Gum graft surgery is a procedure done to repair damaged or injured gums. It involves removing sections of healthy gum tissue and using it to replace the damaged gums. The healthy tissue is typically removed or cut out of the roof of the mouth. Skin is then placed over the injured area and sutured. Gum graft surgery is used to address gum recession, bone loss, and tooth loss.
Injuries, wear and tear, and medical conditions such as bruxism can cause tissue loss. This can occur in the keratinized gingival, which is the gum tissue surrounding the tooth, or in the mucosa that covers the rest of the mouth and cheeks. Thin gum grafts can be used to repair the tissue surrounding the tooth. Plump tissue is typically used to address the rest of the mouth.
Before the gum graft surgery begins, the periodontist will inspect the damaged tissue or skin. An incision is then made around the weakened area and the skin is partially removed. The donor skin, or flaps, used to cover the damaged area are covered with an acrylic stent and attached to the top of the incision. It can then be pulled or stretched down and sewn into the gum line. If the donor skin covers a large area, it is also sutured underneath the skin flap.
The entire area is covered with additional sutures to hold the skin flap in place. Surgical dental packs or thin adhering bandages are sometimes also used to secure the newly added skin. It can take one to two weeks for the area to start to heal. This is usually when the bandages and sutures are removed.
It can take up to two months for the repaired area to return to normal and during this time, the area can become red and swollen. Surgical lines and suture scarring can also remain long after surgery. Occasionally, lumps of fatty tissue and excess skin can form around the suture lines. This can be removed by using a laser to smooth out the mucosa. Typically, the lines are reduced and the area appears uniform eight weeks after gum graft surgery.
Pain and numbness are the most common side effects following a gum graft surgery procedure. The oozing of saliva and blood can also occur for several days. Ice packs and pain medication can relieve the uncomfortable symptoms. For six days after the procedure, soft foods and lukewarm beverages should be the only things consumed.