Understanding Gum Grafting: Candidates, Procedure, and Recovery

Understanding Gum Grafting: Candidates, Procedure, and Recovery

Gums or “Gingiva” are a very important part of your smile. They protect your teeth from disease by covering the roots and jawbone, keeping bacteria, food, drinks, and other substances away from the vulnerable part of your teeth. When bacteria attack the gums, it can lead to gum disease. These include swelling of the gums, bleeding, painful chewing, and gum recession.  Untreated gum disease can cause health issues not only in your mouth, but can affect your overall health.

Gum recession can happen for reasons other than gum disease including genetics, teeth grinding, overzealous brushing, poor dental hygiene, orthodontia, or mouth trauma.  When your gums recede, the roots of your teeth are exposed. This can make your teeth more susceptible to bacteria and feel more sensitive in the exposed area.  Your doctor may recommend gum grafting to mitigate those symptoms as well as prevent loss of teeth and bone.

What Is Gum Grafting?

Gum Grafting is a surgical procedure that aims at correcting gum recession. The doctor adds additional gum tissue underneath your existing gums to cover the exposed part of your tooth. The procedure is done in the office with local anesthetic and pain and recovery can be easily managed by you at home.

Who Are Candidates for Gum Grafting?

Good candidates for gum grafting will have specific indications that they need the surgery. These include:

  • Deep pockets: Gum disease can lead to tissue erosion that causes gaps (pockets) in your teeth. Deep pockets capture bacteria and offer an ideal environment for growing. Without treatment, the bacteria damage your teeth and jawbone.

  • Irregular contours: Irregular contours in your jawbone can prevent your gums from lying flat and may enhance the recession. Gum grafting corrects this issue.

  • Severe gum recession: Some cases of gum recession do not require surgery. But when your gums pull away and expose the roots of your teeth, gum grafting will most likely be recommended.

Patients wanting gum surgery should establish good oral hygiene habits beforehand to ensure you can care for your grafts after surgery. Poor oral hygiene can lead to infections and gum disease.


There are three types of grafts. These are the connective tissue, free gingival, donor, and lateral or pedicle grafts. The doctor will make a recommendation after your evaluation. It will depend on your needs and the severity of your condition. So, what should you expect during the procedure?


After you arrive for your appointment, you will be escorted to the procedure room. The assistant will situate you as comfortably as possible and confirm the treatment. After swishing with an anti-bacterial mouthwash, the surgical area will be numbed by a dentist or hygienist with local anesthetic and tested for numbness and comfort before proceeding.

During Surgery

During surgery, the dentist will loosen your existing gums in order to make space for the new tissue.  Since you will be numb, this will not cause you pain.  Some procedures include a deep clean of your gums and some bone work where necessary. Once the gum tissue is positioned, the dentist will suture everything down tightly to make sure it stays in place and heals correctly.


Before you leave, the doctor and assistant will discuss very specific steps to take care of your grafts. Following all the recovery instructions is the best recipe to keep pain and discomfort to a minimum as well as give your graft the best chance for success.  Recovery will include taking your pain medication and antibiotics on time as well as using hot and cold packs and salt-water rinses. All of these recommendations will help keep swelling and pain to a minimum. Continue to avoid smoking and take time to rest.  The doctor will ask you to avoid brushing the graft site until your follow-up appointment a week after surgery.  After your follow-up, the dentist will give you an extra soft toothbrush for the surgery site with very specific instructions to only use downward strokes and avoid the gums themselves.  After two months of healing, your sutures will be removed and you will have a better idea of the final success of your graft and how good they look.

For more information on gum grafting, visit Jonny Fisher DDS at our Pullman, Washington office. Call (509) 383-8300 to schedule an appointment today.

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