What is Gum Grafting?

When recession of the gums occurs (“gingival recession”), the body loses a natural defense against both bacterial penetration and oral trauma. Gum reconstruction as performed by oral & maxillofacial surgeon, Ruben Cohen, DDS, using gum grafting or gingival grafting techniques, becomes an option when a patient suffers from gingival recession. The combination of modern medicine and technology makes most gum grafts rather quick, painless, and minimally invasive.

What are Some Causes of Gum Recession?

These are some of the numerous possible causes for gingival recession which may result in having to undergo gum grafting surgery:

  • Abnormal tooth position, such as tooth crowding, giving inadequate coverage of one or more teeth by the jaw bone
  • Hereditary thin, fragile or insufficient gingival tissue
  • Overaggressive brushing, which causes the enamel at the gum line to be worn away by scrubbing the sides of the teeth in a washboard fashion
  • Periodontal disease
  • Inadequate brushing or flossing, which allows bacteria to build up between the teeth, resulting in enzymes eating the bone away from the teeth
  • Improper flossing
  • Eating disorders, from self-induced vomiting
  • Dipping tobacco, which affects the mucus membrane lining in the mouth and will cause receding gums over time
  • Grinding of the teeth
  • Orthodontic movement of teeth.
  • Piercings in the lip or tongue that wear away the gum by rubbing against it.
  • Sensitivity to detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which are found in most commercial toothpastes
  • Scurvy

What are the Symptoms of Gingival Recession?

The following signs and symptoms may indicate that you have gum recession and may need to undergo gum grafting surgery:

  • Sensitive teeth (teeth become sensitive to hot and cold or to sweet, sour, or spicy foods)
  • Teeth may appear longer than normal (a larger part of the crown is visible if gums are receding)
  • The roots of the tooth are exposed and visible
  • The tooth feels notched at the gum line
  • Change in the tooth’s color
  • Spaces between teeth seem to grow (the space is the same, but it seems larger because the gums do not fill it any more)
  • Cavities below the gum line
  • If the gum recession is caused by gingivitis, the following symptoms may also be present: puffy, red, or swollen (inflamed) gums, gum bleeding while brushing or flossing, and chronic bad breath (halitosis)

If you have any of these symptoms, it is strongly recommended that you schedule a checkup at your earliest availability.

What is the Treatment for Gum Recession?

When a patient only has minor gum recession, some healthy gingiva often remains and protects the tooth. The suggested treatment for your particular gum recession case may only involve modifying some home care. However, in cases where gum recession is more severe, the first line of defense against bacterial penetration is lost, and gum grafting often becomes the only plausible solution.

During a gum graft, a thin piece of tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth, or gently moved over from adjacent areas, to provide a stable band of attached gingiva around the tooth.   Some of our oral surgeon’s patients may choose to use donor skin (Alloderm) instead of having tissue harvested from their palate.  This option has the advantage of being pain free in the palate and having a more comfortable healing time.  The graft is placed over the exposed portion of the root to which it will attach.

Gum Graft1This patient has complaints of excess tooth root exposure and root sensitivity to food. There is severe gum recession on the canine tooth. Gum grafts were planned for the premolar and canine teeth.
Gum Graft2The patient had a gum graft procedure on the premolar and the canine. The roots of both teeth are completely covered and the root sensitivity has disappeared.