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Drs. Claire Kaugars, Benita Miller, & Lisa Turner
Implants & Periodontics of Richmond
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Gum Grafting

A gum graft (also known as a gingival graft), is a surgical periodontal procedure that aims to thicken the gum tissue in order to prevent further recession.  We also attempt to cover the exposed tooth root surface, but this is not predictable or promised. This can only be done depending on the amount of recession that has already occurred and the amount of bone surrounding the teeth. Gingival grafting is best done before too much root exposure occurs.

Exposed tooth roots are usually the result of gingival recession due to periodontal disease.  There are other common causes besides periodontal disease, including overly aggressive brushing, trauma or hereditary factors. Regardless of the reason it is best to see your periodontist immediately after recession starts to occur.

Here are some of the most common types of gum grafting:

  • Free gingival graft and Subepithelial connective tissue – Both procedures (different techniques) are often used to thicken gum tissue.  A layer of tissue is removed from the palate (roof of the mouth) and relocated to the area affected by gum recession.  Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage.
  • 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 (and thus, less discomfort).

Reasons for gum grafting

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 surgery can permanently cover the exposed root, help reduce discomfort, and restore the good health of the gums.
  • Reduce Caries - The tooth is protected by enamel its underlying surface is made of dentin.  When recession occurs the dentin becomes exposed making the tooth more susceptible to decay and causing the need for further treatment.
  • Improved appearance – Periodontal disease is characterized by gum recession and inflammation.  Gum recession and root exposure can make the teeth look longer than normal and the smile to appear “toothy.”  Gum grafting can make the teeth look shorter, more symmetrical and generally more pleasing to look at.  In addition, adjacent tissue can be enhanced and augmented during the procedure for aesthetic purposes.

  • Improved gum health – Periodontal disease can progress and destroy gum tissue very rapidly.  If left untreated, a large amount of gum tissue can be lost in a short period of time.  Gum grafting can help halt tissue and bone loss, preventing further problems and protecting exposed roots from further decay.

What does gum grafting treatment involve?

Once the need for gum grafting surgery has been determined, there are several treatments the periodontist will want perform before gum grafting takes place.  First, the teeth must be thoroughly cleaned to remove calculus (tartar) and bacteria.  The periodontist can also provide literature, advice and educational tools to increase the effectiveness of homecare and help reduce the susceptibility of periodontal disease in the future.

The gum grafting procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic.  The exact procedure will depend much on whether tissue is coming from the patient’s palate or a tissue bank.

Initially, small incisions will be made at the affected site to create a bed or small pocket to accommodate the graft.  The graft is then prepared and placed at the site or in the prepared tissue pouch.  The graft is usually slightly larger than the recession area, so some excess will be apparent.

Sutures are placed to further stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Uniformity and healing of the gums will be achieved in approximately six weeks.

If you have any questions about gum grafting, please ask your dentist or periodontist.