Soft Tissue Grafting

Soft Tissue Grafting at Mint Dentistry

Soft tissue grafting refers to a conservative and irreversible treatment involving the augmentation of the gums around teeth whose roots have become exposed due to gum recession.

Your dentist may recommend this procedure if aging, periodontal disease, trauma, poor tooth positioning, or even over-brushing cause your gums to pull away from the teeth and exposing the tooth-root.

Tooth root exposure increases sensitivity that makes it uncomfortable to consume hot and cold foods and drinks. Moreover, it increases the risk of decay, and alters the aesthetic appearance of your smile.

The Procedure

Soft tissue grafting typically addresses these concerns by either:

  • Covering the exposed tooth-root or
  • Thickening the remaining gum tissue to prevent further tissue loss

To achieve either of these objectives, the site needs to be prepared, soft tissue obtained, and the tissue stitched to the site. The typical procedure includes:

  1. Deep cleaning both above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and roots
  2. Local anesthetic administered before grafting commences
  3. A small incision made at the recipient (affected) site to create a pocket
  4. A split thickness incision - where the graft material will be enclosed – is made inside the pocket
  5. Donor tissue placed between the two sections
  6. Platelet rich growth factors and tissue-stimulating proteins may be applied to the site before suturing to stimulate natural tissue growth and encourage quick and good healing
  7. Wound site sutured to inhibit shifting. Surgical material is placed to manage sensitivity in the area
  8. Most healing occurs in the first six weeks after the procedure

Once the site is ready, your dentist may use one of the following soft tissue grafting techniques:

  1. Free Gingival Graft

    The dentist removes a strip of tissue directly from the palate – roof of the mouth – and then stitches it to the grafting area to induce natural growth. This procedure is mostly used to thicken existing gum tissue in small area.

  2. Connective Tissue Graft

    This procedure requires the dentist to extract a small piece of tissue from the palate – underneath the epithelium in the roof of your mouth – and then place it at the recipient site – area to be grafted.

    Once the subepithelial tissue is removed from the palate, the superficial layer is sutured back into place. The “donor” tissue is in turn tucked under the existing gum tissue – at the site - and then stitched into place.

    Some level of discomfort is common, with many patients comparing it to a “pizza burn.” So you will need to wear a palatal stent for comfort. This treatment is recommended for larger areas than with free gingival graft.

  3. Allograft

    The procedure is similar to that of connective tissue grafts, except that there is only one surgical site – at the damaged gum tissue. The graft tissue is not removed from your palate. Instead, the dentist obtains it from processed human tissue – that has been donated – to remove all cells and eliminate the risk of disease transmission.

    This technique has been used for years in periodontal treatment modalities owing to its safety and efficacy. The absence of cells allows your own cells to populate the allograft and grow.

    Since there’s no shortage of graft material, allografts are commonly used to treat a large area of receding gums in a single session, as compared to connective tissue grafts whose area of treatment is limited to the size of tissue extracted from the palate.

    In fact, patients with severe cases of recession can obtain full mouth allografts in a single treatment session.

  4. Pedicle graft

    This is a unique procedure whereby the dentist partially cuts away a flap of tissue and moves it sideways to cover both the adjacent gum and the exposed root. Since blood vessels in the tissue graft are intact, the treated area recovers much faster that with other techniques.

Benefits of soft tissue grafting

With a range of techniques available depending on your specific case, as well as new dental technologies that make the treatment less intrusive and more predictable, patients stand to benefit greatly from the procedure. Upon a successful soft tissue grafting procedure, you can enjoy:

  • Improved health of your gums – Tissue grafting can help to counteract the effect of advanced gum disease. Your dentist can recommend a combination of deep cleaning and soft grafting to stop further tissue and bone loss associated with periodontal disease, and protect the exposed roots from acid and bacteria attack that may lead to further complications.
  • Increased comfort – Exposure of the tooth-root can make it uncomfortable and even painful to consume hot and cold foods. Covering the exposed root with soft tissue grafts will treat the sensitivity and allow you to maintain a healthy diet of the foods you like.
  • Improved smile – Receding gums can make your smile appear “toothy”, or cause your teeth to look uneven in size. When used as a cosmetic treatment, soft tissue grafting can help to re-augment the gums so your smile looks more symmetrical.

Is soft tissue grafting right for me?

Soft tissue grafting can be used to bind a moveable gingival margin (floppy gums around the teeth) that collects plaque, makes it difficult to maintain oral hygiene, and increases the risk of gum recession. Your dentist can also recommend it to address root sensitivity from exposed roots, a toothy smile due to gum recession, progression recession, or simply to thicken gum tissue to prevent root surface decay.

You should discuss the benefits with your dentist to determine whether a soft tissue graft will solve your dental problem.

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