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Periodontics & Implantology Blog

Latest news and info on what's happening at San Antonio Periodontics and Implants.

Gum Grafts Can Restore Your Smile

Man looking at his teeth in a mirror

What is a gum graft?

Gum grafts are a form of oral surgery where a periodontist typically takes soft tissue from the mouth and places it over the exposed tooth root. After it heals, graft will blend in with the rest of the gumline. This can help improve oral health. It is one of the most common periodontal surgical treatments. Gum grafts help cover up exposed roots and treat gum recession.

Why are gum grafts needed?

Gum grafts are needed to help treat gingival or gum recession. This is where, over time the gums become thinner and recede, making the teeth appear longer since the root of the tooth is now exposed. Exposed roots can cause tooth sensitivity and pain, especially with temperature changes but also with brushing alone which can make good oral hygiene difficult.

Gum recession is very common with over 88% of people over age 65 having some form of gum recession in the mouth. Gum grafts can help protect teeth after gum recession and improve the appearance of your smile.

Causes of gum recession include: aging, smokeless tobacco use, aggressive brushing, after orthodontic treatment, periodontitis (gum disease) and genetics among other causes.  Gum grafts can help prevent damage to the teeth by covering the exposed tooth root and improving the quality of the tissue.

Signs of gum recession:

  • Red, irritated tissue next to the teeth
  • More sensitive teeth- Your teeth are more sensitive to hot or cold temperatures especially, but sometimes to brushing alone
  • Teeth appearing longer in the mouth

If you notice any of these signs it is important to contact your dental care provider who will then connect you to a periodontist for further treatment.

Types of Gum Grafts

There are multiple types of gum grafts, and the type you receive can vary depending on the situation in your mouth. A periodontist will look at their patient’s teeth and gums to decide the best gum graft for them.

Connective Tissue Grafts

The connective tissue graft is the most common type of gum graft. Connective tissue grafts use soft tissue from underneath the surface the roof of the mouth and apply it to the areas where the gum has receded away. Typically a gum flap, tunnel or pouch is made next to the tooth and the tissue is obtained from the roof of the mouth. Then, the tissue is secured and covered over the root and the roof of the mouth is stitched up. The gum graft will heal as the new tissue receives nutrients and blood supply from the adjacent tissue, so it can grow back over the exposed tooth root.

Free Gingival Grafts

Free gingival grafts are usually for people who have thin gums to begin with and need to strengthen the tissue there to protect their teeth. Periodontists will use the top layer of soft tissue on the roof of the mouth. The rest of the procedure is similar to the connective tissue gum graft.

Pedicle Grafts

Pedicle grafts are also referred to as lateral or sliding grafts. This graft uses soft tissue from the site adjacent to the recession, if there is sufficient quantity. It pulls the gum tissue up, down or to the side, depending on where the exposed tooth root is inside the mouth. The patient will need to have enough tissue available. This procedure has only one surgery site as opposed to the other two procedures.

Double Papilla Subepithelial Graft

This graft uses the soft tissue from the gum’s papilla, which are the gums in the spaces between the teeth. The papilla from either side of the affected tooth is pulled across to cover the exposed tooth root using a V-shaped incision.  This can also be done in conjunction with connective tissue grafts to provide soft tissue coverage over the graft.

Types of Tissue


Usually, the soft tissue in a gum graft comes from the patient’s own mouth, as this typically leads to the most predictable outcomes. The tissue is collected from either the roof of the mouth or the gums themselves if there is enough tissue available. This type of tissue is referred to autograft since it is from the patient’s own mouth. It can be more invasive due to the incisions on the roof of the mouth, but the results are well studied and the moved tissue matches the rest of the mouth.

Donor Grafts

Sometimes, the tissue can come from a donor. The first of the donors is known as an allograft, so the gum tissue is from a donor cadaver after it has been sterilized of all living cells and bacteria. The second type of donor can either be tissue from a cow or a pig and are known as xenografts. Donor tissues can work when a patient has multiple areas in the mouth needing gum grafts and when they have inadequate gum tissue in the mouth to use for grafting.

No matter which type of tissue is used, the periodontist will look at your teeth and gums to best determine the tissue and procedure you need.

If you have concerns about gum recession or have more questions about gum grafts, contact San Antonio Periodontics and Implants at 210-824-0111 or schedule an appointment.

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