Suffering from pain and tooth sensitivity because of gum recession? You may benefit from a gum graft. This is a minor surgical dental treatment that reverses the effects of receding gums. It replaces protective tissue around the tooth, lowering the risk of tooth decay and damage.
The effects and signs of gum recession
Gums protect a tooth’s root. When gums recede it exposes more of the tooth’s highly-sensitive surface. This can lead to pain, sensitivity and affect how you feel about your smile. In severe cases, gum recession leads to wobbly teeth that are at risk of falling out.
Identifying gum recession is difficult because they wear away very slowly. Sometimes it’s so gradual that the first sign is pain in or around your tooth.
Causes of receding gums
It’s hard to pin down a single cause of gum recession. Very often a combination of habits contributes to it becoming a problem.
- Overbrushing or brushing too hard
- Not brushing enough leading to gum disease
- Flossing too vigorously.
Orthodontic treatment can also weaken gums and for some people, they simply have weak or thin gums. For women, it can be a side-effect of hormonal changes. Once gums have worn away they don’t grow back naturally, which is why if you’re suffering from gum recession your dentist may suggest gum graft treatment.
Treatment for receding gums
There are different types of gum grafting surgery, including connective tissue grafts, free gingival grafts and pedicle grafts. Your dentist will discuss the best gum graft treatment for your specific needs, but each type of graft involves tissue being taken from another part of your mouth and grafted over the receded area. If tissue can’t be taken from your mouth, donor tissue is used. This means less of an impact on you and less time in the chair.
John, a dentist at Keppel Dental, says:
“Although there are different ways to do gum grafting each procedure follows similar steps for patients. The first is administering a local anaesthetic. This numbs the area around the gum and tooth that’s being repaired.
Next, the tissue for the graft is collected from your mouth. (Unless donor tissue is being used.) A small flap is made in the roof of the mouth, tissue collected, the flap is stitched up and the fresh tissue grafted over the receded gum. If donor tissue is being used, then we skip straight to connecting the tissue to the gum. The whole procedure takes around an hour to an hour and a half and is done at the dental practice under local anaesthetic.”
Healing after gum grafting treatment
Healing takes around two weeks, although it can take more or less time. In the hours after, you may experience some discomfort. Your dentist will speak with you about pain management, but it’s a good idea to let yourself rest for the day.
You can help the healing process by:
- Not brushing or flossing around the treated area
- Giving hard foods a miss for at least the first three or four days
- Sticking to liquid food (soup, shakes) for the first few days and soft food after that (pasta, eggs, yoghurt)
- Avoid cigarettes and alcohol
- Only do light exercise, avoid anything that has you panting and straining.
Your teeth and mouth may feel more sensitive to hot and cold sensations. Keep this in mind when eating and drinking. Hopefully, after a day’s rest, you should feel fine to return to work soon after gum grafting surgery. Your dentist will also ask you to make a follow-up appointment about a week or so after treatment. This is so they can check on how you’re healing.