Gum grafting is a surgical procedure that uses small amounts of gum tissue to augment gums in areas where they’ve begun to recede, often as a result of gum disease but sometimes as a result of other issues. Gum grafts can also be used to improve the appearance of a “toothy” smile.
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that release toxins, causing the gum tissue to recede or move down the tooth surface. As the gums recede, they expose more of the tooth surface and make it easier for the bacteria to reach the tooth roots, causing teeth to weaken and fall out. Gum grafts are used to replace missing gum tissue, so the lower portions of the teeth are protected from disease-causing bacteria and teeth have the support they need to stay healthy.
Grafts may be obtained from the patient’s mouth (autologous grafts), or sterile grafts may be obtained from a tissue bank. In autologous grafts, gum tissue usually is removed from the roof of the mouth through a small flap that’s created to expose the underlying tissue. Other times, the graft may be taken from the gums surrounding the tooth that’s to be treated. These grafts are called pedicle grafts, and the grafting procedure repositions the tissue to cover more of the tooth surface. Pedicle grafts are only possible when sufficient healthy tissue remains to support the graft.
Gum graft procedures may use sedation to reduce discomfort. Once the procedure is complete, sedation can cause patients to feel quite drowsy, and they will not be able to drive themselves home. Certain foods will need to be avoided during the initial healing phases to protect the grafts, and care instructions also will be provided to keep the area clean without disturbing the grafts.Prescription and over-the-counter pain medications can be used to minimize discomfort following the procedure. Comfort trays covering the donor site can greatly enhance comfort during the initial phase. Complete healing typically takes a couple of weeks.
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