When finding out you have an oral issue like receding gums, you may feel shocked! After all, you regularly brush your teeth and haven't noticed any severe pain in your day-to-day. Still, it's a common ailment that can occur because of a wide range of factors, many out of your control. Because gum tissue can't regrow itself, the only remedy is gum graft surgery. Yet, you may want to avoid treatment because of the fear of gum graft pain. That is understandable, as you're probably confident in the consistent care you've given to your teeth and gums. But if your dentist recommends a gum graft to you, it's essential to understand that it might not be due to a problem with your oral care or health. What's important is to become familiar with the surgery and plan with your dentist how to mitigate pain during and after the procedure, so you feel confident and prepared!
Gum Graft Pain: What To Expect & How To Relieve Pain
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
Risk Factors for Gum Recession
Inadequate oral hygiene, hormone changes, diabetes, and other illnesses can increase your gum disease risk, leading to gum recession. Although many people who have receding gums develop them due to periodontal disease, recession can also occur because of your family history or genes. For example, did you know that some people naturally have weaker gum tissue than others? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports another leading risk factor. They state that smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease than nonsmokers. Most tobacco products can increase your risk in this way. So gum recession is another reason to kick the habit!
Other risk factors for gum recession include an aggressive or improper brushing technique, extreme force put on your teeth from grinding or clenching, and the unusual pressure brought on by misaligned teeth. Also, keep in mind, tongue and lip piercings can rub and irritate your gums, wearing the tissue away.
Why Gum Grafts Are Important
Gum grafts are for stopping the process of gum recession and bone loss. They can also reduce tooth sensitivity, protect your roots from decay, and give you a more even gumline. After your gum tissue has receded, most people find the color difference between their roots and tooth enamel noticeable. Root surfaces are also softer than enamel, so when they aren't protected by gum tissue, they are at risk of root decay. Unless gum grafting occurs, the recession can get worse, leading to the possibility of tooth loss. Let's dive into what you can expect from your gum graft and aftercare tips to make it as painless as possible!
Types of Gum Grafts
Usually, a periodontist will do your gum graft. This is a dentist who treats gum conditions and the bone that supports them.
Depending on your situation, your dentist may perform one of the following three grafts:
- Connective tissue graft. This is the most common type of graft, and it's usually done for many areas of recession. Your dentist will take underlying connective tissue from a flap made on the roof of your mouth and then stitch it over the exposed roots.
- Free gingival graft. Suppose you have fragile gum tissue that needs reinforcing. In that case, your dentist may take a small piece of tissue from your palate and attach it to the existing gum tissue around your tooth. Your dentist may use freeze-dried human tissue from another source to avoid two surgical sites or when they need a large amount of tissue.
- Pedicle graft. This procedure uses gum tissue next to the exposed roots. It is only possible if the tissue is thick and healthy. Your dentist will cut a small piece of healthy tissue away, then rotates and then stitches it into position over the roots.
Depending on your situation, you may need an alternative procedure to a gum graft or another type alongside it. These include regeneration, scaling and root planing, and gum contouring.
Pain Management During Gum Grafting
Whether you need a graft for one tooth or multiple, your dentist will keep you pain-free during the grafting procedure by numbing the surgical areas with a local anesthetic. After the surgery is complete, they will place a dressing over the grafting site to protect it during the healing period. However, once you are home and the anesthesia has worn off, you will experience some discomfort and swelling for a few days. But you won't be alone here. Your dentist will prescribe you pain medication for any pain after a gum graft and possibly an antibiotic to prevent infection.
Pain Management After Gum Grafting
To keep gum graft surgery pain to a minimum, and avoid unnecessary complications, follow these after-surgery instructions.
- For bleeding, place gauze on either side of the surgery site but not on top of it.
- Avoid physical activities for the first 24 hours after surgery.
- Avoid pulling your lips to view the wound. Keep your tongue away from the area, and don't remove the dressing.
- Stay away from hot foods and drinks for a couple of days and stick to soft foods and liquids for the first week. As you return to a regular diet, be careful when chewing near the site.
- Don't brush or rinse your mouth the day of the surgery.
- Swish with a mouth rinse after the first 24 hours post-surgery to kill bacteria.
- When you return to brushing your teeth, don't brush near the grafting area for one month. After this period, use gentle movements with a very soft toothbrush.
Gum Graft Recovery and Healing
Another fact that will help put your mind at ease is that the recovery process after a gum graft is usually short. It's common to have some soreness in the surgical area for a day or so afterward. But you'll most likely feel well enough to return to your usual activities a few days after surgery. Still, you'll need to pay close attention to what you eat. Soft foods, such as mashed vegetables and pudding, are usually the way to go. So as not to irritate or inflame the healing graft but still keep your mouth clean, your dentist or periodontist might prescribe a special mouth rinse. This rinse will help kill bacteria while you wait to resume your regular brushing and flossing (also known as interdental cleaning) regimen.
Your dental professional may be the first to notice an area of gum recession while examining your teeth. It's one more reason to be diligent about scheduling your regular examination and cleaning appointments. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist about a mouthguard to help break the habit and discuss tooth-straightening options for any misaligned teeth. Ultimately, keeping watch for the early signs of gum disease will help you catch the infection before it requires professional care. Early symptoms include swollen gums that bleed easily and persistent bad breath.
Preventing gum recession is much easier and less costly than treatment for receding gums. So, if you've lacked a home care routine or missed a recent dental appointment, it's time to get going! And call your dentist at the first sign of periodontal trouble. If you receive a gum recession diagnosis and are afraid of gum graft pain, don't feel bad. Have a conversation with your dentist about how they will mitigate your pain during and after surgery. Having a plan and being confident in your healthier and more attractive post-surgery smile will help this procedure go smoothly!
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.