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 or to replace gingival tissue after it has been lost.

Exposed tooth roots are usually the result of gingival recession due to periodontal disease, trauma, toothbrush abrasion, or alignment of teeth. Depending on the specific problem associated with each tooth affected by gingival recession, one of a variety of treatment options may be used to correct the deficiency.

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 surface of the palate and relocated to the area affected by gingival recession. Both sites will quickly heal without permanent damage. This may allow for coverage of the exposed root, but is more often used to prevent further recession and to facilitate hygiene efforts and reduce inflammation in the associated tissue.
  • Sub epithelial connective tissue graft – This procedure is commonly used to cover exposed roots, and is considered the gold standard for that process. Tissue is removed fairly painlessly from the deeper layer of the palate and relocated to the site of gum recession.


Reasons for Gingival Grafting

Gum grafting is a common periodontal procedure. Though the name might sound intimidating, 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. 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?

The gingival grafting procedures are performed under local anesthetic with or without intravenous sedation. The exact procedure will depend much on whether tissue is coming from the patient’s palate. Initially, the tooth surface will be cleaned and polished. Small incisions will be made at the recipient site (the area needing the graft) to create a small space to accommodate the graft. Then, tissue will be removed from the palate and prepared for suturing (stitching) in place at the area of recession. If tissue from a human donor is used, tissue is not removed from the palate, although the area of recession will generally be treated in the same manner. Sutures are often placed to further stabilize the graft and to prevent any shifting from the designated site. Uniformity and healing of the gums will be achieved in approximately six weeks. Generally, this procedure should cause minimal discomfort after treatment. Most patients describe the area tissue was removed from the palate as feeling like a “pizza burn.” Frequently, Dr. Knochel will fabricate an acrylic bandage for the roof of your mouth called a surgical stent. Discomfort at the area the graft was placed may range from non-existent to moderate discomfort, which should easily be manageable with ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), although generally a prescription for a narcotic pain medication may be given to use as necessary.

Please contact our office to learn more about gingival gum grafting in Tucson, Arizona, and to schedule your appointment with Dr. Knochel.