What is a Gingival Graft?

A gingival graft (also known as a gum graft), is a collective name for surgical periodontal procedures that aims to strengthen areas of thin gum tissues and/or cover an exposed tooth root surfaces with grafted tissues. Exposed tooth roots can be the result of gingival recession due to tooth malposition, bite overload, or periodontal disease. There are other causes, including overly aggressive brushing and trauma.

  • 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.  This is an ideal solution when the goal of the procedure is to thicken the tissue to provide additional protection for the underlying bone supporting the roots.  This procedure is not predictable for covering roots that have been exposed due to gingival recession.

Reasons for Gingival Grafting

Gingival grafting is a common periodontal procedure.  Though the name might sound frightening, the procedure is commonly performed with excellent results.

  • 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 can permanently cover the exposed root, helping reduce discomfort, and restoring the good health of the gums.
  • Improved appearance – Gingival recession and root exposure can make the teeth look longer than normal and the smile to appear “toothy.”  Gingival 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 esthetic 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.  Gingival grafting can help halt tissue and bone loss; preventing further problems and protecting exposed roots from further decay.

What Does Gingival Grafting Treatment Involve?

The gum grafting procedure is performed under local anesthetic. Depending on your level of anxiety, you may wish to consider sedation while the procedure is being performed. The specifics of the exact procedure will depend on which procedure your doctor is performing.

Generally, small incisions will be made at the recipient site to create a small pouch or tunnel to accommodate the graft. The graft is obtained and positioned into the pouch or tunnel and sutures are placed to stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Surgical adhesives may be 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.

Free Gingival Graft

The gum tissues surrounding the teeth come in two basic varieties: Mucosa and Gingiva.  While mucosa is loose and mobile, gingiva is thick, leathery and more tightly bound to the teeth.  The gingiva is better suited to protect your teeth against the constant forces of chewing, food debris, and bacterial inflammation. The Free Gingival Graft is a common procedure to augment the zone of gingiva around your teeth.

When recession of the gum tissue occurs or you lose the attached gingival tissues, the body loses its natural defense against both bacterial penetration and trauma. Where recession has occurred with a loss of gum attachment, reconstruction using this grafting technique is an excellent option. A thin layer of tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth or behind the last molar and relocated to the area affected by the gum recession.  Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage. This is an ideal solution when the goal of the procedure is to thicken the tissue to provide additional protection for the underlying bone supporting the roots. Although this procedure is less predictable for covering roots that have been exposed due to gingival recession, it remains the “Gold Standard” to aid in preventing continued recession.

Click the photo above to see more before & after photos

A Post-Orthodontic patient displaying recession and a lack of attached gingiva with a strong frenum pull in the mandibular canine and incisor areas

Free Gingival Graft completed.  Recession corrected with an increased thickness of attached gingiva to arrest further damage to the gum tissue and underlying bone and prevent continued recession.

Did you know your periodontist can play a crucial role in your orthodontic therapy?

Gum tissue is vital to moving the teeth through bone. Without it, your teeth may lose supporting bone and become very sensitive or loose. Your periodontist can ensure there is sufficient gingival tissue around your teeth before and after orthodontic treatment.  If you are in need of or just completed orthodontic therapy have one of our doctors work with your orthodontist to ensure a healthy successful orthodontic outcome.

If you have any questions about gum grafting, please schedule an examination appointment with our doctors to discuss your condition and your options.

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