What Is The Success Rate Of Gum Grafting? 

Gum grafts are used to reverse gum recession improving the aesthetics, reducing sensitivity and the risk of tooth loss. If you’re considering treatment for your receding gums you’re not alone. 

Receding gums are a common problem. It’s reported to affect about 50% of the adult population aged 18–64 and 88% of those over 65 years (1). 

This post aims to answer the question many people ask who are considering treatment – what is the success rate of gum grafting? 

what is the success rate of gum grafting

What Is A Gum Graft and What Does It Do?

Gum grafts are an advanced dental treatment, carried out by periodontists. The aim of this restorative treatment is to cover exposed tooth roots with new gum tissue from your palate, donor or using biomaterial (AlloDermâ). 

The grafted tissue increases the coverage of tooth roots and/or thickens existing gum tissue to reduce the likelihood of future gum recession. This has the benefit of reducing the risk of gum disease, root decay and sensitivity. It also improves the appearance of your smile. 

Gum grafts may be required when 

  • The recession is worsening
  • The area is difficult to clean, chronically inflamed or highly sensitive
  • The recession is aesthetically unpleasing to the patient

Grafting Techniques

Several techniques have been used over the years. Techniques routinely used by periodontists today include 

  • Free gingival grafts 
  • Connective tissue grafts 
  • Pinhole surgery

Do All Gum Grafts Succeed? 

Root coverage is a successful and predictable procedure (2). As is the case with most surgical techniques there’s a risk of complications and failure.

What Is The Success Rate of Gum Grafting?

There are many different gum grafting procedures and techniques and the reported success rates vary.  

  • Available literature indicates that free gingival graft (FGG) is a reliable procedure for root coverage with a success rate ranging from 76 to 95.5% (4)
  • Connective Tissue Grafts (CTG) – One study reported that the average root cover was 98.4% after 27.5 months. The study concluded that it is an effective way of covering tooth roots (5). 
  • According to the Canadian dental association, failure happens in less than 2% of cases (3) – they perform a mixture of FGG and CTG.

Generally, there is a high success rate and full root coverage is achieved when gum tissue remains between the teeth. 

How Long Will A Gum Graft Last?

The long-term stability of gum grafts isn’t well documented.  Just like the success rate, there will be many factors that affect the length of time a gum graft lasts and the factors that led to your original gum recession may also affect how long gum grafts last.  

One long-term study demonstrated that 83% of sites receiving free gingival graft maintained a reduction in recession for up to 35 years (6). However, older studies suggest gum grafts lasted at least 4 years. 

Why Are Some Gum Grafts Unsuccessful? 

Gum grafting is a sensitive technique. 

The complexity of your case is a big factor in how successful the surgery may be. Those requiring treatment in a single area or experiencing mild gum recession will have a greater chance of success.

The success of the procedure can be adversely affected by many factors (3). These are discussed below. 

Surgical Issues 

Surgical issues that can lead to the failure of treatment failure include

  • Undiagnosed bone loss
  • Post-surgical infection 
  • Poor planning and/or surgical errors

Patient-Specific Problems

Some patient-specific factors affect the success of the procedure. These include

  • Your health – conditions including poorly controlled diabetes and immune-compromised conditions can adversely affect healing and may impair the results of root-coverage procedures. 
  • How your body responds to the graft
  • Poor oral hygiene – failure to disrupt plaque-bacteria twice a day or aggressive brushing
  • Poor compliance with aftercare instructions
  • Your expectations for the procedure
  • Smoking prevents wound healing and increases the risk of inflammation and gum recession
  • Significant trauma (blow to the face, direct injury to the site with utensil/toothbrush) to the treated area within the first 24-48 hours

The Cause of Gum Recession Can Lead to Graft Failure

If the cause of your receding gums is not treated or controlled it may lead to graft failure. There are many causes of receding gums. Causes include

  • Aggressive tooth brushing
  • Oral piercings
  • Gum disease – if you have advanced gum disease you may require a bone graft prior to your soft tissue graft. Insufficient bone is a cause of graft failure. 
  • Tooth grinding (Bruxism)  
  • Mispositioned teeth 

Smoking and uncontrolled diabetes increase the risk of gum disease, gum recession and graft failure occurring. 

Signs & Symptoms of Graft Failure

After a gum graft, the treatment site will be covered with a surgical dressing or covering. This protects the area during the healing process. 

How successful the graft is, depends on the gum tissues around the affected area grafting with the newly grafted tissue and supplying it with blood and nutrition. If this fails to happen the grafted tissue dies and the gum graft is unsuccessful. It would also be unsuccessful if a periodontal pocket formed.  

Signs that suggest your gum graft has been unsuccessful include 

  • Surgical dressing falls off
  • Redness of surgical (recipient) site or graft tissue sloughing
  • Root reexposure 

If the graft is failing you may experience pain, described as a constant dull ache or sharper pain when chewing or speaking. Although, these symptoms do not mean that your graft is failing. 

If you experience any of the signs and symptoms you should contact your dentist or periodontist as soon as possible.

What Happens If The Gum Graft Is Unsuccessful?

If your gum graft has failed you may have the option to have a second procedure or you can look at alternative solutions. 

If you wish to repeat graft surgery you need to wait 3 months for the tissues to heal and mature properly. This is so that you get the most optimal result. It may be prudent to seek a second opinion on whether a reattempt would be in your best interest.

If several procedures fail a build-up of excessive scar tissue may prevent further attempts. 

What Can You Do To Prevent Graft Failure?

The best way to ensure your gum graft succeeds is to follow the aftercare instruction provided by your periodontist. Any factors contributing to soft tissue loss should be addressed prior to surgery. 

  • Mouthguards – worn overnight for bruxism
  • Misaligned teeth can be repositioned
  • Stop smoking – tobacco is one of the leading causes of gum disease and receding gums
  • Eat a healthy diet full of micronutrients
  • Reduce the frequency of sugar and starches

Knowledge is power where beating gum disease is concerned. Gum Disease: Solved online education tool arms you with the information to understand why you have gum disease and how you can beat it in only 10 minutes per day at home, without the need for costly and ineffective dental visits.

Beat Gum Disease Now

References Used In ‘What Is the Success Rate of Gum Grafting?’

  1. https://www.cda.org/Portals/0/journal/journal_102018.pdf
  2. https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1902/jop.2005.76.9.1588
  3. https://jcda.ca/article/e17
  4. (PDF) Free Gingival Graft: A Surgical Boon for Receding Gums.
  5. http://www.ctperio.com/images/Harris_CT_graft.pdf
  6. Periodontal Conditions of Sites Treated With Gingival Augmentation Surgery Compared With Untreated Contralateral Homologous Site
Gareth Edwards image

Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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