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Gum Grafting

A gum graft (also known as a gingival graft or periodontal plastic surgery), is a collective name for surgical periodontal procedures that aim to cover an exposed tooth root surface with grafted oral tissue.

Exposed tooth roots are usually the result of gingival recession due to periodontal disease.  There are other common causes, including overly aggressive brushing and trauma.

Here are some of the most common types of gum grafting:

  • Free gingival graft – This procedure is often used to thicken gum tissue.  A layer of tissue is removed from the palate and relocated to the area affected by gum recession.  Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage.

  • Subepithelial connective tissue graft – This procedure is commonly used to cover exposed roots.  Tissue is removed fairly painlessly from the outer layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession.

  • Acellular dermal matrix allograft – This procedure uses medically processed, donated human tissue as a tissue source for the graft.  The advantage of this is procedure is that there is no need for a donor site from the patient’s palate (and thus, 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.

Here are some of the 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 dentist will want perform before gum grafting takes place.  First, the teeth must be thoroughly cleaned supra and subgingivally to remove calculus (tartar) and bacteria.  The dentist 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.

If you have any questions about gum grafting, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

I am 42 years old. All of my life I was self conscious about my smile
because of the dark tetracycline stain on my teeth. When I was 37 I
decided to do something about it. I had braces for four years to prepare
me for orthognathic surgery. My maxillofacial surgeon moved my jaw
forward so my overbite would be corrected. After that healed, the braces
came off and I went to see Dr. Stewart. She said I was a perfect
candidate for porcelain veneers. After talking with her and seeing her
portfolio, she installed them.

Almost over night I went from not smiling at all to grinning like a
fool. I can tell you the exact moment I knew I had made the right
decision to do what I had done. About a month after Dr. Stewart had
finished with me, a complete stranger said, "You have a nice smile." It
was the first time in my life I had ever heard those words...ever. My
limited vocabulary prevents me from describing what those words meant to
me but my whole world was changed.

I am 42 years old and I have a nice smile. Would I do it all again?
Absolutely! Do I have any regrets? Absolutely not!

Thanks Dr. Stewart!


Stephen...with a PH!

"Whenever people complain about their dentist or say they haven't been for a checkup in years, I tell them about Dr. Nancy Stewart and her great team. They're all friendly and professional, and the work they do is top-notch. For the past nine years, they have done both 'yearly maintenance' and cosmetic procedures on my teeth, and I get regular compliments on my smile! Leave your excuses at home and go see Dr. Nancy."

Kate Y. February 2007

"Dr. Stewart may be the only dentist I have never been afraid to go to.
Everyone on her staff is informative, friendly and professional, and so is
she. Check out the photo board on your way out, too - she's the only dentist
I've ever met who gets flossing photos from her patients' vacations!"

J. Handler

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