What is Gum Grafting?

Gum grafting is a type of periodontal surgery to correct receding gum for our Rancho Santa Fe patients. A receding gum line, called gingival recession, may cause one’s smile to become unattractive, exposing one’s tooth roots; but it is more than just a cosmetic problem. In fact, gums that are receding may cause a host of additional problems including tooth sensitivity (especially to hot and/or cold foods and drinks), increased risk for cavities or decay along the gum line, and even bone loss which may result in loosening of the teeth, or even tooth loss in severe cases. Luckily many of these complications can be avoided with a simple gum grafting procedure.

There are many different types of gum grafting procedures. Some involve utilizing donor tissue from a cadaver, while others involve utilizing one’s one tissue from another area of the mouth to augment and strengthen the gums in the affected area. In some cases, the surround gum tissue can simply be moved to cover the exposed roots without the need for grafting. In cases where the surrounding gum tissue is inadequate to cover the exposed root, gum grafting should be performed not only to cover the root, but strengthen and thicken the surrounding gum tissue to prevent the recession from recurring.

There are even several different techniques for the purpose of gum grafting utilizing tissue from another area of the mouth.  Often times, the palate is the only (and best) source for this additional tissue, due to the rapid regenerative capability of the palatal gum tissue. Older techniques require removal of the actual skin from the palate, leaving a large, painful wound on the roof of the mouth. This gum tissue is then moved to the area of recession and sutured on top of it.  Although effective at prevent additional recession, the grafted gum often looks out of place.

More modern techniques like Dr. Beck performs, use minimally invasive techniques to carefully remove tissue from underneath the skin on the palate, leaving only a small incision like a paper cut which heals in a matter of days, not weeks.  This procedure is called a “subepithelial connective tissue graft”. The gum tissue in the area of recession is lifted away from the tooth root, to create pouch into which the graft can be secured.  Dr. Beck uses very small stitches to stabilize the graft, so small that they are usually only used for ophthalmic (eye) surgery and other microscopic surgical procedures.  In just a few weeks the graft and overlaying gum tissue grow together to cover the formerly exposed tooth roots and thicken and strengthen the gum-tooth attachment.

What is Gum Recession and What Causes it?

Gum recession, technically referred to as gingival recession, is when the attachment of the gum to the tooth is compromised and and breaks down, exposing the root of the tooth. Gingival recession can have many causes and is often multi-factorial. Common causes include gingival inflammation, overly aggressive brushing, using an abrasive toothpaste, tooth position, or sometimes just genetics and the natural biology/anatomy of the original gum tissue (ie, weak gums).

Am I a Candidate for Gum Grafting?

Most Rancho Santa Fe residents with receding gums are candidates for gum grafting surgery (subepithelial connective tissue graft). Even though this condition can begin as early as your teens or early 20s, age doesn’t usually affect the healing or success of the procedure. During your consultation, Dr. Beck will carefully review your medical history and any medications you may be taking to ensure you are healthy enough for the procedure and anticipate any potential complications.

What is Surgery Day Like?

With Dr. Beck, subepithelial connective tissue grafting (gum grafting) is performed as an outpatient procedure in Dr. Beck’s San Diego office. Although it can be performed with just local anesthesia (numbing like novocaine), many Rancho Santa Fe patients prefer to take advantage of our sedation options. To ensure peace of mind and optimal comfort for all her patients, Dr. Beck offers the following sedation dentistry options:

  • Conscious sedation, which makes you drowsy and unaware of the procedure, but still somewhat responsive to Dr. Beck and her surgical team. Often there is little to no recollection of the details of the procedure. This is the most common preference for our patients.
  • Deep sedation/general anesthesia is similar to the deeply sedated, unconscious state required for general medical surgical procedures. When this heavier level of sedation is preferred, a board-certified anesthesiologist is utilized to closely monitor and administer the anesthesia.

During both types of sedation, you safety and vital signs are closely monitored to ensure your safety. Whichever your choice, you can rest assured you are in good hands with Dr. Beck and her team.

Recovering from Gum Grafting Surgery

Due to her careful, minimally invasive technique, sometimes combined with materials to accelerate healing like Emdogain or PDGF, most of Dr. Beck’s gum grafting patients are surprised how easy and fast the recovery is. For most patients post-operative discomfort can be managed by over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen (also known as Advil). While you will be advised not to chew or brush the treatment area for a few weeks, there’s often no need to be restricted to a liquid diet, and normal activities can be resumed within a few days.

If you think you would benefit from gum grafting, don’t delay and risk worsening or additional complications. Meet with Dr. Beck to discuss your concerns, evaluate the area of concern, and develop a customized plan for you. To schedule an evaluation and consultation with Dr. Beck, call our office in the Rancho Santa Fe area at (858) 635-6700 today.