Recovering from Gum Graft Surgery
Recovering from gum graft surgery is not typically a difficult process. Generally, the recovery period from start to full healing is about six to eight weeks. "All these procedures are relatively minor, done under local anesthesia in the dental chair and usually do not require any days of rest afterward," says Bryan Boshart, DDS, MS. Dr. Boshart notes that the mouth is a very vascular area and heals very quickly. "There is typically much less discomfort than say, after an extraction," says Boshart.
New York City-based periodontist Greg Diamond, DDS, advises that there is generally slight discomfort the first night of gum graft surgery recovery, no pain the second and third nights and slight discomfort on days four through seven. "This varies depending on the use of human freeze-dried tissue versus the patient's tissue and also the laser versus the conventional blade. There is less discomfort using the laser and human freeze-dried tissue," says Dr. Diamond.
The amount of pain during gum graft surgery recovery depends on the type of graft performed. If no tissue is removed from the palate, the patient should have minimal or no discomfort. If tissue is removed from the palate, there may be discomfort for a few days.
Post-Op and Gum Graft Surgery Recovery
Patients are able to go home following the procedure and should be able to return to normal activity the next day. If a sedative was used, the patient will need to make arrangements for transportation home. Patients cannot floss or brush the gum line that was repaired until the area has healed. "Typically, patients are given antibiotics and an antimicrobial mouth rinse afterwards and instructed to eat soft foods and keep the area as clean as possible," says Boshart. Patients should eat soft, cool foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, ice cream, pasta and yogurt.
Throughout the gum graft surgery recovery and healing process, soft tissue shrinks and swelling goes down. Soft tissue binds the underlying root surface and neighboring bone surface and starts to mature. New vessels form to bring the blood supply to the newly-grafted soft tissue. Healing time depends on how much tissue was taken from the palate and whether there was any bone exposure after the procedure.
Gum grafts are effective at repairing gum recession and preventing further damage. However, gum problems may develop again in the future. Regular checkups are required for several years after the gum grafts to ensure that they have taken correctly.
Possible Complications from Gum Graft Surgery
As with any surgery, there may be bleeding problems or infection during gum graft surgery recovery. Diamond notes that there may be post-surgical bleeding from both the donor and recipient sites for a period generally up to 24 hours. Slight pink in the saliva may be present in the donated site. Patients may also notice swelling and a yellow discoloration in the recipient site.
While gum grafts have a very high success rate, sometimes the graft does not achieve the intended goals. The survival of the graft tissue depends on the blood supply that comes from the surrounding bone. If the graft fails, there will be sloughing of the donor tissue and loss of tissue due to a lack of blood supply and oxygen. "There may also be loss of tissue graft due to iatrogenic reasons such as the patient brushing the area, eating in the area or habitually irritating the area," says Diamond.