Gum recession is one of those problems that start out slow and small. You might not even notice it right away until you experience tooth sensitivity, notice that your teeth appear longer, or worse, see the roots of your teeth. The sooner you see a periodontist in Oakville, the higher your chances of getting it treated.
Gum grafting is the best way to treat gum recession and keep your gums healthy. But somewhere between finding out its long-term benefits and how long the affected area heals, you may start to have second thoughts. After all, gum grafting is a surgical procedure. And like all surgeries, there is a recovery period to allow the gums to heal.
Your periodontist may have already told you that it takes about 4 to 6, or even 8 weeks for a gum graft to heal. But are you wondering why it takes this long? What happens during every day or week that you’re recovering?
Good news: we have the answers for you. In this article, our periodontists talk about the stages of healing from a gum graft, and what you can do to manage post-op symptoms to ensure a successful surgery.
How is gum grafting performed?
Before we go into the recovery process, let’s quickly go over the gum grafting procedure. First, your periodontist will recommend a type of graft based on your specific needs and how healthy the soft tissues in your mouth are.
Types of Gum Grafts
You may receive either a connective tissue, free gingival, or pedicle graft. They vary based on where the tissue was taken from—whether the surface of the roof of the mouth or tissue underneath it, or gum tissue adjacent to the treatment area. Alternatively, your periodontist may recommend using donor tissue from a tissue bank if the soft tissues in your mouth are too thin, or if you need multiple gum grafts.
The Gum Grafting Process
On the day of your gum grafting surgery, your periodontist will administer local anesthesia to numb the treatment area. Then, they will cut a piece of tissue from the roof of the mouth or the adjacent gums for the graft.
Before grafting it onto the affected area, your periodontist may also lift existing gums to clean the root of a tooth. Finally, they will place the graft and suture it in place. When you get home, you will need to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash and avoid brushing the area.
The Stages of Healing After Gum Grafting
The gum grafting procedure heals in two stages. These involve the healing of the donor site where the graft was taken, and the gum graft itself. During the two stages, both sites need to heal properly in order for your gum grafting to be successful.
1. Gum graft healing
The first stage of healing involves the gum graft. You will know that the graft is healing when the swelling subsides and the soft tissues are shrinking. Your gum tissue will begin binding to the root surface and bone. Then, new blood vessels will begin to form to enable blood flow to the graft. This stage takes four to six weeks from surgery.
2. Donor site healing
Did you know that the donor site takes longer to heal than the graft itself? So, try not to worry if the roof of the mouth takes about six to eight weeks to heal. During the first few days up to the next 14 days, you may experience some discomfort where the tissue was harvested from. In some cases, recovery can take more than two months due to swelling or exposed bone.
What to Do During Recovery from Gum Grafting
Your periodontist’s skills and experience is a major factor in the success of gum grafting. But, the other factor is you and what you do during recovery. By following your periodontist’s post-op instructions, you can manage discomfort and avoid complications so your gum graft heals properly.
Here are some things you can do at home to make recovery smooth and fast:
1. Pain meds
You can take painkillers if you feel discomfort or pain after the surgery. Your periodontist can also give you a pre-op dose to keep you as comfortable as possible between the time after surgery and before your prescription is filled. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t drive or drink alcohol when taking pain medications.
Your periodontist may prescribe antibiotics to control infection. This may also be recommended if your graft was taken from donor tissue.
Like in any surgery, swelling is a normal side effect. It usually takes 3 to 4 days for the swelling to subside. To prevent prolonged swelling and complications, avoid exercising and other heavy physical activity for at least 24 hours. Also, keep your head elevated when lying down.
Similar to swelling, bleeding is also expected during the first few hours after gum grafting until the following day. To prevent further bleeding, don’t drink with a straw and spit for the next 24 hours. Your periodontist will also advise you to avoid brushing the area, so you will have to rinse with a mouthwash. If there is excessive bleeding, apply pressure for 20 minutes, then call your periodontist if it persists.
Many periodontists use stitches that dissolve within 4 to 7 days, so you won’t have to get them removed. Similarly, they will place a liquid band-aid over the donor site to provide thermal protection when you eat and drink that will chip away over the next two weeks.
6. Lifestyle habits
Finally, to ensure a smooth recovery, you will need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid disturbing the graft. Avoid smoking during recovery to ensure a good blood flow. When eating, stick to a soft diet, and avoid chewing near the surgical site over the next 2 weeks.
Prepare for a Smooth Recovery from Gum Grafting with Periodontal Associates
Are you headed for gum grafting, or did you recently undergo one in Oakville? Our team at Periodontal Associates is here to help at every stage of healing. Over the next two weeks, your graft will undergo a lot of changes, so it’s normal to have questions about healing and recovery. But not to worry, because we can answer all of your questions and provide you with detailed instructions. Our periodontists are committed to ensuring that your gum grafting is successful and keeping your gums healthy in the long run.
Want to know if your gum graft is healing properly? Ask our periodontists in Oakville. Contact Periodontal Associates today.