Periodontal Plastic Surgery (Gingival Grafting) | Thomas J. Kepic, DDS, MSD
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Periodontal Plastic Surgery

Gum tissue may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of plastic surgery, but procedures such as gingival grafts can improve the smile’s aesthetics after gum recession, which makes the teeth appear unusually long and gives the patient a prematurely aged appearance. Additionally, this procedure gives patients important oral health benefits, including protecting the smile from tooth and bone loss.

Purposes of Periodontal Plastic Surgery

Gingival grafts are used to replace insufficient gum tissue, which usually occurs due to gum recession.

The gum recession treated by gingival grafts can occur as a result of a number of factors. Uncontrolled gum disease will eventually destroy gum tissue as it progresses in severity, leading the gum tissue to “shrink.”

Bad oral hygiene habits can also contribute to receding gums. People often don’t realize it, but it is possible to brush your teeth too hard. Using excessive force or brushing along the gumline for an extended period of time can actually cause the tissue to break down. Improper flossing technique may also harm your gum tissue, as well as, oral hygiene tools that are in poor condition, including brushes that are too hard or that have worn or frayed bristles.

Additionally, the gum tissue is thinner in some areas of the smile, as in the vicinity of the lower premolars, so these areas may be more susceptible to recession, as well. Crowded teeth may also be at greater risk for gum recession.

Before Gum Graft

After Gum Graft

Gingival Grafting Procedure

Dr. Kepic uses a relatively novel technique to perform gingival grafts, which causes less discomfort for patients than a free gingival graft, which is a common approach. Prior to performing the gingival graft, a local anesthetic is administered to the site of the graft (recipient site) as well as the palate, where the donor tissue is obtained. Dr. Kepic creates a small pocket in the gum tissue at the recipient site and then removes the donor tissue from the palate. Dr. Kepic then inserts that donor tissue into the previously created pocket and closes it using tiny sutures.

Older grafting techniques often resulted in color mismatches between the native tissue and the grafted tissue. However, we take care to match the graft tissue to the surrounding tissue at the site to avoid a patchy appearance. The result is a blend of tissue that looks quite natural.

Benefits of Gingival Grafts

Gingival grafts benefit both your oral health and your appearance and self-esteem. When gum tissue recedes, the teeth become more sensitive so a gum graft can reduce this sensation in the area especially in patients who experience discomfort in response to hot or cold temperatures. Additionally, without a layer of gum tissue to protect them, the roots of the teeth are exposed to the bacteria in the oral cavity, and if the root is affected by an infection or decay, the tooth can be at risk for being lost.

Of course, receding gums are quite unattractive, as well. Gum tissue makes an underappreciated contribution to your smile’s aesthetic. As the proportion of gum to tooth shifts and more tooth material is exposed, the patient starts to appear – quite literally – “long in the tooth.” A gingival graft will restore the correct proportions to your smile and make sure that the “frame” of the gum tissue looks just as appealing as your teeth do.

Aftercare for Gingival Grafts

As is the case with any type of surgical procedure, infection is a risk following gingival grafts. Dr. Kepic will give you detailed instructions on how to keep both the donor site and the recipient site as clean as possible to minimize this risk. We will also educate you on the signs of infection so that you can monitor your mouth for these symptoms and contact our office to follow up if you notice any of them.

Some patients may also experience mild discomfort at either the recipient or donor site following a gingival graft. Often, this symptom can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers. Patients may also want to adjust their diets in the first few days after the procedure to avoid irritating either site.

Have you noticed that your gums appear to be shrinking? We can restore comfort and beauty to your smile’s appearance. Come to our office for an evaluation and to learn more about treatment options like periodontal plastic surgery.