Restore Your Gum Line
If your dentist or periodontist tells you that you need a soft tissue graft, you may not know or understand what that means. Any oral procedure can be nerve-wracking, especially if you are not familiar with the details as to what will be happening to your mouth.
Periodontists typically perform soft tissue grafts if you are displaying signs of gum disease or gum recession. Here are the most important things to know about what to expect for your soft tissue graft:
Signs You May Need a Soft Tissue Graft
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may need a soft tissue graft:
- Bleeding gums.
- Exposed tooth roots.
- Red and swollen gums.
- Loose teeth.
- Tooth sensitivity.
For those who have a diagnosis of periodontal disease, the disease must be resolved prior to having this procedure. If you are planning on receiving orthodontic treatment, you may also be a candidate for a soft tissue gum graft. You may also have a receding gum line due to aggressive brushing, teeth grinding and clenching, or out-of-position teeth.
Four Types of Soft Tissue Grafts
The process of a soft tissue graft involves collecting a small amount of tissue from another area within your mouth and placing it in the recessed area. During this procedure, the patient is given a local anesthetic to provide comfort and can choose to have nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to help them relax further. There are four main types of graft procedures.
1. Connective Tissue Grafts
Connective tissue grafts are the most common graft procedure. Connective tissue grafts treat teeth roots that are exposed due to gum recession. This process involves creating a small flap on the roof of the mouth. The periodontist then removes healthy tissue from under the flap and secures it to the affected area.
2. Free Gingival Grafts
Free gingival grafts also involve taking healthy tissues from the top palate. However, instead of taking the tissue from underneath a flap, the periodontist will use surface tissue from the roof of your mouth. This procedure is typically done in circumstances where the patient has thin gum tissue.
3. Pedicle Grafts
During pedicle grafts, your periodontist will cover your exposed root with nearby healthy tissue rotated into the area (known as a pedicle). Using nearby healthy tissue helps restore your gum line without tissue from another area.
4. “Tissue from a Box”
In some cases, you may have many teeth that need gum grafting. In these cases, using donor tissue, or ‘tissue in a box,’ may be the right solution. Donor tissue can come from humans or animals and is processed and sterilized to be safe and effective. The donor tissue ultimately gets replaced by your own tissue as you heal.
Healing From Your Gum Graft
After undergoing a gum graft, your periodontist will provide you with post-care instructions. Although gum grafts are an outpatient procedure, it is in your best interest to take the remainder of the day to rest.
The average recovery time for a gum graft is anywhere between a couple of days to two weeks. Most patients start to feel better after 2-3 days. Mild soreness and discomfort is to be expected but can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medicines and following your post-care instructions. Your periodontist may prescribe antibiotics or a mouth rinse to control plaque and prevent infection.
Until your gums heal, you should limit yourself to soft, cool foods and drinks. Some foods that are safe to eat include smoothies (with a spoon — no straws!), mashed potatoes, yogurt, steamed vegetables, chicken, and pasta.
You should also avoid brushing or flossing around the affected area to prevent irritation or moving of your new, healing tissue.
Maintaining Your Results
Once your gum graft heals, there are essential steps to take in order to maintain your new smile. The key factor to preserving your healthy smile is practicing proper daily oral hygiene habits. These include brushing with the correct toothbrush, pressure and timing, flossing with the right motion, and using toothpaste and mouthwash that is right for you. Brushing too hard, incorrectly, or with too abrasive of toothpaste can cause the gum to recede again.
You can also protect your restored gum line by wearing a mouthguard at night to prevent teeth grinding and clenching, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco products. Because everybody is different, Dr. Scully will discuss the best products and techniques to keep your gums as healthy as possible.
Most importantly, be sure to schedule and attend your regular oral exams and cleanings. How often you need these exams and cleaning will be determined with your periodontist to optimize your oral health. These appointments are crucial to preventing oral health issues and maintaining a healthy smile.
Improving Your Periodontal Health
At Four Rivers Periodontics and Implant Specialists, we use state-of-the-art technology to provide our patients with the highest quality care. Dr. Scully is a highly experienced periodontal specialist who stays up to date on the latest and most effective gum treatment techniques. Our team delivers unmatched results to our patients.
To improve your periodontal health and learn more about gum grafting surgery, call our offices today at (636) 242-6450.