7 Gum Graft Surgery Survival Tips

I just had gum graft surgery for recession of gums surrounding two of my back teeth. I didn't realize how common the procedure is, until I started talking about it. Most people delay it, probably because there are people online describing it as pain worse than childbirth. I disagree. If you have a good surgeon, you will be fine.

What is gum graft surgery: If your gums are receding due to orthodontia, over brushing, genetics or bad luck, you're likely to need a gum graft. I wish I hadn't watched the presentation outlining the procedure as I would have been ok not knowing the details. Basically, they cut tissue off the roof of your mouth (the donor area), cut the gums off around your teeth, peel them down, stitch the donor tissue on and then stitch the gum tissue back over that. *Shiver*

Now that I've had the surgery, here's what I'd suggest:

1. Upgrade your drugs: I was given the option of being awake but numb, being consciously sedated with a drug called Halcion, or an IV drip that would knock me completely under. I still had awesome expatriate insurance, but I hear that in the US, the latter two options are not considered "customary or reasonable" by some US insurance companies. Therefore, they might not be covered. Halcion was a $250 upgrade. The IV sedation was $500 per hour and would involve not eating for a certain amount of time prior and all that. I was told the IV was totally not necessary (reserved for people with extreme dental fears), and in the end I agree. With Halcion (and a Valium topper, explained below), I had zero concept of time so if they had done my whole mouth, I would not have been the wiser. Go over your options with your Periodontist and get really comfortable with them.

2. Get the modern gum graft: The modern version allows for the roof of your mouth to be stitched whereas the old school version left the donor site as a gaping hole. Ouch. I don't like to look at stitches so I didn't, but was told there were about 13 small ones up there.

3. Get a stent to help prevent bleeding: This was another optional upgrade. My stent was like a retainer that covered most of the roof of my mouth. It puts pressure on the donor area to help prevent bleeding, your tongue from playing with the stitches, and food from getting caught in them. I wore it until my stitches were out and afterward for a few days, only while eating. The newly stitch free area was tender.

4. Bring your iPod: It was very helpful to listen to some music during the procedure. To be honest, I don't remember it much but I took comfort in knowing that my earbuds were in.

Read the rest of the tips, food advice and summary of the pain experienced (think you'll be surprised) here.