Anyone who has had a piece of food stuck between the tooth and gums knows that gum tissue is very sensitive, to the point of causing an all-consuming pain. Gum surgery focuses on areas of the mouth with many nerve endings, but in cases needing surgical intervention, it is likely that teeth and gums have been causing some degree of discomfort for some time. Tooth sensitivity, gum irritation or trapped particles in dental pockets may already be common irritations for someone facing periodontal surgery, and numbing the area with a local anesthetic will likely be enough to prevent much of the pain during the procedure. After the surgery, however, pain and sensitivity may be moderate to high but is typically relieved with over-the-counter pain relievers or short-term prescribed pain killers. If pain persists after about three days, a call to the surgeon is advisable.
Most surgical procedures involving gum tissue are followed with a periodontal dressing, which is a molded, soft "packing" of the site that protects the grafted areas of tissue for about two weeks, more or less. Stitches will either be self-dissolving or will require removal about 10 days after surgery, which is also around the time for a follow-up exam with the oral surgeon or periodontist [source: AAP]. Keeping the mouth and teeth clean without disturbing the surgical site during this time is very important in order to prevent infection and dislodging of the newly placed tissue. An antimicrobial mouth rinse also may be part of the oral care plan after surgery.
Bleeding and swelling, which can increase the infection risk, also might occur for two to three days after the procedure, and eating and drinking also may bring some discomfort, as the gums and teeth can be very sensitive after any periodontal procedures and especially after an invasive one. It's also possible to experience long-term sensitivity to hot and cold food and other stimuli [source: AAP]. These issues can be discussed with your dentist or after-care hygienist at post-procedure appointments several months after surgery or sooner.
Caring for teeth and gums after any periodontal procedure is especially important. Grafted areas of gum tissue may be prone to receding more quickly and cavities at the root level also can develop if oral care is neglected -- but be gentle. A gentle cleaning with a soft brush and following any specialized recommendations of your dentist or periodontist will give you a gum up in keeping your teeth where they belong, often for life.
More Great Links
- American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). "Periodontal Plastic Surgery." 2011. (Jan. 21, 2012) AACD.com. http://www.aacd.com/index.php?module=cms&page=578
- American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). "Periodontal Procedures." Perio.org. March 2, 2011. (Jan. 21, 2012) http://www.perio.org/consumer/procedures.htm
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers at a Glance 2011." CDC.gov. July 29, 2011. (Jan. 21, 2012) http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/doh.htm
- Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CUCDM), ed. "Bone Grafts (Periodontal Regenerative Surgery)." SimpleStepsDental.com. May 20, 2009. (Jan. 20, 2012) http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.32226/t.32539/pr.3/c.510784.html
- Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CUCDM), ed. "Gingival Flap Surgery." SimpleStepsDental.com. Dec. 22, 2010. (Jan. 20, 2012) http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.32576/t.32536/pr.3/c.310273.html
- Columbia University College of Dental Medicine (CUCDM), ed. "Soft-Tissue Grafts." SimpleStepsDental.com. Feb. 23, 2009. (Jan. 20, 2012) http://www.simplestepsdental.com/SS/ihtSSPrint/r.WSIHW000/st.32576/t.32537/pr.3/c.310389.html
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). "Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments." NIH.gov. July 2011. (Jan. 21, 2012) http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm