Healthy teeth are surrounded by two types of tissue. The first is the gingiva (gum), which is pink and color and dense under a microscope. The gingiva forms a tight seal around the tooth which serves as a barrier against the penetration of bacteria to the underlying supporting bone. The gingiva also helps to withstand trauma from brushing, eating, etc.
The other type of tissue, mucosa, found directly below the gingiva, is red, very thin, and appears loose under a microscope. It does not seal tightly around a tooth, nor does it withstand trauma very well (as shown by how easily you can scrape the floor of your mouth).
When recession of the gingiva occurs, the body loses a natural defense against both bacterial penetration and trauma. When recession reaches the mucosa, the first line of defense against bacterial penetration is lost. No matter how meticulously the patient tries to control the bacteria, there is a greater chance of penetrating and affecting the underlying supporting bone around the tooth. In addition, recession often results in root sensitivity to hot and cold foods, as well as unsightly appearance of the gum and tooth.
A gingival graft is designed to solve these problems. A thin piece of tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth, or gently moved over from an adjacent area, to provide a stable band of gingiva around the tooth. The result is a stable, healthy band of attached tissue around the tooth.
Commonly Asked Questions
Q: How long does a gingival graft take?
A: The visit to perform the procedure is about 60 minutes long. The stitches are removed 7-10 days later in a 5-10 minute visit. One or two 10 minute exam may be scheduled to ensure that the area has healed properly.
Q: Will the gingival graft procedure hurt?
A: Only local anesthetic will be necessary to perform a Pocket Reduction Procedure. During the visit, you will feel nothing once the area has been numbed. When the local anesthetic wears off, there will be some mild discomfort. Medication will be prescribed to control any discomfort you might experience. It is advised that you take it easy on the day of the procedure and that you do not return to work that same day.
Q: Will I be able to resume my normal activities after the procedure?
A: It is recommended that you limit your physical activity for 48 hours after the procedure. This means not doing anything that will raise your heart rate such as lifting heavy objects, exercising, etc.
Q: Will I be able to drive myself home?
A: Unless you choose to take a relaxant, you should be able to drive yourself to and from your appointment. We are not going to impair your ability to drive.
Q: Will I be able to speak and eat normally after the procedure?A: You should be able to speak normally after the anesthetic has worn off. It is best to wait until the anesthesia has worn off after surgery before eating. If you have trouble chewing, soft foods are recommended. Resume your normal diet as soon as possible; however, it is recommended that you avoid crunchy or spicy foods.
Q: How well does the gingival graft procedure work?
A: A gingival graft is highly predictable. The result is a healthy, stable band of attached gum tissue, which reseals and protects the tooth and underlying bone.