Gum recession is one of the most noticeable results of periodontal disease, or gum disease and is characterized by the movement of the gum line down the root of a tooth. Recession can be limited to one tooth or many and symptoms vary from none at all to extreme root sensitivity, inflammation of the tissues, root exposure, cavities, or aesthetic concerns. It is important to have gum recession repaired because the gum tissue is the primary barrier to bacteria. Without adequate gum tissue around the teeth, bacteria can cause gum disease, bone and gum deterioration, decay, and eventual tooth loss.
Those who feel that their teeth are too large or who are embarrassed by the amount of tooth showing can also benefit from gum grafting procedures. If gum disease has caused a significant loss of supporting structures, gum grafting can be used to return the gum line to a more attractive level. Doing so will reduce the amount of tooth that shows and improve the overall health of the teeth and gums.
There are three types of gum grafting surgery. The type your doctor uses will depend on your own unique situation, the degree of gum disease that you have experienced, and your specific needs.
Connective Tissue Grafts
Connective tissue grafts are the most common form of gum grafts. They are used to treat root exposure around one or more teeth. During the procedure, the doctor will cut a flap of skin from the roof of your mouth and remove tissue from under the flap. The flap is then stitched back down. The excised tissue will then be stitched to the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root. Over time, the attached tissue will grow together with the existing gum tissue, forming a healthier gum line around the tooth.
Free Gingival Grafts
Free gingival grafts are similar to a connective tissue graft except that instead of cutting a flap to remove tissue underneath, a small amount of tissue is taken directly from the roof of the mouth. This tissue is then placed and attached directly to the gum area being treated. Doctors prefer this method for those who have naturally thin gums.
The pedicle graft method does not take graft tissue from the roof of the mouth. Instead, the gum tissue is grafted from existing tissue around the tooth needing repair. In this method, the flap, called a pedicle, is partially cut away so that one edge remains attached. The flap is then pulled over to cover the exposed root and sutured in place. This method is preferred for patients who have plenty of gum tissue near the tooth needing repair.
In addition to natural grafts from the patient, some doctors prefer to use graft material from a tissue bank or synthetic material. This has the benefit of decreasing the amount of discomfort you experience, as well as simplifying the procedure that is being performed on yourself. Donated tissue also provides a natural esthetic outcome and a predictable alternative to using your own tissue.
After the procedure, you will be able to go home. However, if you were given a sedative to relax, you will need a friend or family member to drive you. Be sure to follow all instructions your doctor gives you for post-operative care. Do not floss or brush the gum line that was treated until the area has healed and you are instructed to do so. A special mouthwash may be given to you that will help control plaque and bacteria during this time.
For about a week after the gum grafting procedure, your diet will be limited to soft foods such as eggs, pasta, Jell-O, and yogurt. Pain varies from patient to patient and depends on many variables, including pain tolerance and the type of gum graft performed. Your doctor will likely recommend an over the counter anti-inflammatory medication or, in rare cases, a prescription pain medication. Many patients are able to return to work within a day or two.
Gum recession resulting from gum disease can be repaired through a grafting procedure. Call your doctor today to schedule your consultation. Don't forget to see our before and after photographs to get an idea of what this procedure does, and how it positively affects the appearance of your mouth.