Gums Receding? This Procedure May Help Save Your Smile

If you’re experiencing significant gum recession, make it a priority to see a periodontist to learn about gum grafting – doing so may prevent tooth loss and transform your smile.

If the idea of “gum grafting” has you running for the hills, hold tight. While the procedure sounds intimidating, gum graft surgery is a safe and minimally invasive surgery that is routinely performed by skilled periodontists.

Why should I worry about gum recession?

The gums surrounding your teeth serve a key function by securing them together and protecting each tooth’s root. When that tissue begins to recede, more of the root is exposed, which can damage the supporting bone, cause painful sensitivity to hot and cold foods, and detract from your smile. Missing gum tissue also gives bacteria an easier opening to invade the roots and cause decay, which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Who’s at risk for receding gums?

Gum disease – which is a bacterial gum infection that destroys gum tissue and the supporting bone – is the culprit behind most gum recession. Other causes include aggressive tooth brushing, genetic predisposition, insufficient brushing and flossing, hormonal changes, and use of tobacco products. Grinding and clenching teeth, which can put too much force on the teeth, can also cause gums to recede.

What’s involved for gum grafting?

Gum grafting involves removing healthy gum tissue from the roof of the mouth and using it to build the gum back up where it has receded. Depending on the type and severity of a patient’s gum recession, a periodontist will perform one of three types of gum graft surgery:

  • Connective Tissue Graft Used to treat exposed tooth roots caused by gum recession, a connective tissue graft involves making a small pouch incision in the roof of the mouth and taking tissue from underneath the top layer. This connective tissue is then stitched onto the existing gum tissue to cover the exposed tooth root.
  • Free Gingival Graft For people with thin gums who need extra tissue to enlarge them, a free gingival graft is often preferred. Here, the periodontist removes tissue directly from the top layer of tissue on the roof of the mouth (instead of creating a pouch) and stitches this tissue to the exposed tooth area being treated.
  • Pedicle Graft A pedicle graft works best for people with plenty of gum tissue growing near the exposed tooth. Here, the periodontist grafts tissue from the gum around or near the tooth requiring treatment. He or she will partially cut away this tissue to keep one edge attached, stretching the tissue over or down, covering the exposed tooth root, and holding it in place with stitches.

Will the surgery hurt?

During gum grafting surgery, you’ll be given plenty of local anesthetics to ensure the procedure is painless and you feel comfortable. After surgery, you should experience little discomfort, even if tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth, which will be covered by a liquid band-aid-like material. Over the counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to alleviate any short-term pain.

What happens after surgery?

Your body has an amazing capacity to heal and regenerate itself. In fact, wounds in the oral cavity heal much faster than those in the rest of the body. Once the gum grafting process is complete, new blood vessels will begin to grow into the graft to help it integrate with the surrounding tissue. For a week or so after surgery, your periodontist will recommend a soft diet and an antibiotic to enable all tissues to heal fully. Otherwise, normal activity is A-OK.

We are excited to welcome the newest member of the CNS Dental team, Dr. Khashayar Changi, who will see patients at CNS two days per month for periodontal care. Dr. Changi is qualified to treat all types of periodontal and peri-implant diseases through surgical and non-surgical treatment methods. He also has extensive experience in all facets of oral implantology, including the management of peri-implant disease, guided bone regeneration, immediate and delayed implant placement, and digital treatment planning. Need guidance on your periodontal issues? Contact us for more information!