There may be many reasons for why a person may seek out gum surgery and gum tissue treatments. You may suffer from gum disease, recession, excess gum tissue, abscessing or inflammation.
Whatever the ailment may be, your dentist can add or remove gum tissue, as well as treat bacterial infections in your gums. Gum surgery is quite common and it is a fairly quick and efficient procedure.
What is Gum Surgery?
Gum surgery is a type of dental procedure that is performed when there is a problem with a patient’s gums. Often, your dentist will refer you to a periodontist, a doctor who specializes specifically in gums and gum treatments.
Gum surgery can be done for both medical and cosmetic reasons. If a patient has gum disease or gum cancer they will have to undergo a different type of surgery from a patient who simply wants to improve the appearance of their gums when they smile.
Your gums play a very important role in your mouth. They hold your teeth in place and make eating and chewing food possible. They protect the delicate roots of your teeth from external factors like bits of food and bacteria. They keep your teeth firmly balanced and situated in your jaw.
Gum surgery in the most basic sense, involves cutting into the gums to add or remove tissue. There can be gum grafts performed if a patient needs more gum tissue added to their teeth, and excess gum tissue can be removed as well.
Who Can Benefit from Gum Surgery?
Many people benefit from gum surgery every year. It is considered a minor surgery when compared to other dental procedures. However, gum surgery is still a serious undertaking. The gums are very delicate and can easily be disrupted.
You can benefit from gum surgery if you:
- Have receding gums
- Have gum disease
- Suffer from excess gum tissue
- Were in an accident that caused your gums to be damaged
- Have teeth that are fully or partially covered by excess gum tissue
- Foreign object within the gums
- Inflamed gum tissue
Different Types of Gum Surgery
Due to the dual nature of this procedure (it is both practical and used for orthodontic purposes) there are many different versions of gum surgery.
Soft Tissue Gum Grafts
This procedure is needed to protect your teeth from recession. Gum recession can become so severe that the roots of your teeth become exposed. This makes your teeth hypersensitive to to warm and cold temperatures.
Gum recession can make eating otherwise normal foods extremely painful. You can also have gum grafts on a purely aesthetic basis. You may simply not like the amount of tooth that shows when you smile or open your mouth. Gum tissue recession is a very common problem. In this case, gum surgery will help improve the appearance of your smile for your personal preferences. Most people don’t notice when recession occurs, until it becomes problematic.
In this surgical procedure, tissue is taken, most often from the roof of your mouth. This tissue heals quickly and the missing tissue will not be noticeable after the procedure. It is only a very small amount that is needed for the procedure.
A gingivectomy is useful when there is too much gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This procedure is often performed for aesthetic purposes.
It is also practical in the sense that it can be hard to clean your teeth with a large amount of extra gum tissue. Too much gum tissue can cause infection and tartar build up if left untreated.
This procedure does not require any major alterations to your gum tissue. It is simply a matter of cleaning pockets of bacteria and tartar out from under your gums.
In advanced cases of periodontitis, or gum disease, a tissue graft may be needed in conjunction with this procedure. The loss of gum tissue due to infection can be excessive and may require grafts.
Gingival Flap Surgery
When you have gum disease you often need more than a deep cleaning to fully remove the tartar under your gums. Your dentist can choose to perform a gingival flap surgery instead. This takes the deep cleaning process one step further.
Your dentist will actually cut into the gums and pull them aside in order to clean plaque and tartar from the roots of your teeth, as well as your jaw bone. The procedure is quite fast and you may only need local anaesthetic. There will be swelling after and the gums will be delicate and need a short period of time to heal.
What Can I Expect In A Gum Surgery Procedure?
Before surgery, brush and floss your teeth as you normally would. Arrive early to your appointment to manage any paperwork before the procedure. You will be given a sedative before the procedure if the surgery requires it. This will make the area around your gums numb, for a pain free surgery.
During the Surgery:
Your dental assistant will thoroughly clean and rinse your teeth. This ensures your dentist is working with a clean slate for the procedure.
If your dentist is performing a gum graft, you will be put under general anesthetic. Your dentist will transfer tissue from the roof of your mouth, and stitch it to the gums of your teeth. The new tissue will heal in the area your dentist places it and you will appear to have a normal gum line.
If you are having gum tissue removed, there are many methods your dentist may choose. Some dentists use laser technology to carefully remove the unwanted gum tissue from your surrounding teeth. Others will manually cut the tissue and remove it. Both methods are effective, however the laser procedure will require less downtime.
Gingival Flap Surgery
In a gingival flap surgery, your dentist makes several incisions in your gums and pulls them apart. Once your gums are pulled away slightly, the roots of your teeth and jaw will be exposed. You dentist will remove plaques that have gathered in this area. They will stitch your gums up when they have finished. Your gums will heal tightly to your teeth, just as they were before.
