Gum Grafting Explained

Gum recession is a relatively common dental problem, with as many as 12 percent of American adults suffering from the condition. When your gum pulls away from the base of your tooth, it exposes the tooth root, leaving it vulnerable to sensitivity to hot and cold, tooth decay, periodontal disease, and eventually tooth loss.

Gum grafting is a dental procedure that can improve both the appearance and the health of a mouth affected by gum recession. The technique protects the structure of the teeth and jaw beneath the gumline and provides a more natural-looking appearance to teeth that may have appeared longer than the teeth on either side.

How Gum Grafting Works

Depending on a patient’s clinical situation, their dentist may choose one of three approaches to perform the gum graft.

  1. Connective-tissue graft. This technique requires the dentist to make a flap on the roof of their patient’s mouth and gather graft material from underneath the flap. The graft material is attached to the tooth with the exposed root, and the flap is stitched shut.
  2. Free gingival graft. This approach is used when a patient has thin gums and needs extra tissue to enlarge them. The dentist takes the graft material directly from the palate and stitches it to the affected area.
  3. Pedicle graft. This type of gum grafting gathers graft material from tissues adjacent to the exposed tooth root. The graft is stretched to cover the exposed root and stitched into place.

In addition to using a patient’s own tissue for gum grafting, it is possible to use medically processed human tissue for the procedure.

gum-graftingThe healing process from gum grafting is typically quite rapid, taking place over the course of one to two weeks. Patients may be given over-the-counter pain relievers, be advised to eat soft, cool foods, and may be offered antibiotics to reduce the chance of an infection. Many gum grafting patients may return to work the next day.

“Gum grafting can stop the process of gum recession, and it can also provide you with a more even gumline,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist who is the founder of Dr. Carol Ford & Associates in central Phoenix. “It is an excellent choice for patients needing to address gum health issues who also wish to improve the appearance of their smile.”

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