Periodontal disease often refers to bacterial plaque and infections around the gum and tooth root. It can happen around one or several teeth. In some cases, the gum tissue is damaged or shrinks. In its more advanced stages, surgery to create new gum tissue (and even bone growth) can be done. There are several techniques used to encourage new gum growth using donor tissue, man-made material, or tissue from the roof of the patient’s mouth.
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This surgery is needed to:
Cover tooth roots that are exposed, which can lead to bone loss and
- Reduce tooth sensitivity
- Even out gum tissue due to reduce further recession
Not all grafts are successful over time. The level of disease and your personal care routines will affect success.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your periodontist will review potential problems, like:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Changes in gum appearance; uneven gum line
- Graft failure
- Reaction to the sedation medications
- Nausea and vomiting
Before your procedure, talk to your periodontist about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Tell your periodontist of any recent changes to your health, medications, allergies, or supplements.
- Take your prescription medications unless your periodontist says otherwise.
- Talk to your periodontist about any medications you take, including over-the-counter medications. You may need to avoid certain medications as advised by your periodontist.
- You may be asked to take an antibiotic prior to having surgery.
- Sometimes sedative medications are used to make you more relaxed during surgery even though you are awake. If you are undergoing conscious sedation, you will be asked to not eat for at least six hours before surgery. Otherwise, you can have a normal diet.
- Arrange for a ride if you are having sedation.
On the day of your surgery:
- Remove contact lenses.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Bring paperwork as directed.
A local anesthetic will be used near the affected gum area.
Your periodontist may recommend conscious sedation. You will be awake, but will have no anxiety during the surgery.
This surgery is usually done in an outpatient setting. You do not need to stay overnight. If you are undergoing sedation, the periodontist or nurse will place an IV in your arm to deliver medication. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored during and after the surgery.
The periodontist will numb the affected area with a local anesthetic delivered through a needle. The periodontist will make a small cut in the roof of your mouth and remove surface and/or connective (under the surface) tissue. This is the donor tissue that will be used for the graft. This area will then be stitched closed.
The new tissue flap will be repositioned on the damaged gum line and stitched into place. A dressing will be applied. A piece of mesh is sometimes placed between the gum and tooth to encourage growth.
If there is not enough donor tissue available on you, tissue from another person or man-made materials may be used.
The time it takes to complete the surgery depends on the level of damage and how much of the gum areas are affected.
You may feel mild discomfort while the periodontist numbs the affected areas for surgery, but you will not feel pain during the surgery. Medications can help control pain and anxiety before, during, and after the surgery.
During your stay, the staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incision
Healing will take place over the next 4-8 weeks. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Rest as needed.
Take medications as directed. Over-the-counter medications for pain, like
ibuprofen, may be used.
- Apply ice to your face over the area of surgery for 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling. Wrap the ice in a towel. Do not place the ice directly on your skin.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat small amounts of soft or pureed foods.
- Do not smoke, rinse your mouth, or use a straw.
- Apply dressings or gauze to the area as directed to absorb blood and saliva.
- Do not exercise for a few days as directed.
- Do not drive if you took any sedative or narcotic pain reliever.
- Be sure to follow your periodontist’s instructions carefully.
- Follow-up with your periodontist or dentist as directed.
Call your periodontist if any of these occur:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or any unusual discharge from the surgical site(s)
- Pain and swelling that is not controlled with the medications given
- The dressing or stitches become loose or are uncomfortable
- Loose tissue
- Continued swelling after 48 hours
- Other new symptoms, allergic reactions, or concerns
- Persistent nausea and/or vomiting
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Periodontology website. Available at:
http://www.perio.org. Accessed April 19, 2010.
Carson De-Witt R. Periodontal disease. EBSCO Patient Education Reference Center website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=16&topicID=1034. Published September 1, 2009. Accessed April 21, 2010.
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH). Periodontal (gum) disease. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH) website. Available at:
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm. Accessed April 19, 2010.
Pre and postoperative instructions for periodontal surgery. Kathie L. Davis website. Available at:
http://www.kldaviesperiodontist.com/images/WEB_PRE__AND_POST_OP_INSTRUCTIONS.pdf. Accessed April 19, 2010.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Periodontal disease. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available at:
http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_procedures_treatment_of_periodontal_disease_000024_8.htm. Accessed April 19, 2010.
6/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Am J Med.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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