A graft is a type of surgical transplant, usually for the purpose of replacing missing tissue. Gum grafting involves transplanting healthy gum tissue from a donor site into an area of missing gum tissue. Donor tissue is commonly taken from the palate, cadavers, or a pig.
Most commonly, the donor site is the roof of the mouth, where there’s a large amount of healthy, strong gum tissue available. The surgeon places the new, healthy tissue in a precise position for its best attachment to the teeth and supporting bone. The goal is for the new tissue to connect with the surrounding tissue and attach to the underlying tooth roots and bone in a seamless transition.
A successful gum graft provides the necessary support for compromised teeth, covers sensitive tooth roots, and creates a better cosmetic appearance.
Why Do Teeth Need Gum Grafting?
In an ideal and healthy mouth, jawbone and gum tissues completely surround the roots of every tooth. This provides the foundation necessary to support the teeth as they withstand the forces of chewing. When the bone and gums recede, they move away from the biting surface of the teeth toward the root. This exposes the root of the teeth to the mouth and all of the things we eat and drink. It also causes the teeth to appear longer.
As you can imagine, losing the bone and gum surrounding the tooth leads to a loss of stability. These teeth may become loose and less capable of providing important chewing force.
The exposed portion of teeth have an important enamel coating that protects and insulates them. Roots do not have this protective covering, so they’re more susceptible to cavities and acid erosion. They also lack the insulating effect of enamel, so they feel sensitive when exposed to very cold air, food, and drinks. Roots also have nerve endings and that is why there is sensitivity (because there is no enamel covering the nerve endings, so air and cold can cause sensitivity.
Gum grafting covers the roots, providing stability, insulation, and a better appearance.
What Causes Gum Recession?
There are several causes of gum recession. The most common is severe gum disease. In gum disease, the bacteria and the toxins they produce cause destruction of the supporting jawbone around the teeth, and often the gums recede down the roots of the teeth.
Another potential cause of gum recession is heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. This habit typically takes place while a person is asleep, and the heavy forces damage the surrounding bone and gum tissues. This is particularly obvious when the bite is off balance, and some teeth receive more force than others do.
One important cause of gum recession is the position of the teeth within the jawbone. When teeth are offset to one side, especially toward the lips or cheeks, the bone and gum tissue covering that side of the tooth’s root is thinner and more easily lost. This can occur naturally when severe crowding forces a tooth out to one side. It can also occur after orthodontics if there is not enough bone and gum tissue to support the newly straightened position of certain teeth.
Another cause is brushing teeth with too much force or with a non-soft toothbrush.
Does Gum Grafting Hurt?
No. As with any surgical procedure, there will be post-operative discomfort. In the case of gum grafting, many patients state that the site of the grafting does not hurt, but the donor site does. We will help you manage any postoperative discomfort. You can reduce discomfort from surgery by following all post-op instructions as closely as possible and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Mintz avoids sutures on the palate by closing the area with a laser. Besides not needing sutures on the palate, the laser reduces postoperative discomfort and speeds healing.
How Long is the Recovery from Gum Grafting?
The gum tissues heal within about two weeks on average. This applies to both surgical sites. It is best to avoid eating on the graft site for 4-6 weeks.
Some patients require a longer healing phase when other health conditions delay the body’s ability to heal. Again, complying with the post-op instructions will help you heal as quickly as possible with the least amount of discomfort.
How Can I Maintain the Health of my Gum Graft?
In addition to great oral hygiene and regular professional cleanings, you can maintain the health of your gum graft by understanding the causes of gum recession and fighting them. It’s very important to understand that the grafted gum tissue is susceptible to the same gum recession as your natural tissue.
You must commit to great oral hygiene at home and consistent professional teeth cleanings in order to prevent gum disease. If your dentist sees signs of heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth, you need to wear a protective nightguard to reduce the forces applied to your teeth while you sleep. If your gum recession resulted from tooth position, you might consider orthodontics to move the tooth into a better, more stable position within the jawbone.
Following up with your periodontist allows him to monitor the health of the grafted tissue and recommend any steps you should take to keep it as healthy as possible.
Experienced Dental Specialists in Rockland, NY
If you need treatment from an experienced dental expert, contact the team atRockland Dental Specialists. They provide expert state-of-the-art dental care in the New City, NY area. Dr. Lisa Nava Cohen and Dr. Shalom Mintz are here to bring you expert dental treatments that include gum and gingival grafting.
Our caring specialists have more than two decades of combined experience. They are passionate about helping patients resolve all their dental issues and maintain their overall oral health. Contact us today at 845-259-2500 to speak with one of our team members about the periodontic services we offer or book an appointmentonline here.
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