Gum Grafting for Recession: Prevention and Treatment

by Rana Baroudi

Dr. Baroudi is a Board Certified Periodontist. She has successfully passed the American Board of Periodontology oral and written examinations covering all phases of periodontal disease, its treatment and dental implants. She is also an Associate Clinical Professor of Periodontology at UCSF where she enjoys teaching and lecturing on a bi-monthly basis.

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Gum grafting is recognized as a highly specialized and targeted dental treatment designed to combat the issue of gum recession. This condition is characterized by the withdrawal of gum tissue away from the tooth, thereby exposing its root. Such exposure can precipitate a range of negative outcomes, including heightened sensitivity, an escalated risk of tooth decay, concerns over the appearance of one’s smile, and ultimately, if left unchecked, the loss of the tooth itself. By undertaking gum grafting, not only can existing instances of recession be effectively treated, but the procedure also acts as a crucial defensive strategy against the potential for further loss of gum tissue and the array of complications that might ensue. This comprehensive examination delves into the subject of gum grafting as a response to recession, highlighting its critical role in both the preventive and curative spheres, detailing the various graft types employed, elucidating the procedural steps, and shedding light on the recovery process and the expected outcomes.

Understanding Gum Recession

Gum recession is a common dental issue that can affect people of all ages. This condition usually progresses slowly, making it hard to detect until symptoms like tooth sensitivity or visible changes in one’s smile become apparent. The causes behind gum recession are varied and include aggressive tooth brushing, the development of periodontal disease, tobacco use, hormonal fluctuations, having misaligned teeth, and genetic factors. Without prompt and effective treatment, gum recession can lead to more severe dental problems, even resulting in tooth loss. The adoption of gum grafting techniques is a clear indication of the dental field’s proactive approach to tackle this issue directly. By offering a combination of treatment and prevention strategies, gum grafting aims to alleviate the effects of gum recession and protect overall oral health.

The Preventative Role of Gum Grafting

Gum grafting serves as a fundamental protective measure in dental care, effectively reinstating the gum line to its natural position, thereby shielding the exposed tooth root and diminishing the likelihood of further gum recession and bone deterioration. This procedure not only covers and protects the exposed root surfaces, which are notably more prone to decay than the tooth’s crown, but also significantly bolsters the affected area with additional tissue. Consequently, gum grafting plays a pivotal role in forestalling decay on these vulnerable root surfaces, ultimately safeguarding the teeth from potential cavities and loss.

Types of Gum Grafts

The approach to gum grafting is not one-size-fits-all; rather, it is a highly personalized procedure, with the chosen method depending significantly on the individual patient’s specific requirements and the extent of recession they are experiencing:

  1. Connective Tissue Grafts: Standing as the predominant method employed in gum grafting, this technique involves the careful extraction of tissue from the roof of the mouth, or palate. The harvested tissue is then meticulously sutured over the affected recession area, offering a robust solution to cover the exposed root and restore the gum line.
  2. Free Gingival Grafts: Operating on a principle akin to connective tissue grafts, this method is distinguished by the harvesting of a larger piece of tissue from the palate. This approach is aimed particularly at thickening the gums where they are too thin, thereby providing enhanced protection and resilience against further recession.
  3. Pedicle Grafts: This technique is ideal for patients who have a sufficient amount of gum tissue immediately adjacent to the site of recession. It involves the creation of a flap, or “pedicle,” from the nearby gum tissue, which is then skillfully shifted to cover the exposed root. The success of this method hinges on the availability of adequate nearby gum tissue to facilitate the graft.
  4. Allografts: Representing a distinct approach, allografts involve the use of human tissue that has been donated, thereby obviating the need to remove tissue from the patient’s own palate. This can be particularly advantageous for individuals requiring more extensive grafting, offering a less invasive alternative while still achieving effective results.

The Gum Grafting Procedure

Gum grafting is a meticulously planned and executed dental procedure designed to address gum recession and its associated risks. While the specific methodologies may vary depending on the type of graft selected, the overall procedure encompasses several critical phases, each contributing to the ultimate goal of restoring gum health and aesthetics.

