dental instruments and oral health

What Are Gum (Gingival) Grafts?

A gum graft, also called a gingival graft, is a type of periodontal surgery that corrects receding gums. In short, gum recession is when your gums pull away from your teeth. As a result, your teeth roots become exposed. The first indicator of root exposure is typically sensitivity to hot and cold substances. This is because root surfaces do not have hard enamel covering them like the crowns of teeth do, which makes them more sensitive.

Depending on the severity of the condition, your gums may recede on one tooth, a few teeth, or all of your teeth.

The primary causes of gum recession include:

  • Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease).
  • Long-term use of tobacco and/or nicotine products.
  • Improper brushing habits.
  • Soft-tissue trauma or dental trauma.
  • Poorly fitting partial dentures.
  • Genetics (some people are born with thin gums).
  • Eating disorders, such as bulimia (self-induced vomiting).
  • Bruxism, which is the habit of grinding the teeth.
single tooth with oral surgery scalpel

Types of Gum Graft Procedures

There are three main types of gum graft procedures, including connective tissue grafts, pedicle grafts, and free gum grafts. Depending on your needs, your dentist will determine the best treatment possible to ensure long-term success.

Connective Tissue Grafts

Connective tissue grafts are the most common treatment for gum recession. During the procedure, a periodontist removes soft-tissue from the second layer under the roof of your mouth (palate). Then they stitch the tissue onto the gums of the exposed root. Lastly, the periodontist stitches up the flap on the palate from where the gum tissue was taken.

Advantages
  • Connective tissue grafts have the highest success rate because they provide a good blood supply to the graft.
  • This procedure can treat a single tooth or multiple teeth with gum recession.
  • The palate (donor site) tends to heal quickly without noticeable scarring.
  • After the gums heal, the results are very aesthetically pleasing.
Disadvantages
  • The procedure is more demanding and time-consuming than other grafting treatments.

Pedicle Grafts

During a pedicle graft, healthy gum tissue is taken from the tooth next to the recessed tooth. In order to do this, a periodontist cuts a flap of tissue from the gum of the adjacent tooth. Then the exposed root surface of the recessed tooth is covered with the new soft-tissue and stitched into place. The goal of this procedure is to keep the blood vessels in place.

Advantages
  • Pedicle grafts are relatively easy and quick procedures.
  • The procedure restores healthy gum tissue and improves your smile.
  • The donor tissue is not taken from your palate, which means it seamlessly blends in with your existing gum tissue.
Disadvantages
  • Pedicle grafts can only treat one tooth with an exposed root.
  • Since the gum tissue is taken from a healthy tooth, the donor site has a higher chance of developing gum recession.

Free Gum Grafts

During a free gum graft procedure, a periodontist removes soft-tissue directly from the first layer of the palate. Then they stitch the tissue on top of the gum above the exposed root. Periodontists typically only recommend this procedure to patients with thin gums.

Advantages
  • Free gum grafts are relatively easy and fast to perform.
  • This procedure can treat a single tooth or multiple teeth with gum recession.
  • The teeth receiving treatment do not need to be next to each other.
Disadvantages
  • Removing tissue from the palate makes the area more prone to bleeding, may cause more pain, and heals slowly.
  • After the gum tissue heals, it tends to be less aesthetically pleasing because palate tissue is usually whiter than the gums.

Rejuvagum Lift™- Alternative Gum Recession Treatment (No Surgery)

Rejuvagum lift is a relatively new treatment for gum recession. It was created by two periodontists, Dr. Alexandre-Amir Aalam and Dr. Alina Krivitsky. The procedure eliminates the need for gum graft surgery by using advanced platelet-rich fibrin to regrow receding gums. During the procedure, a small amount of the patient’s blood is used to create the “platelet-rich fibrin,” which is a collection of white cells. Then the periodontist inserts the fibrin into the receding gum(s), which helps regenerate new gum tissue in just a few days. In addition, stitches are placed to hold the fibrin in place for about two weeks.

Advantages
  • Less painful and less invasive than traditional gum grafts.
  • Since the patients’ own blood cells are used to regrow the gum tissue, the chances of infection or rejection are minimized.
  • No tissue is taken from your gums or palate, which speeds up the recovery process.
  • Treatment costs about the same as traditional gum graft surgeries.
  • The procedure takes about an hour to complete.
  • You’ll see results in about a week.
Disadvantages
  • It requires a blood draw.
  • Since the procedure is relatively new, it means there isn’t enough scientific research proving its long-term effectiveness.

Benefits of Gum Graft Surgery

There are many benefits of gum graft surgery. Although, the primary advantages include:

  • Reduces further recession and possible bone loss.
  • Covers exposed tooth roots, which prevents root decay.
  • Reduces tooth sensitivity.
  • Improves your smile and appearance.
  • Improves your periodontal health.

After Care & Recovery Tips

The healing process post-op should not take longer than two weeks. To help speed up recovery, periodontists recommend:

  • Not brushing or flossing the area for at least a week.
  • Rinsing the mouth with a special mouthwash.
  • Taking antibiotics and ibuprofen to reduce pain.
  • Avoiding hard foods, such as hard candy and uncooked vegetables.
  • Only eat soft foods, such as yogurt and eggs.
  • Do not drink hot liquids.
  • Do not smoke tobacco.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise.

Possible Complications After Gum Graft Surgery

The success rate of gum graft surgery is high. Although, in rare cases, dental complications can occur. This may include:

If you experience bleeding that lasts longer than 20 minutes, notice unexpected swelling, or develop a fever, contact your dentist immediately. These symptoms may indicate an infection.

Treatment Costs & Insurance Coverage

The cost of treatment depends on how many grafts are needed, the extent of recession, and whether the tissue was taken from the patient’s mouth or a tissue bank. If the tissue is taken from a cadaver (tissue bank), the procedure usually costs more.

On average, gum grafts can cost anywhere between $600 and $3000 per tooth. Although, depending on your plan, your insurance may partially or fully cover the procedure.