Dr. Timothy Hess Shares Why He Sent His Wife to
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Dr. Hess talking about Gum Grafts

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Soft Tissue (Gum) Grafts

Why Do I Need a Gum Tissue Graft?

Gum recession is a progressively destructive process that results in the loss of supporting bone and protective gum tissue around teeth. In the early stages this destructive process is usually painless. Gum tissue grafts are performed to repair unsightly root exposure which often, but not always, causes tooth sensitivity. Since exposed roots lack a protective layer of enamel they are often at high risk for the development of root decay. In untreated cases, root decay can start quickly and spread rapidly, sometimes involving the nerve of the tooth and requiring root canal therapy. In advanced cases extensive decay and bone loss may result in tooth loss.

What Causes Gum Recession?

Aggressive tooth brushing, periodontal disease and a history of orthodontic tooth movement are the most common contributing factors to advancing gum recession. It is generally accepted that at least 50% of the risk is associated with a genetic predisposition to this condition.

What Happens During the Procedure?

Three different types of gum tissue grafts are typically performed and usually take between 60-90 minutes to complete. Which type is most appropriate for you, will dependent on your specific circumstances.

The graft procedures include:

Connective-tissue grafts. This is the most common method used to treat root exposure. During the procedure, a flap of skin is lifted at the roof of your mouth (palate) and tissue from under the flap, so-called sub-epithelial connective tissue, is removed and then stitched to the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root. After the connective tissue -- the graft -- has been removed from under the palatal flap, the flap is stitched back down.

Free gingival grafts. Similar to a connective-tissue graft, free gingival grafts involve the use of tissue from the roof of the mouth. However instead of lifting a flap and removing tissue under this flap of skin, a small amount of tissue is removed directly from the roof of the mouth and then attached to the gum area being treated. This method is used most often in people who have thin gums to begin with and need additional tissue to thicken and enlarge the gums.

Allografts. Sometimes we prefer to use graft material from a tissue bank instead of from the roof of the mouth (AlloDerm® or PerioDerm®). Occasionally tissue-stimulating proteins are used to encourage your body's natural ability to grow bone and tissue.

What is Recovery from Gum Tissue Graft like?

We recommend that you go home following the procedure. If you were given sedative, you will need to make arrangements to have someone else drive you both to and from the appointment. .
You will be given specific instructions regarding postoperative care, such as diet, physical activity, and medications. Do not floss or brush the gum line that was repaired until the area has healed. You will be asked to rinse your mouth with a special mouth rinse to help control plaque during the healing process, and you may be put on an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection. You may also be provided with a protective palatal covering (stent) to wear after surgery.

For a week or two following gum grafting, eat soft, cool foods, such as eggs, pasta, Jell-O, yogurt, cottage cheese, well-cooked vegetables, and ice cream.

The amount of discomfort you have after surgery depends on the type of gum graft performed. If no tissue is removed from your palate, you should have little to no discomfort. However, if tissue is removed from your palate, you may be uncomfortable for a few days following the procedure. The wound on the roof of your mouth has been described as feeling like a major pizza burn, but the good news is it tends to heal quickly. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or prescription pain medication can help keep you comfortable in the days following surgery. While it may take a week or two for your mouth to fully heal, you should be able to return to work or normal activity after 24-48 hours.

What Are the Risks Associated with Gum Grafting?

The good news is that with proper post-operative care, gum grafting procedures are some of the most predictable and successful surgical procedures. Discomfort, bleeding, swelling and oro-facial discoloration (bruising) is common, but typically mild. Fortunately the complication rate is very low. Post-surgical infection and graft failure are very uncommon. Inadvertent damage to vital structures like nerves and blood vessels is very rare.

Will I Ever Need Another Gum Tissue Graft?

While gum tissue grafts are effective and predictable at repairing gum recession and preventing further damage, there is no guarantee that gum problems won't develop again in the future. That’s why we first work with our patient to identify and reverse all contributing factors. Once you are ready to undergo gum tissue grafting we will outline a personalized treatment plan to ensure optimal results and minimize recovery time.

How Much Will a Gum Tissue Graft Cost?

The cost for gum surgery will depend on how much work is being done. At Pacific Northwest Periodontics and Dental Implants we believe that everyone should have access to quality, affordable specialty care. You will be provided with a written treatment plan, outlining all costs and treatment options. We will work with you to maximize you dental and medical insurance benefits.

Before any treatment is initiated, our expert financial consultants will meet with you to assist you in understanding your benefits and help you with the filing of your insurance paperwork. We also proudly offer a variety of payment plans many of them interest-free, to help you pay for those expenses not covered by your insurance.


Pacific Northwest Periodontics Accreditations and Memberships

AAPLogo ActiveMember American Dental Association American Board of Periodontology 3South King County Dental SocietyWashington State Dental Association Provider


Academy of General Dentistry Provider