Soft tissue grafting is often used to correct gum recession. The leading causes of gum recession include periodontal disease, trauma, aging, over brushing and poor tooth positioning. Left uncorrected, this can lead to root exposure and eventual loss of teeth.
The main goals of soft tissue grafting are to cover the exposed root or to thicken the existing gum tissue in order to halt further tissue loss.
Benefits of soft tissue grafting
- Increased comfort – Root exposure can cause substantial pain and discomfort. Eating hot, cold or even warm foods can cause severe discomfort. Soft tissue grafts cover the exposed root, decrease sensitivity and restore good health to the gum area.
- Improved aesthetics – Gum recession due to periodontal disease can cause the smile to look “toothy” or the teeth to appear uneven in size. Soft tissue grafting can be used as a cosmetic procedure to augment the gums, and make the smile appear more symmetrical.
- Improved gum health – Periodontal disease is a progressive condition that can destroy soft tissue very rapidly. When used in combination with deep cleaning procedures, soft tissue grafting can halt tissue and bone loss, and protect exposed roots from further complications.
Types of common soft tissue grafts
- Free gingival graft – A strip of tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and stitched to the grafting site in order to promote natural growth. This type of graft is most commonly used for thickening existing tissue.
- Connective tissue graft – For larger areas or root exposure, subepithelial tissue is needed to remedy the problem. This subepithelial connective tissue is removed from a small flap in the mouth and sutured to the grafting site. This is the most common treatment for root exposure.
- Soft tissue grafting with dental implants – We will often perform soft tissue grafting around dental implants to develop an attached area of healthy tissue that can withstand the stresses of chewing and brushing. The procedure not only strengthens the gum but provides a more natural appearance around dental implant crowns.
The soft tissue grafting treatment procedure
We will generally perform the grafting procedure under IV sedation or local anesthetic, but this will depend on the size of the area or areas receiving grafts.
We may elect to apply platelet rich plasma (PRP) to the site before suturing to stimulate natural tissue growth and promote good healing. In addition, we may add tissue-stimulating proteins to encourage quicker tissue growth. We then suture the area to prevent shifting and place surgical material to protect it. Gum uniformity and substantial healing will take place in the first six weeks after the procedure.