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Gum graft surgery is done in cases of periodontitis. Periodontitis, which is a disease that affects the supporting structures of the teeth, causes destruction of the supporting bone as well as the periodontal ligament and the overlying gums.

Depending upon the effects of periodontitis, different types of surgery may be needed for the correction of defects formed as well as arrest of the disease.

Broadly speaking, graft surgery for periodontitis may be of two types:

  • Hard tissue grafts
  • Soft tissue grafts

Both are commonly referred to as gum graft surgery.

Hard Tissue Grafts

The hard tissue grafts most commonly used in case of periodontal surgery are isografts (harvested from animals) or allografts (grown in a lab), and require absolutely no morbidity.

The healing period following surgeries conducted with the use of such grafts is short. The use of antibiotics to avoid the graft from getting infected generally follows.

Some amount of swelling and discomfort can be expected if some amount of bone remodeling is done during the surgical procedure. Certain anatomical defects or morphologies may require remodeling before graft placement.

Soft Tissue Grafts

These grafts are placed most commonly in areas of aesthetic concern where there has been some amount of soft tissue loss (recession). Soft tissue grafts have to harvested from a donor site inside the oral cavity and so have added morbidity due to the presence of an additional surgical site.

Some newer allografts are available for soft tissue grafting as well, and they do not have the morbidity associated with them, however their success rate is as yet less than that of natural grafts.

These kinds of surgeries are particularly technique-sensitive and have a higher percentage of failure than hard tissue surgeries. The success of the surgery is dependent on the graft being accepted at the site of placement with adequate blood supply, otherwise the graft will necrose.

In case the surgery is a success, the healing period lasts from anywhere between seven and 14 days depending upon the type of procedure. The mild swelling and pain are easily managed with medication.

Long-term measurement of success

Once the initial period of healing after surgery has passed without incident, long-term measurements of success come into play. The main measurement should be that the initial pathology or defect because of which the surgery was performed has been corrected.

For example, in case surgery was done to correct recession on an anterior tooth, the surgery can be considered a success if 80-90% coverage of the exposed tooth surface has been achieved.

The time span which constitutes long-term also varies from procedure to procedure but a one-year follow up is a good indicator.

Another thing to be kept in mind after gum graft surgery (as in most surgeries) is that post-op follow up with the doctor is very important. Meticulous oral hygiene is essential. The success of the treatment is dependent on the patient's compliance as well as the doctor's skill.

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