If the roots of your teeth are exposed due to advanced periodontal disease, professional deep cleaning can help tissue reattach to the teeth. However, once gum tissue is lost, it will not regrow. When it gum recession is severe enough to expose the roots of your teeth, a gum graft may be needed.
When facing periodontal disease and potential gum surgery, you want an experienced periodontist who specializes in treating gums. Dr. Mike Norouzinia at Metropolitan Dental Care is a board-certified periodontist and member of the American Academy of Periodontology. With his advanced training, education, and experience, he is the doctor to trust for a variety of periodontal issues in the Denver area.
In this article, we will discuss gum surgery and tips for a quick recovery following gum graft surgery.
What is gum graft surgery, and why would I need it?
Healthy gums are vital for healthy teeth. Gum tissue protects your teeth and affects the aesthetics of your smile. When gums recede, whether from periodontal disease or another problem, pockets form around the teeth. Eventually, tooth roots become exposed. This leads to more problems, such as advanced gum disease, decay, sensitivity, and tooth loss.
A myriad of issues can cause receding gums. The most common cause is periodontal (gum) disease. Interestingly, gum recession can also cause gum disease, as the space between the teeth and gums allows more disease-causing bacteria under the gum line. Without treatment, this becomes a vicious cycle in which each issue worsens the other.
Other common causes of gum recession include genetics, misaligned teeth, certain medications, age, hormones, and injury. No matter what the cause, however, recession causes or worsens gum disease, which in turn worsens the recession.
Gum recession is a problem that needs fixing. Often, the necessary fix is surgical. Without treatment, the risks of decay, destruction of bone, and tooth loss increase.
If periodontal disease or gum recession is affecting your health or life, our Denver dentists can help. A gum graft improves oral health, protects your teeth, decreases sensitivity, and improves the appearance of your smile.
What to Expect with Gum Graft Surgery
At Metro Dental, we offer three treatment options for gum graft surgery: connective tissue grafts, free gingival grafts, and pedicle grafts. The type of gum graft you receive depends on several factors. Dr. Norouzinia will perform a thorough exam and discuss your options with you.
On the day of your surgery, the periodontist uses local anesthetics for patient comfort. Tissue is either harvested from the roof of your mouth or purchased from a tissue bank. The tissue will be placed in the appropriate areas and stitched into place.
Most patients find healing takes approximately two weeks or less. Read below for some tips on how to improve comfort and promote faster recovery after gum graft surgery.
Apply Ice After Surgery
Ice is very helpful after gum graft surgery. This is especially true the day of and the day after surgery.
The cold reduces inflammation, which helps reduce pain. It also decreases sensitivity to the nerve endings, which helps numb the surgical area. In addition, ice slows the metabolism of cells, so less oxygen is needed.
When applied to your face where the surgery occurred, ice provides relief and reduces swelling. For the first 24 hours, you should apply ice every couple of hours. Keep ice on the area for 20 minutes at a time, and ice frequently within the first 24-48 hours.
However, keep in mind—icing too much or for too long can do more harm than good. Because the cold constricts blood vessels, it reduces blood flow to the injured area. This can slow the healing process. Therefore, it is important to allow the tissues a chance to return to normal body temperature before returning ice to the surgical site.
Post-Surgical Pain Medication
After surgery, your gums will be tender and sore.
Most of the time, over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Motrin offer enough relief. It is best to take these around the clock through at least the day after surgery. This helps you stay on top of the pain. However, some patients require their use for longer.
Some situations require the use of narcotic pain medications. This depends on the extent of surgery and the pain tolerance of each patient. Keep in mind, most pain medications contain either Tylenol or Motrin, so if you receive a prescription that includes either of these medications, you won’t want to take the over-the-counter equivalent while taking the prescription medication.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
After gum graft surgery, eating and drinking warm and cool things can bring relief. Think pudding, applesauce, shakes, or yogurt for cool. Maybe scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or broth for warm.
However, avoid extreme temperatures. Foods or drinks that are too cold or too hot can be a problem. Not only can extreme temperatures lead to discomfort, but they can also delay healing.
So, if you want soup or broth, don’t go for boiling hot. Avoid ice cream straight from the freezer.
Stock Up For Your Post-Op Diet
A liquid diet is optimal right after oral surgery. Drinking through a straw may allow for more comfortable drinking and is safe to do after a gum graft.
When you feel you are ready to advance past liquids, soft foods are best. This prevents hard pieces of food from irritating the surgical site or getting stuck in any sutures that may be visible.
Before your gum surgery, stock up on soup, low-acid juices, and ingredients for shakes. Also, be sure to have plenty of soft foods, such as yogurt, pudding, cottage cheese, eggs, and thicker soups.
Introduce solid foods as comfort allows, or as your post-operative instructions recommend.
Keep Up With Oral Hygiene
While a soft toothbrush is best after oral surgery, you do want to maintain your normal brushing and flossing routine.
If you want to use mouthwash, alcohol-free is best to avoid potentially burning the surgical area.
If given a prescription mouthwash, be sure to use it as directed to avoid infection and promote healing.
Avoid Alcohol or Tobacco
Alcohol thins the blood, so you will want to avoid it for at least a couple of days after surgery.
Tobacco causes constriction of blood vessels and interferes with healing. It can also harden gum tissue and contribute to long-term damage and further gum recession, which would negate the positive effects of your gum graft procedure.
It is best to avoid tobacco altogether after surgery. Consider this an opportunity to quit altogether, which will improve your overall health and wellbeing. However, if you are unable to quit, refrain from using tobacco for at least the first week to 10 days to allow the surgical site time to heal.
Limit strenuous activity during the first week or so after surgery to give your body time to repair after the procedure. Remember, straining can pop stitches or lead to excess pressure, which can increase swelling and bleeding.
Slowly introduce activity back in as you feel comfortable, or as Dr. Norouzinia recommends in your post-op instructions.
Contact our Denver Practice for Gum Graft Recovery Questions
Following surgery, be sure to contact our office for excessive pain or bleeding or if other unusual symptoms occur.
If you have questions regarding an upcoming or recently performed surgery, you can contact our practice to speak directly with a member of our team.
If you are in the Denver area and have receding gums, contact our office online today to schedule a consultation or call us at (303) 534-2626 to speak with a staff member.