Are you self-conscious about teeth that look too big or too long when you smile? In any case, there is a solution. A procedure called gum grafting can be used to build up your gums, hiding more of your teeth and giving you the smile you've always desired.
What does gum grafting entail?
Gum grafting involves removing some tissue from your palate and attaching it to your existing gums, eventually making them larger once the new tissue "adheres" to the old tissue. In most cases, your own palate tissue will be used. However, if your palate tissue is not in good health or your dentist is concerned about your ability to heal, cadaver tissue from a donor might be used.
If your own tissue will be used for the graft, your dentist will begin by using a scalpel to remove that small portion of skin from the roof of your mouth. They will then close up the incision with stitches. Of course, if cadaver tissue is used, they will skip this step. The tissue will then be carefully placed beneath your existing gums, but extending upward on your tooth. It will be sewn into place. Your dentist will apply special growth factors to the tissue to encourage the graft to anneal to your existing gums.
Is the procedure painful?
The procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic, which means you won't feel a thing while your dentist is operating on your gums. You will be awake, however. If you are feeling nervous or anxious about the procedure, your dentist may recommend using a sedative like laughing gas (nitrous oxide) or diazepam to take the edge off.
What does the recovery process entail?
As the anesthetic wears off, you will begin to notice some soreness. Your dentist should prescribe you a pain reliever to keep your discomfort at bay. Many patients find that their palate (where the tissue has been removed) feels more painful than the gums. However, this incision and your gums should heal quickly as long as you follow your dentist's aftercare instructions. These will likely include:
- Sticking to soft foods, such as oatmeal, yogurt, and mashed potatoes for a few days after surgery.
- Rinsing your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash several times per day to prevent infection.
- Avoiding brushing or flossing the gumline until it has healed. This may take a few weeks. Your dentist will schedule post-surgery checkups and let you know when you're healed enough to brush again.
What are the benefits of gum grafting?
In addition to improving your appearance, gum grafts may also help eliminate tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods. The lower portions of your teeth are most sensitive, so covering them with more gum tissue will help desensitize them. Also, if your gums have receded over the years due to gum disease, gum grafts can help stabilize your teeth and reduce the chances of them loosening and falling out in the future.
What risks are involved with this procedure?
There is a chance that the gum grafts won't take and that you'll need to have the procedure repeated again. Other than this, the primary risk is that your surgical sites can become infected. Using your antibacterial mouthwash helps protect against this. If you are at an increased risk of infection, your dentist may also prescribe oral antibiotics to help protect you. Make sure you take these as instructed. If your graft sites become very painful, begin to swell, or begin exuding pus, these are signs of infection—contact your dentist immediately.
Most patients who undergo gum grafts are very pleased with the results. Talk to a cosmetic dental clinic like Elk Plaza Dental to learn more about this procedure.