The Science Behind Soft Tissue Grafting: What Patients Need to Know

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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Soft tissue grafting is a specialized procedure in periodontics designed to address gum recession and improve the aesthetics and function of the gums. For patients in San Jose, CA, seeking expert care, Dr. Rana Baroudi offers this advanced treatment with precision and compassion. Understanding the science behind soft tissue grafting can help patients appreciate its importance and effectiveness.

What is Soft Tissue Grafting?

Soft tissue grafting, also known as gum grafting, is a surgical procedure that involves the transplantation of gum tissue to areas where the gums have receded or are thin. This process helps cover exposed tooth roots, reduce sensitivity, prevent further recession, and enhance the appearance of the smile.

Causes of Gum Recession

Gum recession can occur due to several factors, including:

  1. Periodontal Disease: Bacterial infection that destroys gum tissue and supporting bone.
  2. Genetics: Some individuals are genetically predisposed to thin gum tissue.
  3. Aggressive Brushing: Brushing teeth too hard can wear away the gums.
  4. Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate oral care can lead to plaque buildup and gum disease.
  5. Tobacco Use: Smoking or using tobacco products can contribute to gum recession.
  6. Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormones, such as during pregnancy or menopause, can make gums more susceptible to recession.
  7. Grinding and Clenching: Excessive force on teeth can cause gums to recede.

Types of Soft Tissue Grafts

There are several types of soft tissue grafts, each suited for specific needs:

  1. Connective Tissue Grafts: The most common type, where tissue is taken from the roof of the mouth (palate) and placed on the affected area.
  2. Free Gingival Grafts: Tissue is directly taken from the palate and attached to the gums. This method is typically used for patients with thin gums.
  3. Pedicle Grafts: Tissue is taken from the gums near the affected area. This method requires sufficient gum tissue around the tooth.

The Science Behind Soft Tissue Grafting

The success of soft tissue grafting relies on the body’s natural healing process. Here’s how it works:

Tissue Harvesting and Preparation

In connective tissue grafts, a small flap is created in the roof of the mouth to harvest the connective tissue beneath the surface layer. This tissue is carefully prepared and placed in the recession area. For free gingival grafts, a strip of tissue is taken directly from the palate.

Graft Placement

The harvested tissue is then carefully positioned over the exposed roots or thin gums and stitched into place. This step requires precision to ensure the graft integrates well with the surrounding tissue.

Healing and Integration

Once the graft is placed, the body begins the healing process. Blood vessels grow into the grafted tissue, providing essential nutrients and oxygen. Over time, the graft integrates with the existing gum tissue, creating a thicker, more resilient gum line.

Benefits of Soft Tissue Grafting

  1. Improved Aesthetics: Grafting enhances the appearance of the gums, creating a more balanced and attractive smile.
  2. Reduced Sensitivity: Covering exposed roots can significantly reduce tooth sensitivity to hot and cold.
  3. Prevention of Further Recession: Strengthening the gum tissue helps protect against future recession.
  4. Better Oral Health: Healthier gums provide better support for teeth, reducing the risk of tooth loss.
  5. Enhanced Comfort: Patients experience less discomfort and irritation from exposed roots and thin gums.

What to Expect During the Procedure

For patients considering soft tissue grafting with Dr. Rana Baroudi, understanding the procedure can help alleviate anxiety and prepare them for a successful outcome.

Consultation and Assessment

The process begins with a thorough consultation and assessment. Dr. Baroudi will examine your gums, discuss your medical history, and determine the best type of graft for your needs.


On the day of the procedure, local anesthesia is administered to ensure comfort. In some cases, sedation may be offered for patients who experience dental anxiety.


The grafting procedure typically takes about 1-2 hours, depending on the extent of the treatment. Dr. Baroudi will skillfully harvest the tissue, place it in the targeted area, and secure it with sutures.

Post-Operative Care

After the procedure, it’s crucial to follow post-operative care instructions to ensure optimal healing. This includes:

  • Avoiding Hard Foods: Stick to a soft diet for the first few days.
  • Maintaining Oral Hygiene: Gently clean the mouth with a prescribed mouthwash or saltwater rinse.
  • Taking Medications: Use any prescribed antibiotics or pain relievers as directed.
  • Monitoring Healing: Attend follow-up appointments to monitor the healing process and ensure the graft is integrating well.

Potential Risks and Complications

While soft tissue grafting is generally safe, there are potential risks and complications, including:

  • Infection: As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection.
  • Graft Failure: In rare cases, the graft may not integrate properly with the surrounding tissue.
  • Bleeding and Swelling: Some bleeding and swelling are normal but should subside within a few days.
  • Discomfort: Mild discomfort is expected and can be managed with pain relievers.

Long-Term Care and Maintenance

Maintaining the results of soft tissue grafting involves good oral hygiene practices and regular dental check-ups. Patients should:

  • Brush and Floss Daily: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and be gentle around the grafted area.
  • Attend Regular Dental Visits: Regular check-ups with Dr. Baroudi will help monitor the health of your gums and teeth.
  • Avoid Tobacco Products: Smoking can impair healing and increase the risk of complications.


Soft tissue grafting is a highly effective procedure for addressing gum recession and enhancing the aesthetics and health of the gums. Under the expert care of Dr. Rana Baroudi in San Jose, patients can achieve lasting results and enjoy a healthier, more attractive smile. Understanding the science behind the procedure helps demystify the process and highlights the importance of this advanced periodontal treatment. If you are experiencing gum recession, consider consulting with Dr. Baroudi to explore the benefits of soft tissue grafting and take the first step towards improved oral health.