Receding gums means that your body is losing its natural protective shield against bacterial penetration and trauma. Generally, once the recession has reached the mucosa, the first line of defense against bacterial penetration is lost. At the beginning stages, gum recession does not only result in an unsightly appearance of your gums and teeth, but you might also experience root sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages. As it progresses, your teeth’s root surfaces can get exposed, leading to root caries and root gouging. If you’re suffering from receding gums, gum grafting might be a vital option for you to reconstruct this crucial defense system.
If you’ve been told that you need a gum graft, don’t panic. Gum surgery sounds worse than it is. A gum graft may be necessary to protect your teeth from the damaging effects of gum recession, or you may choose to have one to improve the appearance of your smile. Gum recession happens over time, so many don’t even know their gums have receded until it becomes more severe. Eventually, gum recession, if not treated, can cause tooth loss. To repair the damage and prevent further dental problems, a gum tissue graft may be needed.
What Happens During a Gum Tissue Graft Procedure
Three different types of gum tissue grafts are typically performed. Which type is performed on you depends on your specific needs. The gum graft procedure includes:
Connective Tissue Graft: When treating exposed tooth root, this is the most common method. A flap of skin is cut from your palate (roof of the mouth) and tissue from under the flap is removed and then stitched to the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root. After the connective tissue (graft) has been removed from under the flap it is then stitched down.
Free Gingival Graft: This method is most often used for people who have thin gums to begin with and need more tissue to make the gums bigger. It is similar to a connective tissue graft, but instead of making a flap and removing tissue under the top layer of flesh, a small amount of tissue is removed directly from the roof of the mouth and then attached to the gum area being treated.
Pedicle Graft: This procedure can only be used for people who have plenty of gum tissue near the tooth being treated. In this method, instead of taking tissue from the palate, it is grafted from gum around or near the tooth needing repair.
For mild cases of gum recession, the remaining, healthy gingiva (gums) can still protect the tooth, and no surgical treatment is necessary; however, patients will have to adhere to proper oral hygiene at home to keep the remaining gingiva healthy.
This page has been reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Ryan Lehr, a partner at MPDG and a graduate of Creighton University School of Dentistry. Click here to follow him on Linkedin.
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