A gum graft (also known as a gingival graft or periodontal plastic surgery), is a collective name for surgical periodontal procedures that aim to cover an exposed tooth root surface with grafted oral tissue.
Exposed tooth roots are usually the result of gingival recession due to periodontal disease, overly aggressive brushing and trauma.
Here are some of the most common types of gum grafting:
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.
Subepithelial connective tissue graft – This procedure is commonly used to cover exposed roots. Tissue is removed fairly painlessly from the outer layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession.
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 (and thus, less pain).
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, help reduce discomfort, and restore the good health of the gums.
Improved appearance – Periodontal disease is characterized by gum recession and inflammation. 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 more natural, more symmetrical and generally more pleasing to the eye. In addition, adjacent tissue can be enhanced and augmented during the procedure for aesthetic 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 while preventing further problems and protecting exposed roots from decay.
What does gum grafting treatment involve?
The gum grafting procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic in conjunction with nitrous oxide (laughing gas). The exact procedure will depend much on whether tissue is coming from the patient’s palate or a tissue bank.
Initially, small incisions will be made at the recipient site to create a small pocket to accommodate the graft. The graft is usually slightly larger than the recession area, so some excess will be apparent.
Sutures are often placed to further stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. A surgical dressing 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 6-8 weeks.