common cause of gum recession is gum disease—also known as periodontal disease—which is typically caused by the buildup of bacteria that leads to chronic inflammation of the gums and mouth tissue.1 Once gums have receded, they cannot be reversed, but gum graft surgery can help.
Luckily, a gum graft can help to remedy some of the consequences of gum recession or untreated gum inflammation.1 There are a few different types of gum graft surgery that vary based on where the soft tissue is being sourced:1,2
- Gingival graft. This type of graft is also referred to as a palatal graft because it takes healthy tissue from the top layer of roof of the mouth, which is also known as the palate.
- Connective tissue graft. This graft also uses palatal gum tissue but only takes layers of tissue from below the top layer.
- Pedicle graft. These gum grafts are done using adjacent healthy gum tissue from inside your mouth. If an oral surgeon determines that no healthy tissue is to be found on nearby gums, you may need to try another route.
Benefits of Gum Graft Surgery
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to go through with your gum graft surgery, these benefits may help to change your mind.
Protects Against Gum Recession
If your gums have receded to the point where your dentist is recommending gum graft surgery, they’re not going to improve on their own. A soft-tissue graft can improve the health and structure of your gums—allowing them to provide greater support to your teeth—and can help to protect against future recession.1 Follow your dentist’s directions after surgery; they will suggest a home care regimen.
Protects Roots and Prevents Tooth Loss
Gum recession can lead to the exposure of the roots of your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria, viruses and decay.1 If the problem isn’t dealt with, your teeth can decay to the point where they could be extracted. Gum grafts can help to fortify your gums, protect the roots of your teeth and prevent tooth loss.1
Reduces Tooth Sensitivity
If the roots of your teeth are exposed due to gum recession, they can become highly sensitive to temperature and touch.1 A gum graft can help to protect your teeth and make them less sensitive.
Helps to Prevent the Buildup of Plaque
Recessed gums can allow plaque to access more areas of your teeth, like the roots and the area under the gums. A soft-tissue graft can build up the gum around the teeth and fill in any gaps, preventing plaque from getting into those sensitive areas and keeping your mouth healthier.1
Gum Graft Recovery
Recovering from soft-tissue gum graft surgery typically takes about two weeks, but the true timeline is dependent on a number of factors.1 For instance, if the gum graft involves multiple surgeries within a person’s mouth, that individual may feel sore. The size of the graft, location of the surgery, and patient factors like smoking and diabetes may also contribute to the healing and recovery period.2
Each case and each gum graft surgery are different, so it may not be possible to confidently predict whether the graft will be successful in the long term.3 However, your dentist or periodontist will recommend an oral care plan that should be adhered to at home, in order to bolster the chances of success.
Your dentist or periodontist may recommend a liquid or soft foods diet for a few days or longer, following your procedure.4 Until your mouth heals, you may want to try foods like oatmeal, smoothies or protein shakes, meatloaf and cooked vegetables. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients that promote healing like zinc, protein and vitamins A and C.4
Basic steps that can be taken to keep your teeth and gums healthy and avoid periodontal disease include:3
- Flossing regularly to remove plaque from between your teeth.
- Regularly visiting the dentist for a professional cleaning.
- Avoid smoking.
- Maintaining proper oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice a day and using parodontax Active Gum Repair Toothpaste, which is formulated to help reverse signs of early gum disease by targeting plaque.
- Protecting Your Smile: 5 Incredible Health Benefits of Gum Grafting. American Dental Association. https://marketplace.ada.org/blog/out-of-the-office/protecting-your-smile-5-incredible-health-benefits-of-gum-grafting/. Accessed 6/7/22.
- Soft-tissue Grafting. American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. https://myoms.org/what-we-do/oral-soft-tissue-surgery/soft-tissue-grafts/. Accessed 6/7/22.
- Periodontal (Gum) Disease. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf. Accessed 6/7/22.
- What (and how) to Eat When You’re Having Dental Issues. American Dental Association. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/nutrition/nutrition-concerns/. Accessed 6/7/22.