Where a patient suffers from gum recession, a procedure called gingival (gum) grafting may be recommended. The procedure is not a serious nor tedious, contrary to what the name may suggest. It is merely a variety of gum grafting procedures carried out by periodontists and some other specialized dental doctors.
The procedure involves the careful placing of small amounts of new tissue in areas where little or no gum tissue exist. It can also be used to cover root surfaces of the teeth that have become exposed. The tissue used in this procedure comes from a variety of sources. Most common are the palate (roof of the mouth) after the area has been numbed. Then, it is carefully stitched in place in the affected area, using suturing material, which may be thinner than a human hair.
From that point, the body’s natural recovery process takes over. During this period, new blood vessels develop and intertwine with the graft, thereby aiding it in becoming naturalizing with the surrounding tissue. Where the graft is successful, graft problems like tooth sensitivity and further gum recession are eliminated, or at least reduced.
How does one know if gum graft is needed? It is quite simple as the problem can be seen or felt. For example, exposed tooth roots make the teeth look overly “long,” and they also generally appear somewhat darker than your pearly white crowns. Gum recession may increase with age, and the potential problems are not only cosmetic but may also have a severe impact on the oral health of the patient.
A Closer Look at Your Gums
The gum tissue creates/acts as a barrier that resists the vigorous mechanical (and microbial) effects of eating, chewing, and biting. The gums may begin to recede or shrink down, for several reasons.
- ineffective oral hygiene: This refers to both inadequate brushing and excessive brushing (can erodes the tissue). Also, alien objects introduced into the mouth that rub against the gums, like poorly fitting removable dentures, tongue bolts, or even fingernails, may contribute to gum recession.
Hence, upon losing the protection of healthy gum tissue, the tooth’s roots become extremely sensitive. This can cause tooth sensitivity and pain when consuming foods or drinks. Moreover, missing gum tissue provides a pathway for bacteria to enter the roots and cause decay. Either way, the eventual result may be tooth loss.
Treating Gum Recession With Gingival Grafting
It is only upon a thorough examination and assessment of a patient’s teeth, gums, and overall health that the gingival grafting procedure is prescribed. The tissue can be gotten from different sources. The area close to the area of recession, hard palate, or donated tissue from another person. All the same, it has to undergo medically processing to ensure that it is safe to use.
The methods of grafting are quite many. For instance, a patient lost the gum tissue in an area of the mouth that is not visible; additional gum tissue can be placed there to prevent further recession. It will be carried out without trying to cover the tooth-root surface completely.
This procedure is called the free gingival graft (since the tissue is separated from its blood supply); it has a high success rate and takes about 45 minutes to perform. Since the objective is to cover the root’s surfaces, the procedure is generally complicated and thus a time-consuming process. Notwithstanding, it still retains a high success rate.
As with all surgical procedures, grafting procedures are carried out under local anesthesia and are generally pain-free. Discomfort after the surgery is very minimal even where tissue has been removed from the palate because a soothing, liquid band-aid-like material usually covers the donor area. And any discomfort may be alleviated with over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medication, and it is generally short-lived.
A soft diet (and an antibiotic) is usually recommended for a week to enable the tissues to heal fully; otherwise, the patient’s normal activities are not limited.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy
After the process, you need to maintain good oral hygiene. This will help in preventing gum problems from occurring in the future. The patient’s daily dental maintenance should include proper brushing with fluoride toothpaste, daily flossing, a healthy diet, and regular dental and periodontal checkups.