Gum Grafts: Repair Your Gums
Do you notice that your gums are getting shorter when you look in the mirror? Are you seeing the root surfaces of your teeth are showing? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you might be experiencing receding gums. Continue reading to learn more about gum grafts and how to treat receding gums.
The pictures to the right show an exposed root surface in this patient’s mouth. When this occurs, your teeth may become more sensitive and are more prone to decay. Other side effects that may occur include loss of bone, bad breath, and even loss of teeth. The gum recession will be resolved by completing a gum graft, and the gum line will be repaired to its natural setting.
What Causes Receding Gums?
When teeth are shifted swiftly with braces or Invisalign, your tooth roots can be moved to an area with thinner bone, thus affecting your gums. This problem is more prevalent with the lower front teeth because, naturally, our gum tissue tends to be more delicate in this area.
Depending on your natural biotype, you may have an increased risk for gum recession. For instance, if naturally your gums and bone tend to be thicker, you are less likely to experience gum recessions than a person with a genetically thinner biotype.
Periodontal disease affects not only the health of your gums but your bone levels as well. Both are a vital part of the health of your teeth, and if either is affected, it can dramatically increase the risk of tooth loss.
Why Fix Receding Gums
It is vital to fix receding gums for several reasons. First, when your gums recede, your bone begins to decrease as well. Since both gums and bones go hand in hand, your tooth’s stability is affected and can cause tooth loss. In addition, recession can cause tooth sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures increasing the discomfort experienced with the specific tooth. Finally, the crown portion of our teeth has enamel, and the roots of our teeth do not. This enamel is what protects our teeth against cavities, so when your gums recede, exposing the roots of your teeth, you have an increased risk for root cavities. Furthermore, root cavities are much more complex to fill than traditional crown cavities, increasing your risk of tooth loss.
Types of Gum Grafts
1. Donor Tissue Gum Graft (Alloderm) or Pinhole Procedure – This type of gum grafting is minorly painful because the tissue is used by a donor, eliminating the need to remove it from the roof of your mouth. Although this procedure is less painful, it can have a slightly decreased chance of success because it is not your tissue.
2. Connective Tissue Grafting – To perform this type of graft, your surgeon will collect the middle layer of tissue from the roof of the mouth and suture close the surface layer to leave nothing exposed. This procedure tends to be less painful since the area can be sutured closed.
3. Free Gingival Graft -This type of gum graft requires your surgeon to harvest the donor tissue from the surface of the roof of the mouth where it cannot be sutured closed like a connective tissue graft. This results in the gum tissues underneath the site is completely exposed, increasing the chance of pain.
Treatment for Receding Gums
Gum grafting is a procedure that places a graft over the problem area. Naturally, your gums will accept this tissue and regrow. However, this will decrease your sensitivity and increase the amount of gum surrounding the specific tooth. Gum grafting is a general procedure but must be done by a highly specialized doctor. A Periodontist more commonly performs gum grafting due to the complexity of the treatment. Schedule a consultation with our team to discuss if a gum graft is the right course of action to repair your smile.
Gum Grafting Pain
The most common question we receive when a patient requires gum grafting is, what will the pain be like? You should not experience any pain during the treatment since you will be numbed and possibly IV sedated if given the option. However, more of the pain is experienced during the recovery period of the treatment. Depending on the type of tissue graft performed, it may not only affect your post-op instructions but your level of discomfort during recovery.
Free Gingival gum grafting recovery
During the first few days following the procedure, the roof of the mouth is usually where most of the discomfort tends to be. Due to the extensiveness of this procedure at the top of the mouth, most patients say their pain level is anywhere from 4 to 6 following treatment.
Connective tissue gum grafting recovery
Following the procedure, swelling might occur, where most pain tends to be post-treatment. Along with icing, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may be taken to help alleviate some of this swelling. Pre-treatment, a Medrol Dosepak, may be given to reduce the risk of post-op swelling. Discomfort may come from the roof of the mouth, but it is not as painful as a free gingival graft due to the area where the tissue was removed. However, most patients tend to rate their pain level as a 1 to 2 on a scale of 1-10.
Gum Graft Recovery
Typically following treatment, there is a gum graft healing timeline. This timeline consists of the first four days having the most swelling and discomfort. After this, the five to seven days following the treatment is where the pain level starts to decrease as well as this is when you are most likely to tell if the graft is going to be successful or not. About a week to two weeks following the procedure, you can tell if the graft is integrating correctly or not. Around the one-month mark, your sutures will be removed, and your doctor will determine a success level. Following the one-month mark, your tissues will continue to integrate and esthetically blend with the surrounding tissue for the next couple of months.
Gum Grafting Failure
Gum graft failure is not uncommon, but it is technique sensitive, so it is crucial to get it done by a periodontist who has had years of additional training. If the gum tissue is destabilized from the recipient site, this is a sign of gum graft failure. A large white patch is typically seen around the area because the tissue has died and has failed to receive adequate vascularity from the surrounding tissues. If your gum grafting does fail, an attempt cannot be made till at least three months after the treatment date.