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Connective-Tissue Grafts

What is gum recession?

Gum recession is the process in which the tissue that surrounds a tooth pulls away, exposing too much of the tooth or the tooth's root.  Because it is such a gradual process, many people don't even notice that their gums have receded.  However, over time, an exposed tooth root is not only unattractive, but also it can cause tooth sensitivity (especially when eating cold or hot foods) making it more prone to root decay.  Eventually, gum recession, if not properly treated, can cause damage to the supporting bone, resulting in tooth loss.

Why do gums recede, and how can they be repaired?

Gums can recede due to several reasons, including:  periodontal disease; physical trauma (brushing too hard, too often, or with a hard toothbrush); tooth position; and, naturally thin gum tissue.  To repair the damage from gum recession and to prevent further dental problems, a gum or connective-tissue graft may be needed.  A connective-tissue graft is the most commonly-used periodontal procedure for treating root exposure.  Adding more gum tissue with this procedure will:  prevent further gum recession, cover the exposed tooth root, stop tooth/gum sensitivity, and improve the overall look of the tooth/teeth.

What is involved in a connective-tissue graft procedure?

During a connective-tissue graft, a flap of skin is cut in the roof of the mouth (the palate).  The flap forms a "trap door" shape.  Some tissue from under the flap (called subepithelial connective tissue) is removed, and the flap is then closed.  The grafted tissue is then slipped under the gum tissue surrounding the exposed root, after which it is stitched into place.  Sometimes graft material from a tissue bank is used instead of taking tissue from the roof of the mouth.  In this case, tissue-stimulating proteins are used to encourage your body's natural ability to grow bone and tissue. Dr. Quamar will tell you which method will work best for you.

How long does it take to recover from a connective-tissue graft procedure?

You will be able to go home following the procedure, and Dr. Quamar will give you very specific instructions regarding your post-operative care.  While it may take a week or two for your mouth to fully heal, you should be able to return to work or normal activity the day after surgery.

If you've been told that you need such a graft, don't panic.  Gum surgery sounds much worse than it is.  Dr. Quamar is a specialist in connective-tissue grafting, and he is happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this and any other periodontal procedure.

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