A gum graft (also known as a gingival graft), is a collective name for surgical periodontal procedures that aims to strengthen areas of thin gum tissues and/or cover an exposed tooth root surfaces with grafted tissues.
Exposed tooth roots can be the result of gingival recession due to tooth malposition, bite overload, or periodontal disease. There are other causes, including overly aggressive brushing and trauma.
Here are some of the most common types of gum grafting procedures:
Free gingival graft – This procedure is often used to thicken gum tissue. A layer of tissue is removed from the palate and relocated to the area affected by gum recession. Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage. This is an ideal solution when the goal of the procedure is to thicken the tissue to provide additional protection for the underlying bone supporting the roots. This procedure is not predictable for covering roots that have been exposed due to gingival recession.
Subepithelial connective tissue graft – This is the most common procedure used to cover exposed roots. Tissue is removed painlessly from under the surface layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession. The small incision in the palate is sutured back together to speed up healing and minimize discomfort. This type of graft is ideal for thickening the tissues to protect the bone supporting the roots as well as covering exposed roots.
Acellular dermal matrix allograft – This procedure uses medically processed, donated human tissue as a tissue source for the graft. The advantage of this is procedure is that there is no need for a donor site from the patient’s palate. The healing tends to be slower than using tissue from your own mouth and the tissue thickness obtained after treatment is not as much as that when using one's own tissues. This may decrease the protection for the bone supporting the teeth roots and may have a higher potential for recession to reoccur. This type of grafting procedure is best suited for those who would need multiple treatments with their own tissues due to a limit of the amount of tissue that can be obtained in the palate.
Reasons for gum grafting
Gum grafting is a common periodontal procedure. Though the name might sound frightening, the procedure is commonly performed with excellent results.
Here are some of the major benefits associated with gum grafting:
Reduced sensitivity – When the tooth root becomes exposed, eating or drinking hot or cold foods can cause extreme sensitivity to the teeth. Gum grafting surgery can permanently cover the exposed root, helping reduce discomfort, and restoring the good health of the gums.
Improved appearance – Gum recession and root exposure can make the teeth look longer than normal and the smile to appear “toothy.” Gum grafting can make the teeth look shorter, more symmetrical and generally more pleasing to look at. In addition, adjacent tissue can be enhanced and augmented during the procedure for esthetic purposes.
Improved gum health – Periodontal disease can progress and destroy gum tissue very rapidly. If left untreated, a large amount of gum tissue can be lost in a short period of time. Gum grafting can help halt tissue and bone loss; preventing further problems and protecting exposed roots from further decay.
What does gum grafting treatment involve?
The gum grafting procedure is performed under local anesthetic. Depending on your level of anxiety, you may wish to consider sedation while the procedure is being performed. The specifics of the exact procedure will depend on which procedure Dr. Wilson is performing.
Generally, small incisions will be made at the recipient site to create a small pouch or tunnel to accommodate the graft. The graft is obtained and positioned into the pouch or tunnel and sutures are placed to stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Surgical adhesives may be used to protect the surgical area during the first week of healing. Uniformity and healing of the gums will be achieved in approximately six weeks.
If you have any questions about gum grafting, please schedule and examination appointment with Dr. Wilson to discuss your condition and your options.