Has your periodontist (or gum doctor) recently recommended gingival grafting? If so, do not panic. Gingival grafts, or gum grafting, sounds far worse than it actually is. Perhaps it is that your periodontist recommended gingival grafting in order to protect your teeth from the harmful effects of gum recession; or maybe you are opting to go under the knife in an attempt to make your smile more appealing, whatever the reason may be gum grafting remains a minor surgery.
Gum recession is a harmful condition where the gum tissue that surrounds the tooth loosens and pulls back. The result is more of the tooth, possibly even the root, being exposed. This increases the risks of damage being cause to the tooth and the underlying bone structure. Not only is gum recession unappealing to the eye, but it is also dangerous and if left unchecked will eventually lead to tooth loss. Gum recession, though commonly unnoticed, tends to lead to tooth sensitivity because the tooth root is exposed. That being said, if you notice that your teeth seem strangely sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages it may be time to talk with your dentist or periodontist.
Gum recession is a rather common problem, affecting approximately 4 to 12 percent of adults; of which generally goes unnoticed until damaged has been done.
Types of Gum Tissue Grafts
There are three main types of gum tissue grafts: free gingival grafts, connective tissue grafts and pedicle grafts. For the purpose of this page, let’s review free gingival grafts.
Free gingival grafts involve the use of gum tissue from the roof of the mouth. During gingival grafting your periodontist will remove a small amount of tissue directly from the roof of the mouth and attach it to the area of gum that is being treated. Gingival grafting typically is used for those individuals who have thin gums and who need additional gum tissue to help to enlarge the gums.
Recovering from Gingival Grafting
Gingival grafting is an outpatient procedure, meaning it is not necessary to plan for an overnight stay in the hospital. However, you will be given a sedative following the procedure to help you relax and so it is important that you arrange for transportation home.
Your periodontist will give you a packet of instructions pertaining to your diet restrictions, healing and complications to look out for, of which you should be diligent to read and follow carefully. You can expect that you will be instructed not to brush or floss the area that received treatment until healing is complete; and that you will be given a special rinse to help reduce plaque, along with an antibiotic to protect against infection.
You can also expect that you will feel uncomfortable for a few days following the surgery. Pain from gingival grafting has been described as that of a “serious pizza burn.” That being said, your periodontist may prescribe a mild pain killer to offer relief, or you can simply take any over-the-counter NSAID like Tylenol or Advil.