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Everything You Need to Know About Gum Grafting for a Dazzling Smile

If you’ve been advised that you need a gum graft you may be wondering what it is, what the procedure involves and what it costs. Gum surgery can sound a little daunting but there’s no need to worry.

Gum grafting is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to restore the amount of gum tissue around the root surface of your teeth. Discover everything you need to know about gum grafting below.

gum grafting

What Is A Gum Graft & Why Are They Performed?

Gum grafting is a surgical procedure in which a piece of healthy gum tissue is taken from one area of the mouth and grafted onto another area where there is a lack of tissue. This is often done to cover exposed tooth roots, occurring as a result of gum recession. 

Receding gums can occur for a variety of reasons, including periodontal disease, trauma and smoking. It can even be caused by aggressive tooth brushing and some people are genetically predisposed to fragile thin gums that recede more easily. 

The goal of gum grafting is to protect the roots of the teeth from damage, improve the appearance of the gums and prevent sensitivity (a common side effect of gum recession).

Types Of Gum Graft

There are several types of gum grafting procedures, including:

  • Connective tissue graft: This procedure involves creating a flap in the roof of your mouth and taking a small piece of tissue and attaching it to the area of the gumline that needs to be repaired.
  • Free gingival graft: A small piece of tissue is taken from your palate and attached directly to the area of the gumline that needs to be repaired, without the use of a connective tissue layer.
  • Pedicle graft: A small strip of tissue from the adjacent gums is stretched to cover the exposed root.
  • Pinhole surgery: (or Pinhole Surgical Technique), is a minimally invasive procedure where a small hole is made in the gum tissue using a special instrument called a “pinhole surgical instrument.” The gum tissue is then gently loosened and repositioned over the exposed root, using the pinhole as a guide. Collagen strips or a special gel may be placed to help the gums heal in their new position.

It is possible in some cases to use gum tissue donated from another human, a tissue bank or an animal (usually a cow). Synthetic materials can also be used. 

Who’s A Candidate for Gum Grafting?

Gum grafting is typically recommended for individuals who have significant gum recession that is causing problems such as tooth sensitivity, increased risk of tooth decay and periodontal disease, or an aesthetically unpleasing appearance such as black triangles.

How Common Are They?

Gum grafts are one of the most common periodontal surgical procedures performed in the U.S. According to a survey back in 2005/06 periodontists perform on average over 100 of these procedures per year. [1].

How To Prepare for Surgery

Preparing for a gum graft procedure can involve the following steps:

  • Consultation: Your dentist or periodontist will examine your gums and teeth to determine if a gum graft is the best treatment option for you. They will take a medical history and also explain the procedure, the expected results, and any potential risks or complications.
  • X-rays, 3D scans and photographs: These are taken to help plan the procedure and monitor progress.
  • Pre-procedure instructions: Specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure will be provided. They will include things like any medications you should take or avoid, and what to eat or drink before the procedure.
  • Arrangements for aftercare: Make sure to arrange for someone to drive you home and stay with you for the first night after the procedure if necessary, as you might be feeling groggy from the anaesthesia and need some assistance.


What Happens During Gum Grafting Surgery?

The specific steps of the procedure may vary depending on the type of gum graft being performed, but in general, it involves the following:

  • Anesthesia: The area being treated will be numbed with a local anesthetic, to make the procedure painless.
  • Tissue harvesting: A small piece of tissue will be taken from the roof of your mouth (palate) or another donor site, depending on the type of gum graft being performed.
  • Graft preparation: The tissue will be prepared for transplantation by shaping it to fit the area of the gumline being repaired.
  • Graft placement: The prepared tissue will be placed over the area and sutured to hold the tissue in place. 

What Happens After Surgery?

Recovering from a gum graft procedure typically involves a few weeks of healing and a few follow-up appointments to monitor how you are recovering. 

You may experience some pain and discomfort during the first few days after the procedure. Your dentist or periodontist will provide you with instructions on how to manage this, advise may include taking over-the-counter pain medication or using ice packs.

Some swelling, bruising and bleeding is normal after the procedure. You can use a cold pack to reduce the swelling and apply pressure to the area with a gauze pad to control the bleeding.

The recovery time can vary depending on the type of gum graft procedure and the individual. It can take several weeks to several months for the grafted tissue to fully integrate with the surrounding gum tissue. 

How To Ensure Your Graft Heals

There are a few steps you can take to ensure your graft heals quickly. These include

    • Diet: You will be advised to eat a soft diet for the first few days after the procedure, avoiding hard, crunchy, spicy or hot foods that may irritate the grafted area. Find out more about what you can eat after a gum graft
    • Oral hygiene: You will be advised to keep your mouth clean, and control levels of plaque which may include using a special mouthwash, avoiding smoking, and avoiding brushing or flossing near the grafted area.
    • Medications: You may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection, and pain medication to relieve discomfort.
    • Exercise: It’s normal to refrain from exercise after the procedure. Find out about exercising after your surgery.

Gum Grafting Complications: When to Call the Surgeon

Gum graft surgery is considered a safe procedure, but as with any surgical procedure, there’s a risk of complications. These include:

  • Infection: As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection. Symptoms of infection include redness, swelling, pain, and discharge.
  • Bleeding: Some bleeding is normal after a gum graft procedure, but excessive bleeding or prolonged bleeding can be a complication.
  • Pain and discomfort: Some pain and discomfort is normal after a gum graft procedure, but if the pain is severe or prolonged, it may be a complication.
  • Allergic reactions: There is a risk of an allergic reaction to local anesthesia or other medications used during the procedure.
  • Graft failure: In rare cases, the grafted tissue may not integrate properly with the surrounding gum tissue, leading to graft failure. Your graft may look grey following surgery, but this doesn’t mean your graft has failed – but contact your dentist if you have any concerns. 
  • Unsatisfactory aesthetic results: The final aesthetic result may not be as expected and may require additional treatment or revision.
  • Sinus perforation: In rare cases, the procedure may cause a hole in the sinus cavity.

How Much Does Gum Graft Cost?

The cost of a gum graft can vary depending on several factors such as the location of the practice, the experience of the dentist or periodontist, and the type of gum graft being performed. In the USA, the average cost of a gum graft procedure can range from $600 to $1200 or even more per tooth [4].

It’s important to note that the cost may not be covered by dental insurance. Some plans may cover part of the costs so it is best to check with your insurance provider for more information.

For those in the UK, if deemed clinically necessary a gingival graft may be funded by the NHS [2]. Those is the USA may be able to use tax-free Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts [3].

Financing options are usually available for gum graft procedures meaning that you can spread the payments for your treatment making it more affordable. 

Find out more about the cost of gum grafting.

Will I Need Another Gum Tissue Graft?

It is possible that you may need another graft in the future. If the cause of your original gum recession is not addressed it will come back. 

It’s important to maintain good oral hygiene, remove oral piercings and avoid habits such as smoking that can damage your graft.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Gum Grafting Last?

In general, a gum graft can last for many years. However, longevity can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of gum graft performed, your habits and overall health.

Is Gum Grafting Worth It Benefits – Can It Fail?

Gum grafts can fail but the procedure boasts a high success rate of over 90%. The procedure offers an aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting result that has the added benefit of improving your overall health and reducing sensitivity.  Failure to treat gum recession could result in root decay, cavities and tooth loss.

Are There Any Alternatives? 

Yes, there are some alternative, less invasive treatments that treat gum recession. Alternatives include composite bonding, gingival guards and specialist tubes of toothpaste. Find out more about these gum graft alternatives

Is It A Big Surgery?

No, it is a quick and relatively simple surgery performed under local anaesthetic in the dental office.