During a deep cleaning, your dentist or hygienist will not have to make incisions into your gums. They will simply use dental tools to clean plaque and tartar out of the roots of your teeth.
How long is the surgery?
The length of surgery depends on what you’re having done. Most gum surgery procedures are quite fast, they normally are no longer than an hour.
You can go home immediately after your procedure. If you were under general anaesthetic for the surgery you must have someone pick you up. You cannot drive immediately after being under.
Your dentist can also prescribe you with medication for pain, or antibiotics to prevent infection. This isn’t always necessary however and depends on what you had the surgery for.
What to expect after gum surgery:
Your gums will be very tender and sore after surgery. Depending on what you had done. Most often your dentist will prescribe you medication to help with pain and to help prevent any infection.
It is best to keep the surgical area clean, you can rinse you mouth with salt water to help sterilize it. We do not recommend that you brush your teeth as you normally would, this can severely damage the surgery site.
Your dentist may provide you with an antibacterial mouthwash for the period of time that you cannot brush your teeth.
You will have to be very delicate with your mouth for the first few days after the procedure. You must avoid certain foods and try to follow a mainly liquid based diet for the first few days after surgery.
What Can I Eat After Gum Surgery?
Your gums and other areas of your mouth will be very delicate after your surgery. You will not be able to chew food immediately after the procedure and should stick to a more liquid based diet.
Avoid foods with extreme temperatures for the first 1-3 days after your procedure. There may be dental adhesive glue where your tissue was grafted and reattached, which will make chewing difficult and painful for a few days after the procedure.
It is a good idea to maintain a diet of mostly filling liquids after surgery. Smoothies with added protein powder and blended fruits will be easy to swallow without chewing.
Eat fully liquid meals for the first few days. Even something as small as a piece of carrot in your soup can get stuck in the stitching area and cause damage. Infuse your drinks with protein powder to be sure you’re getting enough nutrients without eating solid food.
Immediately after (1-3 days after):
- Only liquid based or fully blended foods
- Meal replacement drinks
Recovery Period (3-7 days):
- Soft foods
- Smoothies without seeds or a straw
- Blended foods like mashed potatoes or pureed vegetables
7-10 days after:
Roughly 7-10 days after your surgery, your stitches should be ready to come out and you can return to eating your favorite foods.
Just be aware that your gums are still delicate from the procedure and you should avoid tough foods that require excess chewing.
Is Gum Surgery Necessary, Are There Alternatives?
If your gum surgery is being performed for purely aesthetic reasons, because you either do not like the amount of gum you have or the lack of gums when you smile, then the procedure is not necessarily essential, it is simply done for the well being and the desired results of the patient.
If however, you are receiving gum surgery as a result of periodontal disease, the illness is generally in a progressed state where salvaging current gum tissue is not possible.
In this case gum surgery is necessary for the patient’s health, recovery and well being. Gum grafts from the roof of your mouth are often required.
Side Effects And Risks With Gum Surgery
As with most medical procedures, there are risks with gum surgery. The most common risk factor is that once the gums have been separated from the teeth, even for the short period of time in the surgery, they are more likely to recede or hang loosely on the teeth in the future.
This is why it is essential that you let your stitches heal, and avoid chewing food for the first few days after surgery. Bacteria can cause the gums to become inflamed and infected, which will slow or permanently damage the healing process.
Try to prevent swelling to the best of your ability after surgery as well. Take the medication that your dentist prescribes you or take over the counter medication to reduce swelling. You can even apply an ice pack to the side of your face where you notice swelling in your gums.
The swelling will be most noticeable for up to 24h after surgery. If your gums swell too much, they may complicate your stitches or permanently stretch the gum tissue. This can cause it to be more loose against the teeth once the swelling has gone down.
Depending on the procedure, if there is a risk of infection, your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics to take after surgery. This will prevent the surgical site from becoming infected. Infection can completely damage your dentist’s work when it comes to gum surgery.
Do not be alarmed if you notice your gums have started bleeding after the surgery. This is quite common.
Your dentist may have filled the surgical area with gauze to help stop or prevent any bleeding. If the bleeding seems excessive, don’t panic. It can be harder for blood to clot in your mouth, due to the moist environment.
Do not touch the area with your fingers or tongue. You can apply sterile gauze to the site and hold it there for 15-20 minutes. The added pressure will stop the bleeding. If it continues, call your dentist, you may have burst one of your stitches.
More Questions? Come On In!
If you are suffering from inflamed gums, or you simply want to improve the appearance of your smile, give LA Dental Clinic a call. Come on in for an oral assessment and get a professional opinion of your options with regards to gum surgery.