Soft tissue grafting — also called “gum grafting” — is a specialized type of dental procedure that’s used in less frequent oral rehabilitation cases.


What is Soft Tissue Grafting?


Gum grafting is a type of treatment where we use gingival (gum) tissue to cover the exposed root surface of a tooth. Since gingival tissues are essential for protecting tooth integrity and underlying bone structure, excessive gum loss can lead to serious side effects. Placing a graft will help to preserve the current state of your bite’s integrity and aesthetics.


Why Are My Gums Receding? 


Receding gumlines (or being “long in the tooth”) aren’t a sure sign of aging. Rather, they’re a side-effect of common conditions like:


  • Misaligned teeth
  • Aggressive tooth brushing
  • Bruxism (clenching and grinding)
  • Trauma
  • Periodontal disease
  • Tobacco use


Why Did My Dentist Suggest a Gum Graft? 


Our Long Island dentists may suggest a gum graft if you’re at risk for tooth loss, decay, or sensitivity. Grafts are also paired with oral surgeries involving dental implants or cleft repair. Since your gingival tissues are an important protective layer around your smile, not having enough gum tissue can cause your bite’s integrity to fail. Depending on the extent of your gum loss or surgical needs, a graft may be the only standard of care.


Can Gum Grafting Treat Recession?


Yes. Gum recession occurs when the gingival tissues gradually begin to creep back or pull away from a tooth. Assuming that any active infections (such as periodontitis or decay) have been treated, a graft can cover the recessed area to reverse the appearance of tooth exposure.


Is There Such a Thing as Cosmetic Grafting?


Yes. Cosmetic gum grafting is useful when too much tooth is exposed and it detracts from the appearance of your smile. However, even though there are cosmetic benefits, the procedure itself is still recognized as an essential therapeutic treatment. Typically, the opposite is true, where we have to reduce the height of your gums to expose a larger surface area.


Examples of When a Graft is Required


Your teeth require enough structural support to hold them in place. This reinforcement comes from both bone and gum tissues. So grafting is a necessity if we’re managing instances of severe periodontal disease that put you at an added risk for bone loss.


Gingival grafting is also an integral part of many dental implant treatments, oral surgeries, and full mouth rehabilitation cases. The grafting itself is often a key component in the success of other adjunctive therapies.


Who is Qualified to Perform a Soft Tissue Graft?


Sachem Dental Group can provide onsite soft tissue grafting as opposed to referring patients to an offsite periodontal specialist or oral surgeon. The multi-specialty services that we offer are backed by over 35 years of patient care experience for the highest quality of care. Our network of providers will facilitate the best treatment by working alongside one another as necessary.


How to Care for Your Graft


To ensure the success of your soft tissue graft, treat the area with extreme care. Aggressive brushing, stiff/hard toothbrushes, or harsh mouth rinses could delay healing or cause the graft to fail altogether. For the tissue to fully integrate with the surrounding gingiva, you must treat it with a very delicate hand. Extra soft toothbrushing near the tooth and a gentle antimicrobial mouth rinse will help to prevent any infection or failure of the graft itself.


Types of Gingival Grafting 


Gingival grafting requires an unattached tissue sample, which is then placed over the tooth and connects with the gum tissues immediately surrounding it. Depending on your needs and health history, there are a few common types of soft tissue grafts that can be utilized. Free gingival grafts and connective tissue grafts include steps where we remove a section of tissue from elsewhere in your mouth (such as the palate.) Pedicle grafts use gum tissues adjacent to the treated tooth; these grafts are only partially retracted rather than fully transplanted. And finally, there is an FDA-approved allograft procedure where we use other dermal matrix tissue, similar to what’s used for burn victims in hospitals.


Recovery After a Graft


It’s fairly common to experience anything from lingering numbness to some mild irritation for a couple of weeks after your graft is placed. Much of your recovery will depend on the type of graft you’re getting, as some are essentially pain-free and completely non-invasive. Others are less comfortable. Our Long Island dentists will discuss the pros and cons of each to help you decide what you’re most comfortable with.


Fortunately, gum tissues are highly vascular and tend to recover quite quickly after surgeries. In most cases, we’ll see oral surgery or gum grafting patients fully recover within about two weeks of their procedure. Again, this is dependent upon the type of graft that you receive.


Alternatives to Soft Tissue Grafting


The most common alternative to a gum graft is not placing a graft at all. However, this scenario extends the duration of tooth exposure, which can contribute to hypersensitivity, mobility, decay, and ultimately tooth loss. As you might guess, this scenario is not recommended unless the receded area is minimal.


Another alternative to gum grafting is what some people call “pinhole” surgery. This specialized periodontal technique that some gum experts use to lift and stretch surrounding gingival tissue and pull it over the area of the tooth that is exposed. As you might guess, there are specific requirements that must be met. It’s a slightly less invasive form of the previously mentioned “allograft” technique.


Gentle Soft Tissue Treatment | Long Island


As a multi-specialty general dentistry clinic, Sachem Dental Group facilitates a wide range of therapies not traditionally found within a family practice setting. Our skilled providers streamline your oral health therapies in a comfortable atmosphere that makes care easier to access. If you suspect that you need a gum graft or want a second opinion regarding soft tissue grafting, contact us to request a consultation. We’re happy to answer your questions and put your mind at ease!