A gum graft is one of the simple and quickest ways of fixing damaged gum, due to gum recession. It is one of the most recommended best treatments for receding gums out there. As gums recede, they expose the teeth and its roots underneath causing damage to the supporting bone, teeth sensitivity to cold and hot drinks and eventually teeth loss.
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To restore a worn-out gum, a periodontist also referred to as a gum doctor perform a gum graft surgery that involves cutting a flap and remove healthy tissue from the roof of your mouth or nearby gums and implant it to the damaged area. When this is done well it can reduce tooth sensitivity and improve your smile, and confidence while preventing further recession and bone loss.
Gum Graft Surgery
There are 3 main types of gum graft surgery namely connective tissue grafts, free gingival grafts and pedicle grafts. Which one will be applied to you depends on your personal needs (how badly your gums are and the chart you have with the Periodontist before the surgery.
Before the procedure you are more likely to undergo tooth scaling and root planing also called deep cleaning where your gums are lifted up and get cleaned.
Connective Tissue vs Free Gingival Graft Surgery
The connective tissue and free gingival graft surgery are moreless the same. They all involve taking tissue from the roof of your mouth, stitch the area back and then applying the removed tissue to the damaged area. However, what differentiates these two procedures is how they are done. In connective grafts, tissues are extracted from the top of your mouth through a little opening also called flap or trap door or a tunnel. While with gingival graft no opening is done rather tissues are taken direct from the top layer of palate.
In severe cases where no enough tissues can be extracted from your own mouth, alternative tissue from the bank tissue will be used instead. This comes with an extra cost to you.
Instead of removing tissues from the roof of your mouth as in connective tissue grafting, the pedicle also called lateral graft involves grafting tissue from nearby gums. The removed tissue is then inserted and stitched to the affected gum. Sometimes your doctors may take tissue from the tissue bank instead of removing it from your gums.
Does Gum Surgery Hurt?
It does not hurt during the gum surgery. This is because before the surgical procedure, you will get a few shots of local anesthesia into your gums causing them to numb. But, in case it hurts, tell your doctor who will inject more anesthetic to numb the painful area.
You will however feel pain after surgery when the numbness starts to clear out. The pain is like that of hot burn pizza, some people describe it as ‘horrible pain’. It is just some kind of pain that you can manage to live with while the wound get healed.
How Long Does Pain Last After Gum Graft Surgery?
If the attached tissues are taken from the roof of your mouth, you will feel pain for few days, you need atleast 3 days off-work. However if the graft tissue are taken from the tissue bank, the pain will be very minimal; you can go to work on the next day.
How Long Does A Gum Graft Take to Heal?
It takes one to two weeks to heal if the flesh was taken from the roof of your mouth; and 2 to 4 days if it is taken from the bank tissue. It sometimes takes longer depending on your health condition and how well you follow your Periodontist instructions on caring your gums after surgery.
To help with the healing and pain, your dentist will prescribe you some medicines and antibiotics to reduce pain and infection.
You will also be given some instructions to follow like you should:
- Eat soft foods, and eat food using the other side of your mouth to avoid disturbing the wounds.
- Not brush the treated area for 30 days but rather use mouthwash instead from day two onwards for four weeks.
- Avoid pulling your lips to view the area
- Avoid physical activities
After surgery, you will also be given a dissolvable dressing or a mouth guard also called a stent to prevent the food and your tongue from reaching the roof of the mouth where the flesh were taken from. The stent also help preventing bleeding from the site.
In the third week or so, you will have a follow up checkup with your dentist to check the healing process and remove the stitches.
What to Eat After Gum Graft?
In a week to two weeks time after surgery, you are advised to eat only soft foods such as mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables, pasta, yogurt, meatballs, smoothie, avocado, banana, cheesecake, custard, pudding, scramble or poached eggs, soups and any other soft food and liquids that you are comfortable with.
Try to avoid diets that are acidic, spicy, sticky or hard such as chips, nuts, and popcorns. Also avoid drinking alcohol and chewing on the surgical site. It is also advisable to use a suitable electric toothbrush.
Can You Talk After Gum Graft Surgery?
Yes you can talk but with difficulties especially for the first three days after surgery. If you can avoid talking, or do it to bare minimal, that is good. It helps reduce after pains and the healing process.
Is Gum Grafting Necessary?
The gum grafting is necessary if:
- The tooth sensitivity is unbearable due to exposed tooth roots
- You don’t want to lose your teeth due to extreme gum recession
- Want to improve your smile and general confidence
- And if this is the only option you have to improve gum health.
Before doing any grafting, you need first to identify and treat if possible the root cause of gum recession: is it brushing too hard, grinding teeth, age or poor oral hygiene. If the cause is not addressed, you are more likely to experience the same problem in the near future.
How Much Does Gum Grafting Cost?
The grafting cost range from $600 to $10,000 per one tooth base. The price you end up paying depends on many factors:
- Your location
- How severe your gum recession is
- The type of surgery: is it taking tissues from your own mouth or from tissue bank. From a tissue bank cost more?
- The number of teeth need grafting
- Extra procedures like contouring, shaping the gum into more pleasing appearance.
- Initial diagnosis exam and X-Rays cost
You can save some money by opting for dental schools.
Is Gum Graft Surgery Covered By Insurance?
The medical insurance companies cover only part of operation that is deemed medically necessary for instance gum infection. It may cover the treatment for periodontal diseases but not gum grafting procedure. They do not cover surgical procedures that are cosmetic in nature aiming at improving smile and self confidence such as gum reshaping. However, the gum graft surgery has multiple stages including diagnosis, examination, consultations, x-rays, and infection treatment. Let your doctor submit preauthorization forms for each treatment stage or consult your insurer to see which part of gum graft surgery do they cover.
Dr. Tom Bell has a PhD in Medical Anthropology. He has a keen interest in oral health topics and is the founder of dentalrave. He has been an oral health researcher and electric toothbrush enthusiast for over 10 years. When not talking about dental hygiene and gadgets, Tom likes spending time outdoors hiking.