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Gum Grafting

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If you have sustained gum recession, a graft can protect you from dental sensitivity and restore a more aesthetically pleasing gum line. When gums recede, they gradually separate from the base of tooth and expose dental roots. This process can affect the supporting bone and compromise the structure of your smile. Gum grafting involves harvesting tissue from another part of your mouth and relocating it to the affected site. There are several techniques that be used during treatment depending upon your oral health and your personal preferences.

Causes of Gum Recession

Although gum disease is the leading cause of gum recession, you may develop this condition from:

  • Aggressive tooth brushing
  • Improper brushing techniques
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching (bruxism)
  • Tongue and lip piercings
  • Dental misalignment
  • Prolonged orthodontic treatment
  • Thinning gums

Some patients develop gum recession as a result of genetics. If one or both of your parents suffer from receding gums, you are at a higher risk.

During a gum graft, your doctor can adjust your gum line for a more aesthetic appearance.

A graft can protect you from dental sensitivity and restore a more aesthetically pleasing gum line.

The Treatment Process

Prior to a gum graft, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination to determine whether or not you need a gum graft. If your dentist detects any underlying conditions, such as gum disease or tooth decay, these will need to be addressed before proceeding with treatment. If you qualify for a gum graft, your dentist or oral surgeon can determine the type of graft that is best for you.

To ensure your comfort during the procedure, your doctor can administer a local anesthetic to numb the surrounding area. If you suffer from dental anxiety, you may also elect to receive a stronger form of sedation. Nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and intravenous (IV) medication are all reliable choices. Once your are comfortable, the dentist can carefully remove tissue from the designated area and suture it in place for a more even gum line. Tissue-stimulating proteins may also be applied to encourage healing. The length of the procedure will depend on the number of areas requiring treatment. In most cases, gum grafting can be completed in one to two hours.

Types of Gum Grafts

There are three main types of grafts, and each involves a different technique. The method chosen will depend on the extent of recession and the your overall oral health.

Connective-Tissue Graft

To harvest a connective-tissue graft, the doctor will create a small flap of skin on the roof of the mouth. Subepithelial connective tissue is then grafted from beneath the flap and relocated to the site of gum recession. Once in place, the doctor can close the flap with sutures. A connective-tissue graft is the most common method of addressing root exposure.

Free Gingival Graft

A free gingival graft is similar to a connective-tissue graft, as it involves removing a small strip of tissue from the roof of the mouth and applying it to the area with exposed dental roots. However, tissue is taken directly from the surface of the roof, rather than from underlying layers. This procedure is generally recommended for patients with thinning gums.

Pedicle Graft

Rather than harvesting tissue from the roof of the mouth, a pedicle graft comes from nearby gum tissue. During the procedure, the doctor will make a flap incision known as a pedicle next to the affected tooth. The flap, with one remaining edge attached, will be folded over sideways or downward and stitched in place to cover the exposed tooth. This procedure is only recommended for patients who have plenty of tissue available.

Donor Grafts

With the continued progression of gum grafting techniques, many dentists have found success using tissue from a donor bank rather than using tissue from the roof of the mouth. This can eliminate the need for two surgical sites and accelerate overall recovery.

Recovering from Gum Grafting

It is important to follow at-home care guidelines to encourage a smooth recovery. You should:

  • Rest with your head elevated for the first few days and avoid strenuous activity, as this could disrupt the surgical site.
  • Maintain a soft foods diet for the first week or two and avoid eating anything spicy, hard-to-chew, or hot.
  • Take medications as directed. Over-the-counter pain relievers can alleviate any discomfort and swelling.
  • Avoid brushing or flossing the surgical site until it has healed.
  • Attend any follow-up appointments and contact your dentist if you notice signs of infection.

As the gums heal, pain and swelling should dissipate. You can return to normal activity the day after surgery. Keep in mind that, on average, it takes about two weeks for the tissue to stabilize and the gums to fully heal.

A gum graft can improve both the health and appearance of your smile.

How to Prevent Further Gum Recession

Gum recession can place your oral health in jeopardy. After a grafting procedure, it is important to:

  • Attend routine cleanings and examinations. While it is recommended that patients with healthy teeth and gums visit every six months, those with periodontal issues should visit more frequently.
  • Practice good oral hygiene by brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and rinsing with an approved antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Remove any tongue or lip piercings that may be aggravating your gums.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Avoid smoking or using tobacco products.
  • Wear a night guard to prevent teeth grinding and jaw clenching.

Your dentist can design a long-term maintenance plan that is tailored to your needs.

Benefits of Gum Grafting

Gum grafting provides both aesthetic and oral health benefits. This procedure can relieve discomfort and protect the tooth roots. In addition, a graft can create a healthier and more balanced gum line, you so you can feel confident in your appearance.

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