  • Consultation and Planning: The journey begins with a thorough consultation, where a dental specialist assesses the extent of gum recession and discusses the most suitable grafting option based on the patient’s specific condition. This initial evaluation is crucial for developing a tailored treatment plan that aligns with the patient’s dental health needs and cosmetic goals.
  • Anesthesia: To ensure the patient’s comfort throughout the procedure, local anesthesia is administered in the area targeted for grafting. This step is vital for a pain-free experience, allowing the dental professional to perform the grafting with precision and care.
  • Tissue Harvesting (if applicable): In cases where an autograft (tissue taken from the patient’s own body) is the chosen approach, the next phase involves the removal of tissue from the donor site, typically the roof of the mouth or the palate. This harvested tissue will serve as the graft material for the recession area.
  • Graft Placement: Following the harvesting, the graft material is carefully positioned over the recession site. It is then meticulously secured in place with sutures to ensure stability and optimal integration with the surrounding tissue, setting the stage for effective healing and tissue regeneration.
  • Healing and Recovery: After the procedure, the focus shifts to healing and recovery. The initial healing phase, where the graft starts to integrate with the surrounding gum tissue, usually spans the first one to two weeks post-surgery. However, complete integration and the full maturation of the graft tissue can extend up to a year.

Recovery and Aftercare

Recovery following a gum grafting procedure is paramount for achieving the best outcomes. Patients may be instructed to adhere to a soft food diet to minimize trauma to the graft site. Direct brushing or flossing around the treated area is generally discouraged in the early recovery phase to avoid disrupting the healing process. Instead, the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes may be recommended to aid in preventing infection and promoting healing. During the recovery period, it’s common for patients to experience some level of discomfort, swelling, or even bruising, but these symptoms can typically be managed effectively with prescribed pain medications or over-the-counter pain relief solutions.

Benefits of Gum Grafting for Recession

Gum grafting stands out as a cornerstone treatment in managing gum recession, providing a multifaceted array of benefits that extend from enhancing oral health to improving the cosmetic appearance of one’s smile.


  • Reduced Sensitivity: One of the immediate advantages of gum grafting is the alleviation of dental sensitivity. By effectively covering the exposed roots, gum grafting significantly diminishes the discomfort experienced from temperature variations, making it easier to enjoy hot or cold foods and beverages without the pang of sensitivity.
  • Cosmetic Improvements: Beyond its health implications, gum grafting plays a crucial role in cosmetic dentistry. It offers a transformative effect on the smile by leveling out an uneven gum line and concealing exposed roots, which can be pivotal in restoring the natural beauty and symmetry of one’s smile.
  • Protecting against Further Recession: The strategic addition of tissue through gum grafting acts as a bulwark against the progression of gum recession. This protective measure is essential in maintaining the structural integrity of the gums and preventing future loss of tissue, which could expose more of the tooth’s root and create additional complications.
  • Reduced Risk of Tooth Decay: Another significant benefit of gum grafting is its role in decreasing the likelihood of decay along the exposed roots. By covering these vulnerable areas, gum grafting helps shield the roots from bacteria and decay, which are more challenging to address than decay on the crown of the tooth.


In summary, the exploration of gum grafting as both a preventative measure and treatment for gum recession underscores its critical role in contemporary dental care. This procedure not only effectively confronts the immediate challenges posed by exposed tooth roots, such as acute sensitivity and a heightened risk of root decay, but also fortifies the gum line against further recession, ensuring the preservation of the mouth’s structural health and aesthetic appeal. Through a deeper understanding of the various grafting techniques, the procedural nuances, and the post-operative care required, patients are equipped to make educated decisions regarding their oral health. Engaging in an informed dialogue with a dental professional is essential to tailor the gum grafting approach to individual needs, thereby safeguarding one’s dental wellbeing and enhancing the quality of life. This discourse on gum grafting for recession highlights its indispensability in achieving a balanced blend of functional integrity and cosmetic vibrancy in dental health.