A gum graft (also known as a gingival graft), is a collective name for procedures that aim to cover an exposed tooth root surface with grafted oral tissue.
Exposed tooth roots can happen for many reasons. Common causes include gum disease, overly aggressive brushing, and trauma.
Reasons for gum grafting
When recession of the gingiva occurs, the body loses a natural defense against both bacterial penetration and trauma. 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 will permanently cover the exposed root and thus reduce discomfort while restoring the good health of the gums.
- Improved appearance — Severe gum disease will cause your gums to become inflamed and recede. Gum recession and root exposure will make your teeth look longer than normal and may make your smile appear very “toothy.” Gum grafting will cover your roots, making your teeth look shorter, symmetrical, and generally more pleasing and esthetic to look at.
- Improved gum health — As gum disease progresses, it will destroy gum tissue very rapidly. The loss of gum tissue often weakens the seal between the gum and the tooth, making eventual tooth loss a possibility. Untreated, large amounts of gum tissue will be lost in a short period of time. Gum grafting these problem areas can help stop tissue and bone loss; preventing further problems and protecting exposed roots from further decay.
The most common types of gum grafting are:
- 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 (thus, less pain).
What does gum grafting treatment involve?
Once the need for gum grafting surgery has been determined, there are several treatments Dr. Salib will want perform before gum grafting takes place. The videos below can give you a better idea of the actual process. First, the teeth must be thoroughly cleaned to remove calculus (tartar) and bacteria. Next, your gum grafting procedure will take place. This can be performed either under local anesthetic or sedation if you prefer. The graft is usually slightly larger than the recession area, so some excess will be apparent immediately after your procedure. Sutures are often placed to further stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Surgical material is used to protect the area during the first week of healing. Uniformity and healing of the gums will be achieved in approximately six weeks. Dr. Salib will work closely with you and your general dentist throughout the procedure.