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. The 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).
- Platelet rich plasma graft – This procedure takes platelets from the plasma of your blood and uses it to heal your gums. The advantage of this type of grafting is that, because it uses your own blood, it is safer, more convenient, and faster than other grafting methods.
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 home care 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 the 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.
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
A better way of bone grafting
If teeth have gone missing or when they were never formed, the first choice of treatment today would be a dental implant. Unfortunately, in many cases, we are faced with inadequate bone structure due to previous extractions, gum disease or injuries, making dental implant placement difficult or even impossible.
Bone grafting can repair these areas by means of adding bone and by stimulating new bone growth. The question that always is asked is, “Where does that bone you use for grafting come from?” We use almost exclusively our patients’ own tissue by means of drawing some blood, much like when you go to the lab for blood work.
About 2% of your blood cells are called platelets which come into play when the body has suffered an injury. Platelets help the blood to clot, start the healing process, and they also release growth factors into the affected area that stimulate the formation of new bone, blood vessels, muscle, nerve tissue and more. Right before the grafting procedure is carried out, we bring in a nurse that draws about 10 tablespoons of blood right in the office. We then go to spin this blood in a number of centrifuges with the purpose of isolating and concentrating these platelets by a factor of 30 or more. In other words, we are removing, we are removing living blood cells from your body, concentrating the important ones and put these living cells straight back in so they can help grow bone.
Depending on the amount of bone needed to secure the dental implants, we sometimes will harvest some bone from within the mouth and/or biomaterials derived from other sources including synthetic materials and donor tissues.
The application of PRP in our surgical procedures has many advantages:
- Safe: It is a by-product of your own blood, so disease transmission is not an issue.
- Convenient: PRP is generated in our office just prior to the procedure.
- Faster Healing: PRP speeds up the healing process and generates higher success rates.
- Cost Effective There is only a minimal expense for the biomaterials needed.