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Soft Tissue Grafting

Dr. Angie Lee or a periodontist may recommend a gum graft to protect your teeth from the damaging effects of gum recession. Gum grafts are also used to treat cosmetic damage and improve your smile.

Gum disease is a problem that affects around 12% of adults and often goes unnoticed until the gum disease is more severe. Often when gum disease progresses, the tissue that surrounds the teeth pulls away from a tooth, exposing more of the tooth or the tooth's root. This is known as gum recession and can cause damage to supporting bone.

Since gum recession is a gradual process, it often goes unnoticed. As teeth become exposed, however, tooth sensitivity can develop. Tooth sensitivity can come become more promenient especially when eating cold or hot foods. Eventually, gum recession, if not treated, can cause tooth loss. To repair the damage and prevent further dental problems, a gum tissue graft may be needed. A gum graft may also be recommended simply to change an unwanted look to your smile.

What to expect

Three different types of gum tissue grafts are typically performed. The gum graft your periodontist will recommend will be based on your specific needs.

The graft procedures include:

  • Connective-tissue grafts: This is the most common gum graft used to treat root exposure. A flap of skin is cut at the roof of your mouth and tissue from under the flap (subepithelial connective tissue), is removed. Once the connective tissue has been removed, the palatal flap is stitched back down. The connective tissue is then stitched to the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root.
  • Gingival grafts: This is similar to a connective-tissue graft in that tissue is used from the roof of the mouth. However, instead of making a flap and removing tissue under the top layer of your flesh, a small amount of tissue is removed directly from the roof of the mouth and then attached to the affected gum area. This method may be recommended for individuals who have thin gums and need additional tissue to enlarge the gums.
  • Pedicle grafts: This procedure uses tissue grafted from gum around or near the tooth needing repair. A flap, called a pedicle, is only partially cut away so that one edge remains attached. The gum is then pulled over or down to cover the exposed root and sewn into place. This procedure is only recommended for individuals who have plenty of gum tissue near the tooth.

Often, graft material from a tissue bank can be used instead of from the roof of your mouth or neighboring gum area. Sometimes, tissue-stimulating proteins are used to encourage your body's natural ability to grow bone and tissue. Dr. Angie Lee can tell you which method she recommends based on your individual circumstances.