A gum graft is a surgical periodontal procedure that covers an exposed tooth root surface with grafted oral tissue.
Exposed tooth roots are usually the result of gingival recession due to periodontal disease. Other common causes can include aggressive brushing and trauma.
Common types of gum grafting include:
Free gingival graft – This procedure involves a small layer of tissue being removed from the patients mouth and then relocated to the site of gum recession. It is sutured into place and will serve to protect the exposed root as living tissue.
Subepithelial connective tissue graft – Tissue is removed from the outer layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession. This is one of the more common procedures to cover exposed roots.
Acellular dermal matrix allograft – This treatment involves using either an alternative soft tissue graft such as Fibro-Gide or donated human tissue. The advantage of this treatment is there is no need to remove tissue from the patients’ palate, which results in less pain.
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.
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 permanently covers the exposed root, helps reduce discomfort, and restores the good health of the gums.
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 to perform before gum grafting takes place. First, the teeth must be thoroughly cleaned supra and subgingivally 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 recipient site to create a small pocket to accommodate the graft. Then a split thickness incision is made, and the connective tissue graft is inserted into the space between the two sections of tissue. The graft is usually slightly larger than the recession area, so some excess will be apparent.
Sutures are often placed to further stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Surgical material is used to protect the surgical area during the first week of healing. Uniformity and healing of the gums will be achieved in approximately six weeks.
Gum recession is a condition that is caused by different means and therefore can be treated with different dental treatments. The Tunnel Technique, if a candidate, is a favored treatment because it is a minimally invasive method.
Why Patients Should Consider the Tunnel Technique
The advantage of the Tunnel Technique is that there is a low level of pain and a high success rate with low complications compared to other gum grafting methods.
Not every patient is a candidate for any specific gum recession surgery and that is why having a consultation is the first step. As a result, there is more than one approach to treating a receding gum line.
The tunneling technique is also an incision-free operation. Our dentist starts by cleaning the exposed root surfaces that have appeared due to gum recession with a doxycycline solution in order to detoxify the surface of the root and prevent the spread of infections. Next the dentist will tunnel underneath the gums with a special tool to create space between tooth and gum. This is done so that the skin graft can be inserted more easily into the gums, and less invasively. Once the skin graft is inserted, the gum tissue is raised to cover the exposed roots and held in place with a suture. Only a single suture is used regardless of how many teeth have been grafted in the same area of the mouth, which is good news for patients who aren't big fans of stitches. Once healed, the previously receded gums will look the same as the neighboring gum tissue that was not grafted during the operation.